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True Story: On-call Doesn’t Have to Suck

Prior to my current and happy employment at VictorOps, I was also happily not required to be on-call for anything. It was a concerning realization that I would be forfeiting the latter. Being on-call was a mystery to me and mysteries make me anxious.

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When a mystery becomes my imminent opponent, I usually accept this and then attack it. This tactic was not an option. The only way to know about the experience of on-call is to experience on-call. I had to wait.

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Fortunately I had a guide into this new world. A friendly coworker was by my side as I learned what it means to be on-call. And I did learn what it means, which is not much. It was inconsequential to me as a person. This was a profound realization and my motive for sharing this story. On-call is okay.

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I’m not anxious or afraid to be on-call now. It’s a very passive thing for me. I get a notification from the VictorOps app saying that I am on-call and usually the only other notification is me being off-call. Not mysterious or anxiety-inducing at all.

Occasionally an incident will happen while I’m on-call and it becomes an opportunity for me to learn more about the platform and to let my teammates sleep. When the incident is non-trivial, it is clear who to ask for help.

Using our own product to handle on-call rotation was an excellent experience in dogfooding. It increases my empathy for customers, which allows me to do my job more effectively.

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My tips for those who are not looking forward to their first on-call rotation:

– Use VictorOps.

– In lieu of the above, have a system or process in place that will help you to feel confident when you’re on-call.

Runbooks are cool. Put them to good use.

– Open communication. Don’t be afraid to talk to your team members about your anxieties and whether they have any suggestions for you.

– Ask questions. If an alert comes in that you can’t do anything about, ask why. When there’s not a runbook outlining what to do, ask why.

– Embrace the fear and get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s called growth.

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VictorOps is making on-call suck less with the only collaborative alert management platform on the market.

With easy on-call scheduling management, a real-time incident timeline that gives you contextual relevance around your alerts and powerful reporting features that make post-mortems more effective, VictorOps helps your IT/DevOps team solve problems faster.