A Thank You to the Chef Community

In October of 2014 Nathen Harvey – someone I knew mainly as a fellow Theatre major working as a software engineer – reached out and invited me to attend the Chef Community Summit. I had no idea what to expect – only that I hoped to learn more about writing Chef and understanding this DevOps thing I was hearing so much about. This sometimes surprises people, but I am very much an introvert. When I come to an event or meet a community for the first time I tend to stick to the edges of the room. The Chef Community summit was the first place where I felt both welcomed and drawn into the center of the community immediately. People I knew only from Twitter like Adam Jacob, Chris Webber, Jennifer Davis, Jessica Devita, and many more not only were kind to me, they sought and very clearly valued what I thought of both the technologies and the community they were building. I knew immediately this was a community I wanted to be a part of – and, moreover, Chef was a place I absolutely wanted to work.

I started my career at Chef as a software engineer working on Supermarket in February of 2015. A few years later I transitioned to the Habitat team as an engineer, then to the position of Principal Engineer – Community Engineering Lead where I led Chef’s Open Source development across all of our projects. In these nearly five years I have learned an immense amount from my fellow Chef employees and so much more from our phenomenal community. As I mentioned at this year’s ChefConf, I was excited about working on Open Source full time when I came to Chef, but also a little nervous. I knew that working in the open meant that my work – and my mistakes – would be public. I feared the public’s reaction if/when I would get something wrong in a commit, pull request, or deployment. I’m happy to say that my fears were not realized. The amount of empathy and support within our Open Source community is an inspiration and gives me deep hope. As a result I have improved massively as an engineer, as a leader, and most especially as a human. I am deeply – and will forever be – grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow and for Chef and the Chef Community’s support throughout this journey. I have been able to apply these lessons to my work with Operation Code – a non-profit dedicated to teaching software engineering skills to the military community – and other places and hope to pay it forward for my entire life.

I now have a chance to take what I’ve learned at Chef, Operation Code, and more and bring it to an even larger audience. As part of my work with Habitat, I became involved in the Rust Community. The Rust Community is another Open Source community where empathy and personal maturity are valued as much as technical depth, where they hold themselves and each other to a higher standard. In February I will start working for the Rust Community full time as a Sr. Staff Engineer at Mozilla.

While this does mean I will no longer be an employee of Chef, I will remain a Chef Community member and will be returning as a speaker at ChefConf 2020. There is an immense amount both the Chef Community and the Rust Community can learn from each other and build on together. One thing I want to make clear is that I have full confidence in Chef’s ability to continue to innovate and succeed – I am proud to have worked here and even prouder to continue to be involved through our community. Both Chef the company and Chef the community have everything they need to succeed. The key is harnessing not just technical ability but also the ability of humans to work together to solve the world’s hardest problems – problems that no one person, one company, or even one industry can solve alone. Technical knowledge is not enough – humanity will be saved by those who can combine technology with a deep understanding of human nature. I learned this and have tried to live it through my work at Chef and will continue to do so through my work at Mozilla and beyond. I hope you will walk this journey with me. 

So say we all.


If you have questions about the Chef Community, our DevRel team is an awesome resource. See you at ChefConf 2020!

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Nell Shamrell-Harrington

Nell Shamrell-Harrington is a Principal Software Development Engineer and Community Engineering Lead at Chef. She is also a member of the Habitat core team. She specializes in Open Source, Chef, Ruby, Rails, Rust, Regular Expressions, and Test Driven Development and has traveled the world speaking on these topics. Prior to entering the world of software development, she studied and worked in the field of Theatre. The world of Theatre prepared her well for the dynamic world of creating software applications. In both, she strives to create a cohesive and extraordinary experience.