- 8 mins read

Welcome to my blog! I am Jason Koppe. I am a life-long learner, and want to write more. If you read this blog, you’ll learn more about me. And, maybe it will connect us even more. Welcome!

12.5 years ago, in June 2008, I started a blog – https://nssadoc.blogspot.com/ – which was focused around documenting the failures of computer systems. The idea was to counterbalance all of the happy path documentation I wrote in college. I felt like the documentation (always for posterity) was too narrow: documentation left out the sometimes messy and failure-laden journey towards accomplishing a task.

I launched the blog with Tom Haskell, a friend from college (we both attended Rochester Institute of Technology - RIT) who I found myself working with often. We worked well together. We both had high standards. I tended to be a little bit of a loose cannon while Tom was insightful and brought a steadiness and meaningfulness to our work. We both worked as “labbies” in the computer labs in which we studied. Being a labbie included activities such as opening the labs for student use, preparing the lab for student use (e.g. inserting floppy disks in hundreds of computers and rebooting them so they’d re-install a clean OS which was to be used in the subsequent lab), renting out equipment to certain classes (e.g. networking or hardware fundamentals), evolving the lab processes and technical infrastructure, and eventually learning enough to “sign off” on students’ lab work. We later expanded the blog’s authorship to include Ron Valente and Kristian Stokes, two more college friends I enjoyed working with.

June 2008 was the end of four years of studying at RIT. I (remember it as the time where I) had finished all of my class-work, but I still had to research, write and defend my masters thesis. I wrote papers throughout high school and college, but the shift to blogging and then writing my thesis was a new type of writing for me.

Blogging was new because I was sharing my ideas with the broader world, not only the people I was able to have verbal conversations with. The reach was bigger. But blogging also felt familiar. By 2008, I had been typing on computers for over a decade, including chatting with people on mIRC on 14.4k dial up, or later on MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ. In addition to chat, I’d been part of online communities that communicated through audio during gaming, through online forums, etc. Blogging felt similar to communication in internet chat and with these online communities. I could get my ideas out there, make my points, and engage with others, without a lot of red tape or preparation.

Writing my thesis was also new for me: it required learning about research, conducting my own experiments, and synthesizing language into the longest body of writing I’d ever produced. I had some earlier experience publishing a paper and presenting to an academic audience with my energetic professor Bill Stackpole, Tom Haskell, another great college friend Laura Guay, and the brilliant professor Yin Pan. But this type of writing is different from blogging because it’s deep and goes through layers of process to be vetted before engaging an audience. I very much enjoyed these research experiences. In part because I do enjoy going deep into a topic to learn. But also because I was able to learn with people I respected and convey learnings to others. I successfully defended my graduate thesis in September 2008 – woot! My thesis work demonstrated a scalable lab management method that led to reduced lab downtime, increased lab use, or put another way, led to more learning. I was proud.

A few months later, in November 2008, I started my job at Indeed as a junior Linux system administrator. I was employee 66. Indeed now has over 10,000 employees and is used by over 250 million people every month. In these years of scaling Indeed, I’ve written my share of internal blog posts and documentation and communicated countless times via email, chat, JIRA, and meetings. However, my public communications stalled after joining Indeed. I was focused on learning and getting work done. It wasn’t until years later, in 2012, that I would speak publicly about my work (2012, 2016, 2017). And while Indeed was built upon many open source technologies, I only infrequently found myself contributing back to or engaging with the open source communities in open discussions. Around the time that I started speaking publicly on Indeed work, I did find myself starting to attend conferences as a way to engage more with the community. I remember attending Monitorama in 2013. I was excited about this conference because of some speakers like John Allspaw (Etsy at the time) and Jordan Sissel (creator of logstash, fpm, grok) and attendees like Rashid Khan (creator of Kibana) and R.I Pienaar (creator of hiera and mcollective). It was really awesome getting to meet with and talk to (most of) these people.

Side bars about Monitorama 2013 with respect to RIT – the university I attended:

  1. It was also very fun to bump into Chris Munns at the conference. Small world. Chris went to RIT, and was a labbie. Chris graduated from the undergrad program before I did. Chris had been working at Etsy (with John Allpsaw) but had recently moved to AWS. Chris has since become a prolific communicator on Serverless at AWS.

  2. Jordan Sissel (one of the reasons I attended the conf) also went to RIT :)

Monitorama 2013 was a step towards engaging more deeply with the community. I was awed by Kyle Kingsbury’s beautiful talk on Reimann, inspired by the architectural shift of Sensu from Sean Porter and so enamored by Dr. Neil J Gunther’s work that I started reading Dr Gunther’s Guerilla Capacity Planning while still in Boston. In fact, I remember reading this book on Kindle in a bathtub at the Liberty hotel and at some point reflecting that this bathtub was the perfect size for my body.

After the conference, I’m sure the Internet Machines will support that I was somewhat more engaged on Twitter and Github. And I did speak a few times publicly about Indeed work.

In 2016, the Google SRE book came out. I saw that Indeed had already adopted some of the concepts that Google wrote about, and was grateful to learn about techniques and concepts that hadn’t yet naturally emerged at Indeed (like SLOs, error budgets, capping toil, etc). Indeed started applying concepts like SLOs quickly. In 2017, my team of ~30 centralized system administrators rebranded and joined a newly created SRE organization. I led a few of the SRE teams embedded in product development orgs, evolved the on-call process, brought engineers and leaders together to learn, plan and relate.

Start 2020, the year when COVID-19 firmly impacted my life in Austin, TX. Indeed was able to move swiftly to work from home. My family stayed healthy while adapting to the new way of life from home. I found myself writing and presenting more internally at work – whether about cloud or SRE. In August 2020, I started leading the entire SRE organization at Indeed.

In late 2020, my colleague, Alex Elman, who had spoken and written publicly about “resilience engineering” and “learning from incidents” in 2019, was increasingly advocating for applying these concepts to Indeed. Re-enter John Allspaw and enter Dr Richard Cook from Adaptive Capacity Labs. Enter Nora Jones and Laura Maguire at Jeli.io. As I began engaging with Nora, Laura, John, Richard, and Alex, I was joining an insightful, inspiring, and productive community.

I began devouring content from the “resilience engineering” and “learning from incidents” communities. See, I love learning. For as long as I can remember, my answer to the questions like “if you had all the time in the world, what would you do?” has been “read”. So, I loved diving into the presentations, books, chats, etc to learn more.

Unbeknownst to me, 2020 with all of the social isolation, changes in work responsibilities and deep dives into resilience engineering would be the year that I realized that I missed meaningfully engaging publicly.

This blog is where I’m going to start sharing, thinking, analyzing, and synthesizing publicly. This blog is public, but it’s primarily for me. I’m writing publicly because I think it will help me become a better communicator, it is a way to engage with more people, and some of the content may help others. I don’t have an expectation that every post will resonate with each reader. 

I will write about topics on my mind. Some posts will be long, some will be short. Some will be technical, some will be philosophical. Some will be about what’s happening now, some about the past, and some about the future. Some will be about work. Some will be about climbing. Some will be about travel. Some will be about psychology. Some about life-after-work. What I write here is my own and doesn’t represent my employer.

If you spot non inclusive content, harmful content, incorrect content, or otherwise have feedback, please let me know so I can learn and adapt. You can find numerous ways to contact me at www.jasonkoppe.com.

Welcome :)

Jason Koppe