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Neurodiversity, Empathy, and the Essence of DevOps

by Jeff Sussna

It’s been gratifying to see the DevOps community take up the challenge of making empathy the essence of what we do. We should be proud of ourselves as an example to other organizational transformation approaches. We still, though, have room to grow. Whether it’s NoOps, or cloud-native chauvinism, or labeling people on the autism spectrum as lacking the capacity for empathy, we create subtle separations and exclusions through language and practice.

I would like to use my experience as a person on the autism spectrum to reflect on the true meaning of empathy as the essence of DevOps. People on the spectrum are typically viewed as lacking something. In the process, our strengths and value get ignored. Real empathy means looking for wisdom and capability across differences. How do we do that in a comprehensive way? What are the obstacles to doing so in our current approaches to DevOps? How can overcoming those obstacles provide a model for digital transformation, and for healthy organizations, that transcends dev and ops?

In addition, I will also introduce a simple exercise for learning how to create shared solutions across differences through empathetic listening, so please come prepared to participate.

All levels

Jeff Sussna

Jeff Sussna is an internationally recognized IT coach and design thinking practitioner. He specializes in helping digital organizations improve service quality through effective collaboration. His career spans thirty years of building systems and leading organizations across the entire product development and operations spectrum. Jeff provides Agile, DevOps, and Design Thinking coaching and workshops for leading enterprises such as United HealthCare, HealthPartners, Thomson Reuters, Best Buy, CenturyLink, and Cisco.

Jeff is a highly respected teacher, writer, and speaker. His keynote talks and workshops are in demand at design and IT conferences throughout the U.S. and Europe. He is especially known for introducing the global DevOps community to the importance of empathy, and is the author of Designing Delivery: Rethinking IT In the Digital Service Economy.