My new love baking and my old partner Reliability Engineering are more similar than I thought.
While most of us wonder how baking perceived as art has anything to do with Engineering perceived as science. They have one thing in common. Both are skills where art meets science.
Baking and Reliability Engineering are more similar than we think. I am lost for words to explain all the similarities between these two, below is a meagre attempt to sneak peek into the meeting of the two worlds.
1. Capacity/Ingredients planning and management is at the core
Too much is a waste of resources while too little makes the consumer unhappy. It’s true for both the worlds.
Making a 3 Kilo cake for three people might sound tempting. But honestly one cannot eat a Kilo of cake. You don’t want to say NO to such a good looking lovely cake and discard it, that would be a cake crime and waste of food. Similarly, you don’t want to make 30gram cake for three people and risk a cake war at home. The world needs more peace right now, so let’s start at home. This is where baking becomes a science where you plan the ingredients right. When you do that, you don’t end up wasting the resources while the cake eaters are happy with what they get.
We notice some websites occasionally think users have all day and take their own sweet time to load. You might have seen this on an e-commerce site on big sale events or social networking sites on big world events. This often boils down to the 30gram cake problem, where the Tech infrastructure cannot handle so many consumers. Make the infrastructure too big while consuming only a small part of it, you end up with a million/billion dollar bill, and you waste resources. Make it too small, consumer’s requests compete for a response which makes websites slow and you risk a Twitter war, just like the cake war. You don’t want to mess with twitter warriors. This is where Engineering becomes a science where you do benchmarks and capacity planning. When the infrastructure is right-sized, you save money and resources while consumers have a happy browsing experience.
2. When things don’t go according to plan, you can still fix it!!
We all want things to go as planned, but sometimes it doesn’t. The year 2020 is an excellent example of it. But unlike 2020, you can fix things when they go wrong in both baking and Reliability Engineering.
When you put the ingredients in the oven to bake, you want to see a beautiful gorgeous cake coming out. But sometimes you overbake the top of the cake, or it cracks because of many reasons, and the outcome is a sorry looking cake. But that is not the end of the world. You can use a cake leveller to level the top and then decorate it with ganache and buttercream to fix the mess. This is where baking becomes an art where you use your innovation and decoration skills to make the cake look beautiful.
When a consumer visit’s a website, they expect it to work seamlessly. But sometimes the top of the web stack, the website can be inaccessible or too latent because of many reasons, and the outcome is a bad user experience. But again, that is not the end of the world. As a reliability engineer, you can use scaling techniques to level off traffic spikes and then decorate it with skills such as observability and geekiness to fix the mess. This is where reliability engineering becomes an art where you think out of the box and use your skills to make the website reliable 99.9999% of the time.
3. Learnings and Innovation are part of what you do
You learn from your mistakes and innovate in both the worlds.
You make a sorry looking cake, too little cake, overbaked cake, underbaked cake and your lovely cake eaters may forgive you once or even twice. Make the same mistake again, and you risk being smeared with cake all over the face. So you learn from what went bad the last time and try not to repeat it. Happy looking cake makes for happy cake eaters.
User visits a website, and its inaccessible, slow, unreliable and your lovely consumers may forgive you once or even twice. Make the same mistake again, and you risk losing the consumer to your competitor. And once they are gone, you need to rely on black magic aka cashback and discounts to gain their trust back. So you learn from what went wrong, aka “Root Cause Analysis.” and try not to repeat it. Reliable website makes for a loyal consumer.
This whole journey made me realise my new love baking is so similar to my old partner Reliability Engineering. On second thought, eating is more primitive to us humans than computers, so it’s my old partner who is similar to my new love and not the other way around. It so happened that I met my old partner earlier and I found my new love later.