A few times in my previous job, I wondered about automating myself out of a job. I was working on a small, three-person project, and we were responsible for creating various automation tasks for our larger team to use. There was a point where we had many things automated to make our team's life very easy, but that did not mean our work was done.
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This is when you naturally ask the question, am I automating myself out of a job? We were working on a product team, so all of the automation we had needed updates, maintenance, and modifications to keep up with ever-changing requirements. This is a classic example when it comes to automation. When someone says they automated themselves out of a job, they forget to take into account that the automated tasks need maintenance. There are also always new requirements coming in that the organization likely wants to automate.
It would be rare to automate yourself out of a job. It's just that the priorities change. After we automated the bulk of the tasks, my priorities changed for my life and career. I could have spent more time taking care of the same automation project, enhancing it, or working to fulfill new requirements, but I decided to hit the stop button and move to another opportunity.
There were plenty of new and exciting opportunities for this project. Even today, my two former teammates are working on that same team, and they have a lot to keep them busy with existing tasks to maintain and new automation opportunities.
One of the points of automating tasks is to get the mundane, repeatable tasks scripted and deployable. Once you accomplish this, it frees up your time to work on more high-value or strategic, proactive tasks for the team.
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Automating virtual machines
One example of a mundane task to automate is creating virtual machine (VM) templates out of new builds of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Say you were using Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7-based VM templates, and then Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 was released. You need to update all your templates with the new version. That would be a painful and error-prone task to perform by hand.
Another mundane task is provisioning VMs requested by your team members. Automation makes such tasks much more efficient. Even better, you can create a self-service portal that your team can use to request new VMs. If the VM has a unique configuration, you can intercept that request and take appropriate action. Otherwise, you can let the automation handle VM creation and send out a notification (email or chat message) when the VM is ready.
Another important aspect people forget about is removing VMs to preserve resources. Engineers often forget to clean up their resources in a timely manner. As an admin, you could keep manually deleting VMs after asking if anyone is still using them, or you could just create a set of rules for the longevity of VMs. When the VM fails to comply with those rules, it gets automatically deleted.
In summary, it's never about automating yourself out of a job—it’s about deciding when you have done enough of the work and want to change your focus.