Jez Humble sauntered into his interview for ThoughtWorks in early 2005. He was interviewing for a role as what we then called Environment Managers: someone to represent the Operations team and make sure that test systems accurately reflected the reality of production. Jez was a compelling candidate for the role as he had been working as a freelance developer, handing any and all phases of the product lifecycle, with nobody to fall back on.
Jez seemed to know enough Unix Administration to continue the interview process, so I wrote up my notes, giving him extra marks for “general affability” and moved on. Jez got the job, and I worked with him on a disastrous project in London. We delivered that project, taking applications that were literally undeployable and delivering new releases with zero downtime. I didn’t see Jez for a while, but I did know that he was writing a book on how to deliver this kind of thing properly. When Dave Farley sent me some writings he’d done on the metaphor of the Build Pipeline, I told them they were working on the same thing. That was in 2007. In 2010, they published Continuous Delivery, and there were no longer valid excuses for getting this stuff wrong. That’s what Jez (and Dave) have done for you.
What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?
I was a choirboy at Bath Abbey – in fact I became head chorister, and then my voice broke. I learned a bunch of lessons: your hard-earned skills have a limited shelf-life; when you’re in charge you primarily have a duty to help the people who are supporting you; and that nobody likes a smart-arse. I am still trying to put those lessons into action.
If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?
Maybe I would have stayed in academia. I have always been fascinated by philosophy, language and music – I studied Physics and Philosophy for my BA and Musicology as a postgraduate – but I was having fun and making decent money in IT. I was obsessed with computers as a teenager, and so I was initially quite surprised that people would pay me good money to work with them for a living. Then I encountered “enterprise” IT and asked for a pay raise.
What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?
My biggest challenge is my highly developed guilt complex. Unless I’m doing obviously productive things I feel tremendously guilty. I don’t consider writing and speaking obviously productive (especially writing which is 80% procrastination) and so I spend much of my time feeling guilty these days. At some point soon this will force me to go back to doing something more hands-on, which I think will be a good thing.
What drives you ?
It used to be a combination of a couple of things that made IT a good choice for me: I am a naturally curious person, and I need to be busy (I always have several things on the go). I am also pretty organized and have a strong desire to get things done – I have a prioritized to-do list in my head – which is one of the key personality traits that drove me to continuous delivery. It annoys and frustrates me that there is so much waste and poor quality in IT. But these days things are a lot simpler – I just want to provide for my family and make them happy.
What is your biggest achievement?
Writing Continuous Delivery with Dave Farley.
What is the last book you have read?
- Fiction: Burnt Shadows by Shamsie, Kamila .
- Non-fiction: How Markets Fail by John Cassidy
- IT-related: How to Measure Anything Hubbard, Douglas
What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
Q: What’s next for you? A: I’m working on another book with two of my colleagues. This one is going to be focussed on helping managers and executives implement continuous delivery.
Who do you think I should ask next?
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