“Customers value cloud services because they are agile and adaptable, scaling and transforming to meet the changing needs of business. Since the velocity of change can work against the tenets of reliability, our Azure engineering teams have evolved their culture, processes, and frameworks to balance the pace of innovation with assurance of performance and quality. Today, I asked Principal Program Manager Anne Hamilton to explore the challenges of developing a culture of reliability through Azure engineering onboarding skills training, as part of our Advancing Reliability blog series.” —Mark Russinovich, CTO, Azure


Like engineering reliability, Azure tradition should steadiness the pace of the brand new with the steadiness of the recognized within the face of great development and unknowns. New hires convey new concepts and views whereas veterans convey expertise and institutional data. Each contribute to the group tradition, which defines how high quality and innovation are valued and carried out.

To evolve the highest quality outcomes, the Azure engineering group tradition have to be a spot the place concepts are brazenly shared, rigorously challenged, and successfully carried out. It’s an area the place ideation and creativity thrive.

Abilities, processes, and frameworks may be taught. However can tradition be taught? How do you onboard new hires right into a tradition that values reliability?

Like a lot about Azure, onboarding people and growing group tradition on the pace of Azure has been fraught with challenges, and wealthy in learnings.

Onboarding engineers—Azure Engineering Boot Camp

The astounding development charge of cloud computing has created an unprecedented demand for engineering roles worldwide. Inside the Cloud + AI group, this ends in a whole bunch of recent hires becoming a member of Azure engineering groups every week. A whole bunch of individuals to coach on essential expertise, inner instruments, and greatest practices. And a whole bunch of individuals to expertise their first publicity to tradition. How do you protect institutional data and disseminate tradition that values reliability when waves of recent persons are onboarding always?

When a brand new engineer joins Microsoft, they spend their first day at New Worker Orientation (NEO), their first week getting conversant in their group and the surroundings, and their second week within the Azure Engineering Boot Camp (ABC).

ABC college students delve into hands-on labs, study Azure instruments and companies, and take part in lectures and actions to discover the engineering and enterprise technique. Many reliability rules are explicitly taught, together with techniques considering, adaptive management, valuing variety and inclusion, and buyer growth. For instance, the “Systems Thinking” session seems to be on the tensions between characteristic velocity and high quality, exploring the influence of whether or not and when including extra builders to an issue enhances characteristic velocity with out compromising high quality. However it’s the method that these are offered that allows the rules to stay. The immersive week of in-person coaching permits trainers to mannequin, coach, and assist college students develop reliability tradition attributes together with technical expertise in real-time.

A cohort of recent engineers at a pre-COVID-19 ABC occasion.

Whereas it’s not written anyplace within the agenda, ABC instructors place a excessive worth on instructing tradition. They perceive that Microsoft wants new hires to step into their groups with greater than technical expertise. New hires want each the arrogance to query the established order, and a caring dedication to the group’s cultural dynamic. In order that members develop this expectation once they first arrive, ABC creates a shared expertise by encouraging belonging and valuing variety, and by inviting members to problem the curriculum and share private experiences that will differ from these offered. ABC is a particular place, making a cohort of learners in a position to discover themselves within the context of the tradition. Individuals look at their genuine selves and discover steadiness as they step into Azure.

Like the remainder of Microsoft Azure, ABC is maturing and adapting to learner wants to enhance its relevance as Azure scales. To supply a deeper sense of this system, listed here are three issues and the present considering round them.

Drawback 1: Enabling world parity

Among the tenets which have made ABC in Redmond profitable are a problem for the worldwide group to copy. But considering holistically and inclusively are core rules of reliability engineering. In Redmond, ABC’s instructor-led, engaged cohort surroundings has been a necessary facet of enabling a tradition of reliability for brand spanking new hires, however is tradition in Redmond the identical as tradition in Europe? In India? How can ABC maintain to a world normal and obtain native relevance?

The group explored video choices, however quickly realized that Redmond-built video coaching would have reverse the specified impact on making a vibrant engineering tradition. As an alternative, the group labored with native stakeholders to arrange regional coaching within the main growth facilities. The result’s a ‘crawl, walk, run’ strategy through which the regional facilities might mature their Azure engineering schooling program at their very own tempo. The ensuing world enhancements to ABC are a number of, together with an improved lab expertise, extra correct and well timed technical curriculum updates, and the range of contributors improves reliability outcomes for all.

One instance is datacenter worker participation in ABC. This group tends to be early in profession and/or from group schools, with experience in infrastructure engineering and operations versus software program engineering. The datacenter employees see ABC as a uncommon alternative to attach with HQ groups, and so they convey an actual working expertise to the cohort, most of whom received’t but have had the possibility to go to a datacenter. Having these teams study collectively and share real-world datacenter experiences together with HQ insights helps each audiences develop.

Crawl, stroll, run ranges

On the ‘crawl’ stage, occasions occur quarterly. A regional middle hosts the ABC trainers and provides keynote audio system from the native management group, lunchtime lectures by native engineering groups describing their newest options and companies, and a cohort of native veteran engineers to mentor college students by means of capstone structure design initiatives. The upside is that college students are steeped in a mixture of each native and world Azure tradition throughout an occasion. The draw back is that it occurs solely throughout ABC occasions, that are rare. An instance deployment is the India Improvement Middle in Hyderabad.

On the ‘walk’ stage, a neighborhood program supervisor (PM) oversees a cohort of volunteer trainers to show classes and to seed the native taste of Azure engineering tradition. The native PM recruits keynote audio system, lecturers, and mentors. They handle communications, associated communities, advertising and marketing to deepen the connections between new hires and the established engineering group. The profit is that college students have a deeper publicity to native Azure tradition and a deeper relationship with native management. The PM’s work extends cultural publicity past ABC and invitations alumni into extra occasions and participation. An instance deployment is the Israel Improvement Middle in Herzliya.


On the ‘run’ stage, two native FTE trainers who report into the Redmond group educate ABC, have interaction native audio system and lecturers to regionalize this system, and function ambassadors for Azure Engineering Studying all up in order that the area is totally engaged in coaching occasions past ABC. This allows extra cross-pollination of tradition, with studying packages woven deeply within the cloth of the group. Studying tradition turns into much less event-based and extra of an natural a part of every day. An instance deployment is the Irish Improvement Middle in Dublin.

Dublin ABC trainers Paul Mooney and Jyoti Gupta.

Dublin ABC FTE trainers Paul Mooney and Jyoti Gupta prepared for his or her subsequent session in December 2019.

Admittedly, it’s a progressive journey with learnings and enhancements potential in any respect ranges. The areas proceed to share approaches, incubate, and experiment to proceed studying and development.

Drawback 2: Personalizing manufacturing facility schooling

By intent, a boot camp is rooted within the utilitarian premise of business age schooling through which a big physique of scholars are delivered to a selected stage of information and ability. Within the navy context, boot camp permits folks from a broad swath of backgrounds, health ranges, and expertise to attain a normal baseline of studying and bodily outcomes. Whereas perfect for instructing manufacturing facility staff or troopers how one can learn an instruction guide, it fails at tailoring schooling for particular person expertise growth and does little for constructing the constructivist considering essential in a tradition of reliability. How can an intensive onboarding program present a tailor-made studying expertise at scale?

ABC is delicate to this want, however decision is a piece in progress. The curriculum is meant to supply college students with a survey of the instruments, applied sciences, and greatest practices they’ll encounter early and sometimes of their Azure profession. It focuses on offering a necessary overview, a quick sensible expertise, and self-paced assets for continued studying. After ABC, college students are anticipated to outline a private course of studying that integrates extra coaching occasions on supply in addition to self-paced assets.

Anecdotally we hear that ABC graduates are extra assured about making ideas and assertions earlier in function as a result of they skilled that conduct being modeled and valued within the ABC classroom. Trainers use tales from actual world scholar experiences to make reliability principle extra concrete. ABC PM and Coach Devidas Gupta feedback, “The best learning is when I get to stand aside and enable students to share and discuss with each other with minimal guidance or facilitation from me. That’s when I know they’ll walk out of the learning experience and into their team with confidence and willingness to engage with others effectively.”

A two-speed viewers

Pupil critiques of ABC fall roughly into two teams. Some early-in-career varieties really feel the tempo is just too quick and doesn’t present sufficient context and examples, whereas seasoned engineers say that the curriculum is just too fundamental. They ask for extra and deeper protection of superior subjects.

On the floor, it will appear that dividing this system into fundamental and superior cohorts with acceptable subjects and pacing for every could be the most effective answer when assets and logistics can assist it. Traditionally, ABC has taken a special strategy to construct a extra resilient development tradition, as each teams profit from studying collectively. Early in profession engineers can study from these extra skilled, and seasoned professionals can get new views and approaches from latest faculty graduates. The classroom turns into a crucible for group cultural expertise.

The teacher-led format requires that instructors search to know the make-up of every cohort in order that they’ll modify the tempo, add context, or discover the perimeters of the curriculum to match the training expertise to the cohort wants. Instructors come early, keep late, and sometimes have interaction college students after ABC completion to mentor them, join them with subject material specialists (SMEs), or supply steering and assets. This deep and ongoing engagement is what makes ABC so particular.

Piloting new approaches

Latest buyer developments are enabling large-scale hiring within the East Coast of the U.S. These new recruits principally come from the early in profession background and want a extra DevOps-focused curriculum. This offers ABC the chance to sluggish the tempo and alter matter breadth whereas protecting tradition central to the expertise. The intent is to increase the training time-frame to supply the fundamentals in better context, then join the cohort with extra seasoned new hires to broaden the expertise. First piloted this spring and fine-tuned over the summer time, the curriculum is now in full rollout.

Drawback 3: Creating tradition at a distance throughout COVID-19

Present COVID-19 restrictions have made stay instructor-led occasions not possible. In its present format, a video recording of ABC could be a much-diminished studying expertise, and many of the cultural dynamic could be misplaced. But new recruits are becoming a member of every week and should be onboarded and educated. How can we convey tradition to new hires throughout this pandemic? How can we construct new capabilities to arrange for the long run?

Speedy want

ABC is working intently with the NEO group to ensure that new hires becoming a member of have the very best onboarding expertise. To construct tradition, ABC is exploring assigning studying mentors referred to as “camp counselors” to work with small cohorts of recent hires and information them by means of accessible self-paced studying choices that roughly align to ABC.

ABC trainer piloting a video-based course.

ABC FTE coach, Tim Colbert, pilots a video-based course.

Quick time period answer

ABC has pivoted to a digital video collection for self-paced studying. The movies deal with the technical expertise and demos and are supported by Microsoft Groups-based workplace hour discussions, hosted by instructors and matter SMEs. Camp counselors act as studying mentors to assist the expertise. This fashion, college students have a stay venue for connecting with mentors, instructors, and different college students to garner familiarity with the tradition and have some personalised assist regardless of the misplaced classroom expertise.

Long run strategy

Primarily based on scholar response, ABC will study, adapt, and scale video and teams-based coaching approaches, delicate to how they mannequin, assist, and develop Azure’s tradition of reliability. ABC will proceed to pilot new approaches and construct extra capability for added coaching experiences. Past ABC, reliability is roofed within the “Implementing SLOs” course and several other “Cloud Talks.”

Trying ahead

The core of Azure reliability begins with its engineering group tradition. Groups should be a spot the place ideation is secure, dissention is explored, and fervour for high quality is foremost. Simply as a excessive velocity of change can impede system reliability, the tempo of recent hires can disrupt group cultural growth. It’s vital for onboarding coaching to mannequin and develop the specified cultural attributes, but this turns into more and more difficult at scale, whether or not that scale is world, throughout studying ranges, or within the face of a pandemic. ABC coaching will proceed to pilot new approaches and evolve higher options to make sure all engineers can successfully take part in enhancing reliability from their earliest days in function.

Classes realized

  • Reliability engineering is rooted in group cultural dynamics. When the tradition of an engineering group values the attributes that allow reliability, reliability is part of each motion.
  • Throughout onboarding, don’t miss the chance to steep new hires within the organizational tradition. Mannequin reliability tradition whereas instructing technical expertise to raised put together new hires for the daily expertise.
  • When scaling globally, allow native possession and contributions so the cultural and technical parts of reliability are regionally compelling and related.
  • Deal with onboarding identical to an engineering pipeline with cautious buyer growth, frequent experimentation, and agile iteration to enhance relevance and construct resiliency.

Learn our Advancing Reliability weblog posts to study extra.

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