As we get into the last week of the year many software teams are in a code freeze - avoiding any deployments that may cause an incident and cause a dreaded holiday page. We have a tendency to reward the firefighter for pulling an all-nighter fighting an outage but don’t value those that avoid the fire in the first place. It’s natural to throw accolades at the firefighter since it’s very easy to see the impact in their work; it’s more difficult to see the value in the person that prevents issues from even happening. The counterfactual is difficult to prove so we diminish its significance but that’s where long term value is actually built.
Engineers who work on systems understand this intuition - they’ve seen good systems that they were glad to be on-call for and terrible systems that they dreaded. But it’s on us to bring this perspective to others in our organizations. There’s a reason Ben Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”