Mark Imbriaco – Tech Director of DevOps at Epic Games (#41)

Biography

Mark Imbriaco has done everything from scaling and systems operations to starting his own company. His focus has been on an emerging part of technology: DevOps and site reliability engineering. 

Mark often leads scaling (for sites and applications) and builds teams that manage those sites. Mark has held positions at AOL, Bank of America, Github, Basecamp, Heroku, DigitalOcean and now Epic Games.

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Episode Summary

“DevOps is all about how do we take the code that gets developed, and the code that lives in production, and bring them closer to being the same thing.”

“There’s a balance between following your passions and paying your bills. Finding that balance in between has been an ongoing back and forth struggle.”

—Mark Imbriaco

In this episode we’ll cover:

  1. What exactly is DevOps and site reliability engineering
  2. How Mark dropped out of college after 2 years to start a hosting company back in 1994
  3. The story behind 37Signals, now Basecamp, and how Mark got a job as a system administrator for them
  4. How Mark got connected with Epic Games after reading a blog post

Key Milestones

[2:05] – Mark dropped out of college to start a company with his friends. But after a few years, he joined Bank of America and then AOL to support his family.
[3:05] – Imbriaco became a java developer for the heavy truck industry for 5 years. With time he increasingly became dissatisfied with what he was doing. He started going to conferences and getting introduced to new people and ideas. This is when he got exposed to Ruby on Rails.

[4:30] – The story behind 37Signals, now Basecamp, and how Mark got a job as a system administrator for them. He later left 37Signals for Heroku, later acquired by Salesforce

[6:30] – Why was leaving Heroku to join LivingSocial a mistake? After LivingSocial, Mark became part of GitHub. And later joined DigitalOcean
[9:30]- Mark goes into cofounding Operable, a startup on chat ops, with a friend. Although his ideas were good, Mark was subpar at implementing them. The company shut down 2 years later.

[11:30] – Why did Mark get out of software engineering for 1 year and get a ‘recovery job’ talking to executives about technology?
[12:30] – How did Mark get connected with Epic Games. Hint: it was through a blog post.
[14:30] – Why did Mark drop out of college 2 years into it? Hint: it was to build a web hosting company back in 1994.

[18:15] – Mark talks about ‘burnout’ or a general feeling of hopelessness. This is usually the time to move on with a career or change circumstances.
[20:25] – What exactly is DevOps and site reliability engineering? Also, what are some of the challenges in working with Ruby on Rails?
[23:41] – Java vs Ruby on Rails. What are some major differences?
[27:30] – Why there is usually some friction between development and operations? Also, how is this rapidly changing to a better model with site reliability engineers (SREs)?

[31:01] – Mark got into management (for all of the wrong reasons) after leaving 37Signals. But to his luck, he was actually passionate about management without even knowing it.
[35:55] – What Mark looks for when hiring. Why diversity of experience is just as important as cultural diversity.
[40:58] – It’s easy to overwork in software engineering and tech. This is why it is so important to decide on your priorities and to have boundaries whenever it is necessary.

Additional Resources

Past Episodes Mentioned:
Ep. 5 Design Thinking and Your Career, with Drew Farris
Chris Bouton – Biologist to CEO: Neuroscience, Deep Learning & Art (#22)

CONNECT WITH MARK IMBRIACO
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Twitter

CONNECT WITH GRANT INGERSOLL
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Twitter