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By Andrew Holway - Otter Networks Founder - 2nd November 2018

Investing in the Future of Development: The Role of Automation and Education

CTO, serial entrepreneur and investor Mathias Kutzner has founded between 25 and 30 startups, but he gave up his entrepreneurial role 2 years ago to support growing companies with a focus on automation. Here’s why he believes in the perfect storm of algorithms and training to push development forward.

Investing in the Future of Development

It’s Friday afternoon, and Mathias Kutzner is still delivering tough tech truths to me over the phone during our conversation. I had called him to discuss the in-depth reasons why he chose to invest in our Otter Networks team and product. Really, I just wanted to pick the brain of a prolific technical founder.

“One current challenge is that developers don’t need to improve or learn new things,” he said. ”They’ll find a job anyway.”

Our chat quickly moved toward a discussion about stagnation – the kind that companies are facing with developers, devops and engineering teams. Due to technological advances, such as the introduction of application management platform Kubernetes, the responsibility of the application lifecycle is now fully in the hands of the developer. Whether or not we want to admit it yet, we no longer need to silo platform knowledge in the hands of the few (namely, DevOps engineers).

What if DevOps engineers ceased to exist, and instead, the direct ownership of this ‘Productivity Engineering’ was shared amongst all developers? What if every developer became a master of their own domain?

Having worked in technical leadership positions since graduating with a degree in Computer Science, Kutzner speaks from plenty of experience. He says that new training models need to exist for developers – and not just when it comes to learning a new language.

“There’s a lot of material out there, but it’s mostly about learning a new language or framework.” he said. “Learning a completely new concept, like replacing devops and teaching developers to do this part of work as well, is something that I haven’t seen so far.”

In short, Kutzner believes in automation and education to push development forward. He and I went on to discuss why this is important, and how Otter Networks’ devops design sprints and learning models could play a pivotal role facilitating automation and evolving the role of a developer.

Read our short Q&A below.

What kinds of challenges do you see companies facing right now in terms of development?

Definitely a lack of qualified employees and developers. That’s not just because there aren’t that many, but it’s also because those who exist can choose between too many jobs. They don’t need to improve or learn new things because they’ll find a job anyway. That already started about 10 years ago. A lot of developers – I’d say the majority – use their time now to tell companies or startups what technology they should use based on what they, the developers, would like to do – whether it’s useful or not for the specific company. This is a huge challenge.

Another challenge is that nobody really wants to take care of the system administration or DevOps part. That’s why most startups are using cloud computing offers without really understanding the underlying infrastructure, and what that can really offer to the company or product. The result is you get a lot of unqualified developers who move to DevOps.

My understanding is that ‘training’ isn’t a word that developers tend to embrace. How can training be made useful again in the development sphere? Do you envision this as something that can take development teams to the next level in the future?

Simple answer, yes. That’s basically what I’m envisioning. Maybe taking one step back to my background: I went back to university ten years ago to do my phD, but instead I founded an e-learning teleteaching startup within the university. That’s how I got in touch with e-learning, and I find it very interesting. I still think there’s a model that can be done to train developers. There’s a lot of material out there, but it’s mostly learning a new language or framework. Learning a completely new concept, like replacing DevOps and teaching developers to do this part of work as well – this is something that I haven’t seen so far.

How does Otter Networks fit into your vision for the future of development?

There’s a better way to do what DevOps engineers are doing right now. I’m interested in what Andrew is trying to achieve, and that’s supporting automation and getting rid of – it sounds harsh, but – useless jobs. That’s really what I look for in investments: those that automate [processes], or those that involve a machine or algorithm that does things better than people. Andrew is also creating a learning platform around it. That was when I became very interested.

One more thing: Whenever I do investments, of course I need to like the product or service that’s developed. I need to feel that there’s a need for this. But I also like to invest in people. With Andrew, I have the feeling that he knows what he’s doing and I think that he can manage this even if the environment, surroundings or necessary approach changes.