We recently had the opportunity to catch up with the amazing Laura Frank. Laura is a developer focused on making tools for other developers.As an engineer at Codeship, she works on improving the Docker infrastructure and overall experience for users on Codeship. Previously, she worked on several open source projects to support Docker in the early stages of the project, including Panamax and ImageLayers. She currently lives in Berlin.
Laura is also a Docker Captain, a distinction that Docker awards select members of the community that are experts in their field and passionate about sharing their Docker knowledge with others.
As we do with all of these podcasts, we begin with a little bit of history of “How did you get here?” Then we dive into the Codeship offering and how it optimizes its delivery flow by using Docker containers for everything. We then end up with a “What’s the coolest Docker story you have?” I hope you enjoy – please feel free to comment and leave suggestions.
How has Docker impacted what you do on a daily basis?
I’m lucky to work with Docker every day in my role as an engineer at Codeship. In addition to appreciating the technical aspects of Docker, I really enjoy seeing the different ways the Docker ecosystem as a whole empowers engineering teams to move faster. Docker is really impactful at two levels: we can use Docker to simplify the way we build and distribute software. But we can also solve problems in more unique ways because containerization is more accessible. It’s not just about running a production application in containers; you can use Docker to provide a distributed system of containers in order to scale up and down and handle task processing in interesting ways. To me, Docker is really about reducing friction in the development process and allowing engineers to focus on the stuff we’re best at — solving complex problems in interesting ways.
As a Docker Captain, how do you share that learning with the community?
I’m usually in front of a crowd, talking through a set of problems that can be solved with Docker. There are lots of great ways to share information with others, from writing a blog post or presenting a webinar, to answering questions at a meetup. I’m very hands on when it comes to helping people wrap their heads around the questions they have when using Docker. I think the best way to help is to open my laptop and work through the issues together.
Since Docker has is such a complex and vast ecosystem, it’s important that Captains, and all of us who lead different areas of the Docker community, understand that each person has different levels of expertise with different components. The goal isn’t to impress people with how smart you are or what cool things you’ve built; the goal is to help your peers become better at what they do. But, the most important point is that everyone has something to contribute to the community.
Who are you when you’re not online?
I really love to get far away from computers when I’m not at work. I think there are so many other interesting parts of me that aren’t related to the work I do in the Docker community, and are separate from me as a technologist. You have to strike the right balance to stay focused and healthy. I love to adventure outdoors — canoeing and kayaking in the summer in addition to, running around the city, hiking, and camping. Eliminating distractions and giving my brain some time to recover helps me think more clearly and strategically during the week.
How did you first get involved with Docker?
In 2013, I worked at HP Cloud on an infrastructure engineering team, and someone shared Solomon’s lightning talk from PyCon in an IRC or HipChat channel. I remember being really intrigued by the technical complexity and greater vision that he expressed. Later, my boss from HP left to join CenturyLink Labs, where he was building out a team to work on Docker-related developer tools, and a handful of us went with him. It was a huge gamble. There wasn’t much in the way of dev tools built around Docker, and those projects were really fun and exciting to work on, because we were just figuring out everything as we went along. My team was behind Panamax, ImageLayers, Lorry, and Dray, to name a few. If someone were to take me back to 2013 and tell me that this weirdly obscure new project would be the thing I spend 100% of my time working with, I wouldn’t have believed them, but I’m really glad it’s true.
If you could switch your job with anyone else, whose job would you want?
I’d be a pilot. I think it also shares common qualities with my role as an engineer — I love the high-level view and seeing lots of complex systems working together. Plus, I think I’d look pretty cool in a tactical jumpsuit. Maybe I’ll float that idea by the rest of the engineers on my team as a possible dress code update.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Don’t half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing” – Ron Swanson. It’s really tempting to try to learn everything about everything, especially related to technology that is constantly changing. The Docker world can be pretty chaotic. Sometimes it’s better to slow down, focus on one component of the ecosystem, and rely on the expertise of your peers for guidance in other areas. The Docker Community is great place to see this in action, because you simply can’t do it all yourself. You have to rely on the contributions of others. And you know, finish unloading the dishwasher before starting to clean the bathroom. Ron Swanson is a wise man in all areas of life.