The Dreyfus Model of Ops Engineering

You spend the first part of your career implementing simple designs, because that’s all you know how to do. It’s what you learned on a blog. It’s how the senior engineer taught you.

You get frustrated by how long it takes you to do stuff that others around you are flying through. You feel like you’re drawing in crayon.

Then, as you learn, you get faster and bolt on complexity. Checkbox here, change from the default there. You’re getting the hang of this.

You start to feel confident, bordering on cocky. Your diagrams have more lines and boxes. Soon, you’re teaching others and talking about the bleeding edge of the field.

Look at you, you genius, you’re building technology for the ages, even though the old guy in the corner of the room keeps saying “This seems a little complex…” Screw him. He doesn’t understand your brilliance.

Then, maybe, your world slowly gets bigger. Maybe you aren’t so brilliant after all. You start thinking more about consequences and downstream effects, margins and trade-offs. You see your Rube Goldberg machines floating in a sea of chaos.

Your approach changes again.

Maybe one less box would be OK. Maybe we don’t need that line. Your designs begin to look more like the ones you started your career with. You solve for 80% and push back on things that shouldn’t be fixed with technology instead of saying “yes” just so you can come up with something impressive.

You spend more time removing things from your Visio drawings than adding them.

You nod your head and smile when someone draws their precious maze on a white board. You sit in the corner of the room and occasionally ask “Do you think this might be a little too complex?”

Required reading