Reckoning with the Harm We Do: In Search of Restorative Just Culture in Software and Web Operations

“Psychological Safety” and “Blameless” postmortems are not enough. We’ve heard that we need a “Just Culture” but does that matter if your people are “stressed, exhausted, depleted, spent, drained”?

  • “I remember being yelled at by my CEO.” 
  • “I was told to “take the blame or be fired” by my CTO”. 
  • “I was running on 36 hours of adrenaline”.
  • “Very stressful, a lot of anxiety, a loss of sleep, and a profound sense of disengagement”
  • “I’m not coping well. Having a good support network and therapy helps, but this industry can be absolute s**t”

I was inspired to do a qualitative study of practitioners’ lived experiences after reading the “Just Culture Manifesto” where the first two commitments are“Ensure freedom to work, speak up, and report without fear” and to “Support people involved in incidents or accidents”. Through surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews, participants were asked about the likelihood of being blamed after an incident, the likelihood of blaming themselves, and whether they were considering leaving their jobs as a result. Participants were asked to describe what “blameless” and “accountability” meant to them, and if there was a conflict in the two concepts.

Attendees will gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of folks working at the "sharp end", reckon with the harm reported by study participants, and ways to explore how a ‘forward looking’ accountability could help your organization build a Restorative Just Culture.


Jessica DeVita

Sr. Software Engineering Manager - SRE @Microsoft

Jessica DeVita has 20+ years of experience in IT operations in a variety of roles and industries including healthcare, entertainment, and cloud computing. She is currently working on her MSc. thesis in Human Factors and Systems Safety at Lund University. Jessica's publications include Learning from Incidents and To Deploy or Not to Deploy, That is the Question and her conference talks include DevOps Days New Zealand: Retrospecting our Retrospectives and CodeBeam: Unreachable Code: A Conversation about Safety and Human Factors. Jessica most recently served as SRE Manager for the AKS team at Microsoft. Previously she was at Netflix, Chef Software, UberGeekGirl, Inc., and St. Jude Medical.

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Monday Dec 5 / 12:30PM PST ( 50 minutes )


Engineering Culture Web Operations People Skills


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