CloudDevelopersDevOpsFeaturedLet's TalkOpen Source

Why Rich Burroughs Loves Developer Advocacy

0

Guest: Rich Burroughs
Company: Loft Labs
Show: Let’s Talk

Every developer has a journey, a story to tell, and sometimes even common origin stories can wind up taking very special paths to success. Such is the case with Rich Burroughs, Senior Developer Advocate at Loft Labs.

Burroughs started in IT as a system administrator in the ’90s when the tech industry was really taking off (thanks to the proliferation of the internet). His first job was at an internet provider, as a CIS admin. Since those humble beginnings, he’s worked several different jobs in a space that was once called application administration. In those gigs, he did a lot of deployment, app configuration, troubleshooting, and other duties involving traditional applications.

His career evolved to where he was doing SRE (Site Reliability Engineering) work. After being on-call for many years, Rich burned out and needed a change, which led him to developer advocacy.  As Burroughs puts it, “Developer advocacy really is a great fit for me, I think because there’s that community feel which I really love. But it’s also technical too.” Burroughs’ definition of Developer Advocacy is simple: “It’s a combination of doing some things like writing and speaking, and maybe podcasting and streaming and giving people in the community ideas about how they can use the tools better. Another big part of it is interacting with folks in the community to get an idea of what their experiences are and help them use the tools better and also get feedback to the folks who are building the products. So they know what kind of stumbling blocks people are running into, what kind of new features the community wants.”

So what took Burroughs to Loft Labs? He’s been with the company for about six months now. Before joining, he wasn’t looking at early-stage companies because he’d been through the wringer a few times with them. Instead, Burroughs wanted something bigger.

But then Lukas Gentele, the CEO of Loft Labs, reached out to Burroughs which led him to diving into what the company was building. After looking into the company, Burroughs says, “I was honestly really fascinated because a lot of the things that they were addressing were the problems I knew that people in the Kubernetes community had. These are the things that I heard people talking about, a lot of problems with multitenancy especially, and these are things that people are banging their shins on a lot.” He adds, “The folks at Loft were building really smart solutions to these problems. So that was really what drew me into it.”

Open source is a crucial component of Loft Labs. Burroughs began his journey with open source back in the ’90s, as a part of the Linux community. And, of course, Loft Labs truly believes in open source. To that, Burroughs says, “We have several projects right now; DevSpace, the oldest one, is a project that lets developers build workflows for writing code and deploying it to Kubernetes clusters. There are several other projects. Kiosk is a Kubernetes security-related project. We’ve got another project called a JS policy that lets you write policies for Kubernetes in JavaScript. And probably our most kind of cutting-edge popular project right now is VCluster, which allows you to run virtual Kubernetes clusters.”

Loft Labs built some of those tools directly into their project. “…What they did is they took the building blocks that were there in the commercial product and turned it into an open-source project. And I love that approach. By the time that open-source people started touching it, a lot of folks had already been using VCluster. And it means that the project is already proven, it’s got a lot of the sort of edges taken off of it that you might get with a brand new open-source project,” explains Burroughs.

Finally, Burroughs brings up his podcast, Kube Cuddle, which is a play on the kubectl command. With this podcast, Burroughs wants to engage with the friends he had in the community. He developed the idea at the last KubeCon , where he was “looking around and there were so many friends that I had there who were pretty influential people in the community. And I thought, ‘hey, I could tap into this group of people that I know and interview them’. And I think it would be a lot of fun for people to listen to.”

The summary of the show is written by Jack Wallen


Here is the unedited transcript of the show

Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is Swapnil Bhartiya and welcome to TFIR Lets Talk. And today we have with us Rich Burroughs, Senior Developer Advocate at Loft Labs. Rich, is great to have you on the show.

Rich Burroughs: Thanks so much for having me.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Tell me a bit about your background, because this first time we are hosting you. So I would love to know a bit about you.

Rich Burroughs: I have a somewhat common origin story, I think for a lot of people in tech. I started off working as a systems administrator in the 1990s. I had to go, a lot of people were in that situation, the tech industry was really taking off with the internet. My first job was an internet provider as a CIS admin. Since then, I’ve worked at lots of different places and I’ve worked a lot in the space of what used to be called application administration. So I was doing a lot of deployments and app configuration, troubleshooting problems more in that application space. And then I got to a point where I was doing SRE work and I just got kind of burned out on it. I’d been on call for many years and I felt like I needed to shift to something else. And developer advocacy really is a great fit for me, I think because there’s that community feel which I really love. But it’s also technical too.

Swapnil Bhartiya: If I ask you just out of curiosity, what exactly is the role and responsibility of a developer advocate? Are you a devil’s advocate where you to talk about, hey, you should use this technology, you should not use, why are using it. Or you are more or less like kind of evangelists, where you’re talking about, so I just want to understand what exactly is that role for you.

Rich Burroughs: The real answer is that it depends. So different companies look at this role in very different ways, but usually it’s a combination of doing some things like writing and speaking, and maybe podcasting and streaming and giving people in the community ideas about how they can use the tools better. That’s a big chunk of it. And then often another big part of it is interacting with folks in the community to get an idea of what their experiences are and help them use the tools better and also get feedback to the folks who are building the products. So they know what kind of stumbling blocks people are running into, what kind of new features the community wants, things like that.

Swapnil Bhartiya: And looking at your own career graph and the breadth of experience you have, what made you interested in Loft? Why did you join the company?

Rich Burroughs: So it’s funny because when I started looking this last time, I’ve been with the company for about six months now. I was not looking at early stage companies. I had been through the ringer a few times with early stage companies and was thinking that I wanted to go somewhere bigger. And then Lukas, the CEO, reached out to me and I took a look at what they were building. And I was honestly really fascinated because a lot of the things that they were addressing were the problems that I knew that people in the Kubernetes community had, right? These are the things that I heard people talking about, a lot problems with multitenancy especially, and these are things that people are banging their shins on a lot. And the folks at Loft were building really smart solutions to these problems. So that was really what drew me into it. And then I met Lukas and we were very much on the same page in terms of what we thought this role should be doing and where we thought the company should be heading.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Let’s change the gear and just totally talk about Open Source. Talk about your own kind of exposure to Open Source. What value do you see of Open Source? And today’s kind of clouded world because more and more things are becoming as a service. We’re a VS with Docker or Low Code, No Code, so that you don’t have to worry too much about actually investing time in developing something, just go to market as soon as you can.

Rich Burroughs: I started working with Open SourceClear back in the 90s. Like I said, that was my first job as a system administrator. I was in the Linux community before that even and learning about Linux. And so that was my gateway to open source. And since then, I’ve been part of many other communities. I was part of the Puppet community for a while and then ended up working there. And that was actually very influential on me in terms of my views of open source.

There’s kind of a push and pull for a company that’s making open source tools and a commercial product. And a lot of that comes around like what you productize, what you put in the paid version. And a lot of times those decisions are things like RBAC and SSO and things that companies kind of have to have if they’re really going to operate this software securely and at scale. And so those kinds of questions of what you give to the open source users and what you give to the commercial users are a really big one. And I think it’s something that a lot of companies struggle with and you see companies coming out with multiple attempts at trying to monetize this popular open source software that they have even.

Swapnil Bhartiya: What is the importance of open source at Loft Lab? What are the products they are involved with? What products they’re consuming? So talk about the open source story at Loft.

Rich Burroughs: We really do believe in open source. We have several projects right now, DevSpace is the oldest one, that’s a project that lets developers build workflows for writing code and deploying it to Kubernetes clusters. There’s several other projects. Kiosk is a Kubernetes security related project. We’ve got another project called a JS policy that lets you write policies for Kubernetes in JavaScript. And probably our most kind of cutting edge popular project right now is VCluster, which allows you to run virtual Kubernetes clusters.

And I think that these tools, some of them are actually built into our product, right? So we have virtual clusters in Loft before VCluster existed. And what they did is they took the building blocks that were there in the commercial product and turned it into an open source project. And I love that approach. By the time that open source people started touching it, a lot of folks had already been using VCluster. And it means that the project is already proven, it’s got a lot of the sort of edges taken off of it that you might get with a brand new open source project.

Swapnil Bhartiya: You earlier talked about one of the rules of a developer advocate is also podcasts. I feel that messaging communication education is also a very big deal and podcast is one of the many mediums that you can use. So you also have a podcast if I’m not wrong. And it has a kind of funny and cute name, Kube Cuddle. So talk about the podcast and talk about who got the idea for the name.

Rich Burroughs: Kube Cuddle, if you’re not big into the Kubernetes space, you might not get the joke. But there’s a tool that a lot of people they use very frequently with Kubernetes called Kubectl. And some people pronounce that cuddle. So they call it Kube cuddle and that’s where I got the name for the podcast. But I really just wanted to engage with friends that I had in the community. I had done some podcasting previously. I knew it was a lot of fun to interview people. I enjoyed talking with people and getting to know them better.

And I was actually at the last physical KubeCon that happened in San Diego. And I was looking around and there were so many friends that I had there who were pretty influential people in the community. And I thought, hey, I could tap into this group of people that I know and interview them. And I think it would be a lot of fun for people to listen to. I’ve really focused a lot more on the people than the software. So a lot of what I ask people about is their journey in technology and in the Kubernetes community. And we talk about that a lot more than the tools, but we do talk about tools some too.

Swapnil Bhartiya:  Rich, thank you so much for taking time out today and not only talk about your own journey, but also the importance of open source at Loft and also the role of developer advocate. And I would love to have you back on the show. I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other a lot in the coming months, but thanks for your time today.

Rich Burroughs: Thanks so much. This is very fun. And I would definitely like to come back.

Don't miss out great stories, subscribe to our newsletter.

Login/Sign up