We’re covering a few DevOps parallels, data-driven diaper changing, and, apparently, Baby Shark.
Taking care of a newborn is a gargantuan task for everyone involved. We invite one of our technologists to tell us more about how he and his partner are automating the rough manual tasks away to make more time for rest and peace of mind.
Automating chunks of the newborn/baby experience is beyond software. It’s about taking out manual tasks to make more time for important things… like sleep.
Screenshots mentioned in episode
Andrew Nhem is the managing editor at Puppet.
- Check out Dad Verb's YouTube Channel
- Here's an overview of Dr. Karp's "Five S's for Soothing Babies"
- If somehow you've made it through most of 2019 without listening to "Baby Shark", here you go (...and you're welcome)
Andrew [00:00:00] Hey everyone, welcome to today's episode of pulling the strings. Today we're going to be talking about DevOps, Automation, and guess what - parenting. Bet you didn't see that one coming. This is a special episode as a lot of us at Puppet, yeah, we work day to day on helping folks make their infrastructure more compliant, secure and what-not; automating ad hoc tasks, orchestrating them into complex plans. But sometimes you need to apply those skills back at home, you know, improve the mental wellbeing, get some more sleep. One of our product managers was telling us all about this really cool automation setup that he has for his newborn. So we have this special episode today with Bill Tang, product manager. Introduce yourself real quick.
Bill [00:00:58] Hey everyone, my name is Bill Tang, and I'm one of the product managers here at Puppet. And as Andrew mentioned I'm a new parent to a 2 month old.
Andrew [00:01:06] And joining us remotely which is a super special treat is Alexa Sevilla, one of our product marketers, who is also a parent of young children. Alexa please introduce yourself.
Alexa [00:01:14] Thanks Andrew. So my name is Alexa Sevilla and I have a daughter that is almost eight heading into second grade and a son that is five and a half heading into kindergarten. So I've got some experience on this podcast.
Andrew [00:01:34] Right on. Myself, Andrew Nhem, managing editor of puppet.com. Actually have a little young one, almost 4 years old as of this summer, and summer is actually a really great time to start automating away things that we probably don't want to do. So we can spend more time with the little ones doing things like you know for us, campfires are huge, bike rides, going to the park, grilling. And speaking of grilling I think we could probably get ready to ask Bill a bunch of tough questions about how in the world you are automating your newborn experience. This is amazing, Bill.
Bill [00:02:05] Yeah. So my wife and I first had the baby. It's very difficult as all new parents know of like getting to bed, getting the baby soothed and quiet and actually getting enough sleep. I mean that's where our biggest challenge was - getting enough sleep.
Alexa [00:02:20] So one of the things that we used to do was we would just take babies on a car ride and that was like our way of like soothing, where we reached that ultimate point of like, I can't rock you anymore. I can't cradle you like, you want to be carried you want to be held. I'm just wiped out. I'm going to put you in the car and we're gonna go for a drive.
Andrew [00:02:43] Yeah I recall those as well.
Alexa [00:02:45] They're usually successful until the one time you come home baby sleeps and then the minute you take them out it's like it starts all over again.
Andrew [00:02:54] But Alexa now that Bill has eliminated the car white noise, put the baby to sleep tactic. How is he going to get his fast food fix because that is the great enabler of the late night snack.
Alexa [00:03:07] Yes. I don't think I ever went through the drive through with the baby that late at night. I'l have to think about that that that's what would have been an excellent idea. I was probably so exhausted that I don't even know what street I was driving on to be honest.
Bill [00:03:23] You know one of the key things that we've done in the past two months or so is invest in something called a snoo. If you're not familiar with this new is it's a smart bassinet. It basically automates the bedtime routine of putting your baby to bed, swaddling the baby, getting the baby shushed following Dr. Karp's five S's. You know shushing, swaddling, side the side, sucking and sound. I believe, I may have that mixed up but well.
Andrew [00:03:52] We'll add it to the show notes so people can check out that link if you want to learn more.
Bill [00:03:55] Yeah. So so basically it allowed us to do is basically cut down our routine of after we feed the baby trying to put the baby to bed. That was the biggest challenge of getting her quiet and soothed, and this thing works like magic. You put it down it takes away that manual step of like swaddling the baby and actually rocking the baby to bed instead of taking half an hour put a baby to bed. Now it takes all of two minutes which is amazing.
Andrew [00:04:19] That is amazing. And it helps you and your partner spend a little more time figuring out you know maybe the next day. I mean it's it's it's hard when the kiddos first there and your schedule's completely on its head. You know it's funny because when we were planning this episode out, we were drawing all these connections between DevOps and parenting, you know people probably don't put those two things together, but we did come across some pretty interesting DevOps Days presentations, right? Was it in Seattle or San Francisco?
Bill [00:04:49] Yeah it was in DevOps Days there's talks about parenting and the three major parallels. Like for me the parallels are slightly different. I think it's being a brand new parent, you're thrown in this role right and it's chaos. You have no idea where to start. Very similar to your DevOps journey. You have no idea where to start but you're forced together to work as a team. And I think that's one of the big parallels that I have that I've taken away from being a new parent and DevOps is that it's a cultural shift or a mind shift on the way you think about things. You're no longer thinking about two separate tracks of work for lack of a better word. Now you're working as a team with a single outcome of like putting the baby to bed.
Andrew [00:05:34] There are a lot of connections around celebrating both little and big wins you know. Yeah, we're not shipping tickets but we're changing diapers and changing bottles or cleaning bottles, right. And like Bill said it's preparing for the unexpected. Being able to have a system in place between you or your partner or whatever your system of caregivers are to handle the unexpected and most importantly working as a team.
Bill [00:05:55] Yep and Andrew just to touch upon that I think another key step that kind of parallels parenting or newborn parenting to DevOps is having the right tools and having the right workflow for that. And one of the things that I've learned very early on was having a separate station for each one, it's is almost like a pipeline for feeding the baby, changing the baby, you know putting the baby to bed and just having the right tools that makes those each one of those steps a lot easier.
Andrew [00:06:24] So you have a continuous deployment methodology for dealing with, not dealing with, that's a hard word, but for raising your child.
Bill [00:06:31] Absolutely. So like feeding a baby at 2:00 in the morning or trying to get the baby changed and fed. And what I've learned is like if you minimize the steps as much as possible and simplify so it's repeatable and leveraging the right workflow and leveraging the right tools, like for example, when we first had our baby we had no idea if she was eating enough. So one of the things we've we ended up doing was getting a changing table that was also a scale.
Andrew [00:06:58] Are you kidding me?
Bill [00:07:00] So as soon as you're changing the baby's diaper, you know exactly, we change it before she starts feeding and then it automatically captures your weight. And after she finishes feeding we put her back on. We know exactly how much she's eaten and if we actually have to supplement or not.
Andrew [00:07:14] Wow. So you're telling me you have data driven like diaper changing.
Bill [00:07:19] Absolutely, and I think that's one of the key things as well is the monitoring or the data tracking and I think that's another parallel between DevOps, right? Knowing how you're progressing knowing if you're actually making a difference and if you're successful or not.
Andrew [00:07:32] Wow you're blowing my mind, Bill. Alexa and I we we talk about our kids a lot. We work on a lot of projects together so we often will chill out, talk about the fam. Alexa, you and I both have young kiddos past the toddler stage. I don't recall, you know I wasn't allowed to bring my iPhone into the room. What about you? Did you all have a bunch of gadgets and whatnot in the newborn room?
Alexa [00:07:55] No. And while I'm, you know, I am happy to say we're good with the two kids, Bill's, the gadgets and stuff that he has, it almost makes me want to have another just so I can do all this stuff. Your comment about the changing table with the scale is such an awesome find and I totally wish we had something like that with my daughter because she also was weight challenged. But yeah no it's just fascinating and I feel like you know every year there's so many great things that come out that make it easier whether it be strollers or changing tables or you know there's just so many fascinating things. It's really incredible. I do wish I had some of these things.
Andrew [00:08:40] So what kind of value do you get, Bill, out of the data that you're collecting? What do you do with it? Do you and your wife sit around at dinner saying like oh it's like kiddo's at a great weight, she's she's pooping normal, you know what are these conversations like?
Bill [00:08:54] Well I think a lot of it helps like soothe or is more of peace of mind for our insecurities. I mean being brand new parents, you have no idea what you're getting into. Not knowing if the baby's healthy, not knowing if the baby's eating enough, what not. Like if the baby's sick or not, having the right tools and having the right data, we can track her weight, we can track her heart rate as well and her blood oxygen levels to ensure that - in middle of night, my worst fear is SIDS, right? I thnk it's many parents. And being to look over and seeing that, you know, she's still breathing, seeing her blood oxygen level is where it needs to be, gives another sense of comfort. I mean, obviously, you shouldn't rely on those exclusively. But it gives that extra layer of comfort, of seeing the progression of how the baby has grown from you know, seven pounds, now she's almost 11 pounds. And then seeing the progression of the amount of food she's eating. We have concerns that she's has a fever or not, we have automated ways of taking her temperature as well. That just kind of helps with everything. You know it's not a crutch but it's is a way for us, you know we're both very scientifically driven. So having that data approach really helps us. So it may not work for every parent but at least it works for us.
Andrew [00:10:14] And that is a really good point, Bill, that you make. You know it's not for everyone. You know it's an interesting topic for us that there on the podcast here because you know we work for a company that helps folks with automation and what not. But you're right. You know to each their own, everyone has their own specific needs. It's interesting to me that you did not have to spend as much time as say, like, I know I sure did and I'd love to hear from Alexa, too, you know you get to sneak into the room at night sometimes, you know make sure they're not in a funky position in the crib. I'm sure every parent knows that test where you're like wow they're sleeping way soundly. I should put my hand in front of their face just to make sure I feel a breath, like to be able to ignore, or not ignore, but just to have that peace of mind. I'm sure that's awesome. And you know not roll the dice of like hey if I open this door will this kid wake up? And then you know you gotta put them back to bed and all that other stuff.
Alexa [00:11:04] Right. I would say I would agree with that, like the tiptoeing in and that watching, like is the child rising? Are they, you know, and then creeping back out staring at the monitor. Yeah.
Andrew [00:11:17] It must be really cool at some point to be able to map out that data over the course of you know infancy. Or I guess it goes newborn to infancy to toddler hood. That's got to be really neat to see your kid grow in that way. You're already seeing them you know crawl, flip over or roll over, you know all the other cute baby things. Walk eventually. But then you're going to have this whole other set of data you know along with watching their skills grow. That that sounds really amazing, Bill.
Bill [00:11:44] Yeah I mean, I am a gadget guy as well and I think some of my friends tease me about like if the things, have you ever seen Black Mirror?
Andrew [00:11:53] I have not.
Alexa [00:11:54] I haven't.
Bill [00:11:55] There's an episode about like raising a kid and over monitoring. And I think that's one of the things that I need to be more cognizant about is not over monitoring a kid.
Andrew [00:12:04] Oh yeah Black Mirror is like a millennial Twilight Zone.
Bill [00:12:07] Yeah but yeah I think just having that data and seeing that her progression, it's more about ensuring that she's healthy versus like being a helicopter parent.
Andrew [00:12:16] Yeah. You're getting the right data so that you don't have to do that, right. You just know you have that peace of mind you can focus more on just being a parent. Being there, too. You know I think there are, I mean pick your favorite blogg or article. There's so much about like you know, are you there and are you like actually present with your children? And I like the promise that, you know, if we can find legit ways to incorporate, integrate automation into everyday life that you can then spend less time being stressed out, burned out by having to wrangle the giant you know intense workload that is raising someone, and instead have more mental capacity, emotional capacity to be there and really enjoy it.
Bill [00:12:59] The one thing I've really relied on is like this baby bottle warmer, right where it takes away the errors that I would introduce into the process.
Andrew [00:13:09] Tell us more.
Bill [00:13:10] So when the baby first came out we had the supplement the feeding right where you had the heat the food or the formula or the milk to a certain temperature. I'm not that good at that and I would always constantly have it too hot or too cold. Now there's, we have this baby bottle warmer you turn it to a certain time it guarantees that the milk where the food is the right temperature so I'm not having to like monitor and watch over and turn on the stove at 2:00 a.m. in the morning.
Andrew [00:13:40] I remember having problems getting the food right at like 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. When you're up in the middle of the night. It's way harder to do that stuff. So to be able to rely on a gadget to ensure that the milk or the food is spot on, yes. Absolutely yes.
Bill [00:13:56] It's taken away that fear for me if like burning the kid with my incompetency at 2:00 a.m. in the morning. So it's been really helpful. I remember the early days of feeding cycle we were doing hour and a half on average of getting. Right when we fed her to the time we got her back to bed and through all this different stuff that we've tried, different automation stuff we've been able to get down to about under half an hour from start to finish from feeding the baby, changing the baby and putting her back to bed.
Andrew [00:14:28] That's pretty good. I mean I mean everyone loves a little return on investment for their work but that streamline-ness is great in that you get that process down. You know I remeber at least with my kiddo, repetition, structure, they're all about it, right. So to be able to make that super efficient just helps you all put the kiddo to bed, so you all could go to bed.
Bill [00:14:50] Yeah I mean I think getting more sleep has really allowed us to enjoy those precious moments when we're awake and when she's awake full, dry and happy. You can actually take advantage of that.
Andrew [00:15:02] So have you figured out a way whether it's via automation or a data driven approach to eliminate blowouts?
Bill [00:15:09] That is a great question and I think maybe would be based on data because at this stage of her life she doesn't poo for three to five days so knock that cadence out, we can potentially narrow down when we need to put an extra diaper in.
Andrew [00:15:26] Wow you heard that here, everyone. We're getting closer to data driven insights that will help us avoid the time honor tradition of dealing with the newborn/toddler blowout, a time honored trial by fire for all parents new and old. So you've covered weight, changing diapers, bottles. What about the bath? Anything for the bath yet?
Bill [00:15:50] We haven't given her a full bath, yet. Well actually we have. Not like every day. It's more like we hold her over the shower, we spray her.
Andrew [00:15:59] Are you telling me you've invested so much into the automation of the other processes that you don't even have like the little cute bath insert?
Bill [00:16:07] One of the things we've overdone is like we bought too much in raising the kid and preparing for the kid.
Andrew [00:16:14] Which is also a DevOps problem, you know, too many tools in the tool chain, right? And all the sudden you're stuck with like how do we fully utilize this? Do we need to utilize this? Do we need this at all? Are we still focusing on the right problems at hand? Got to know, are you using Bolt to orchestrate any kind of task?
Bill [00:16:32] Not in the baby automation, but overall my household. Sort of like doing routine maintenance of resetting or installing a patch on my home server. I'm absolutely using Bolt for that but not in the baby automation park.
Andrew [00:16:48] Do you think you'll have like a dashboard on home that shows like baby stats?
Bill [00:16:52] Potentially.
Andrew [00:16:53] Wow I was half kidding when I asked that question.
Bill [00:16:55] I will have to invest or investigate the server's API, so pull that data from the services that I'm using.
Andrew [00:17:01] Then put it up on the family TV. Picture in a picture. Have like a Daniel striped Tiger up on the big picture and then baby stats on the corner.
Bill [00:17:10] Yeah.
Andrew [00:17:12] Yeah, there you go. That's some advanced stuff.
Andrew [00:17:13] So Bill, I have the pleasure of working with you day to day and I know you're big on optimizing the data you receive on your phone. Are you piping any kind of these baby stats to your phone then getting the ultimate - I feel like you have the ultimate dad view now. You get pictures of your kid, you get texts about your kid, and you have data about your kid. Like you just get this whole view of baby.
Bill [00:17:37] Yeah I have. If you look at my phone I have how much she slept, how much she ate, how much she weighs and if my wife inserts in or records how many diapers she's changed during the day.
Andrew [00:17:50] Wow. Bill, I kid you not. My partner was out of town for a bit. I was solo parenting for about a week or so. I'm pretty sure I skipped the teeth brushing. Not on purpose but because you know maybe I need to invest in a bit of this automation and what not to clear my mind a bit, open up more time to actually really make sure I hit the schedule for my my soon to be 4 year old. I'm impressed. So if we have other parents out there who are wanting to get started, what are the baby steps?
Bill [00:18:21] That's a great question. For me, there's this great youtube channel called, I believe is his channel is called, Dad Verbs.Really highlights all the cool gadgets you can put in to your nursery. So that's where I got started but I kind of went full tilt on that.
Andrew [00:18:40] Wow. I'll have to check that out. We'll throw that link into the show notes as well for folks who want to check that out.
Alexa [00:18:47] Bill, do you know baby shark?
Bill [00:18:49] I don't think I do.
Andrew [00:18:52] That's good.
Alexa [00:18:54] Give it a couple years.
Andrew [00:18:55] Yeah. I'm sure it'll be different by then. So, I'm sure baby shark is like mainstream meme enough, if you don't know what it is it's this, I think it's from Hong Kong. Is it a Hong Kong or Taiwanese kids show.
Alexa [00:19:09] Yeah, I think so, my son loves it.
Andrew [00:19:10] There's this segment where like this kid - it's just a catchy song about baby shark, Grandma shark, momma shark, dada shark. And it just became this viral hit. I'm sure if you listen to it it would just destroy all sense of automation and data collection that you have going on with your kid. It's just one of those things, such as, it's a brain breaker but kids love it.
Alexa [00:19:33] They do. I saw a meme not too long ago that was like you know our kids are gonna be dancing in the club to baby shark like it's all of a sudden like some remix is gonna come on and all the young kids who are our age kids that are now club age. Yeah Baby Shark!
Andrew [00:19:49] Yeah you're probably right. Like some remix, the 20th year anniversary of Baby shark or something like that. I kid you not my my daughter jams out to this random Abba Mamma Mia workout mix. There are a couple layers here that we need to unpack. The first layer is that anything by Abba is more or less pretty darn catchy. OK. That's Level 1. You add in Mamma Mia which is you know love or hate that play. It's a play, right? I've only ever known it as a movie. There's an actual play. Which one came first? The movie or the play?
Alexa [00:20:22] I think the play came first.
Andrew [00:20:25] OK, and then they made the movie, the musical. Then another layer of just like aweome musicality via Mamma Mia the play. And you add this third layer where some geinuses out there turned it into like a 80s 90s style workout mix. 20 tracks of workout Mamma Mia. This is in the family car all the time. I know it. Track by track as is my daughter. It's incredible. She's jamming out to that. So I don't mind because it's I think it's better than baby shark, but hey, to each their own opinion.
Alexa [00:20:56] Yeah. I'd much prefer listening to I think Mamma Mia in the car than baby shark on repeat but occasionally you like the hand motions are kind of fun.
Andrew [00:21:06] They are. It's like that a Dada, finger Mama finger, where are you song. It's like the next version of that.
Alexa [00:21:17] Totally.
Bill [00:21:17] Sounds like I have a lot to learn. Or a lot to look forward to.
Andrew [00:21:18] Yeah I think when you're on the right track. Did you go too hard on automation front, you need to catch up culturally now.
Bill [00:21:24] I think so. Like after the baby we have not watched any TV shows. We're not even caught up with game of thrones yet either.
Andrew [00:21:32] Oh, no spoilers.
Bill [00:21:33] Yeah, no spoilers please.
Alexa [00:21:33] So I will share though my catching up on TV that doesn't get better, like my husband and I just, it took us three days to watch A Star is Born. We just finished it last night. So just a level of don't get your hopes up too much with catching up on shows and being on top of everything from that regard because that's still hard.
Andrew [00:21:59] So what you're saying is you've adopted an iterative approach to watching movies and shows post having children.
Alexa [00:22:06] Yes.
Andrew [00:22:06] Got it. Got it. See. Full circle. DevOps, everyone.
Bill [00:22:12] Andrew, I wanted to mention one of the other things I've automated in our nursery. My my daughter has sensitive skin so the humidity level has to be just right. I actually have a humidity sensor in the nursery or in our room that detects when it's either too dry or too moist and it kicks on and off the humidifier.
Andrew [00:22:33] Wow can you add essential oils too?
Bill [00:22:37] Maybe I'm not sure. She's allergic to any of the smells yet. That's something we have to check.
Andrew [00:22:40] I guess I was thinking of the full adult version like I would love that personally. Hey maybe that's our next startup idea, Bill. Keep that in mind. Right on so we've covered sleep, we've covered changing, we've covered feeding, we've covered heart rate, blood oxygen monitoring, we've covered sensitive skin and how to deal with humidity in the room. Bill Tang, what haven't you automated yet?
Bill [00:23:01] The actual food delivery to the baby. That's one thing I would like to do. Oh yeah.
Andrew [00:23:07] Like in terms of like weird possibly illegal means of doing it or it more of like something cute that you'd see out of like a Pixar movie?
Bill [00:23:17] No idea.
Andrew [00:23:18] Right On. Well maybe that's an episode for the future. All right. Well we've covered the entirety of how Bill Tang is automating the newborn experience. We'd love to hear more from listeners, feel free to hit us up on slack or on Twitter and if you've got any ideas or comments about that. If you'd like to check out Bolt, our open source task orchestrator, go on ahead to puppet.com/bolt. You can check out the rest of puppet at puppet.com. Otherwise thank you all so much for joining today, Bill and Alexa.
Alexa [00:23:50] Thank you for having me. It was really awesome to chat and listen to how Bill has everything automated.
Bill [00:23:56] Thanks Andrew for having me.
Andrew [00:23:57] And another big thank you to all our listeners out there. We totally appreciate it. And yeah we're going to try and add more segments on just the other ways folks are automating their day to day lives. A big part of Puppet is to eliminate soul crushing tasks and what not. And you know they're not always at work, right? So let's all find a better way to make our lives better. Be better to one another. And, yeah, take it easy everyone.
Andrew [00:24:21] When Bill isn't doing his product management duties and his parental duties he's probably working on his awesome talk for the upcoming PuppetizePDX. So for those of you who are interested, PuppetizePDX is our user conference on October 9th through 10th. You'll learn a lot more about it at puppet.com/puppetize. We hope to see you there.