SysAdmins Unleashed! Building Autonomous Systems Teams at Walt Disney Animation Studios

Jonathan Geibel and Ronald Johnson, Walt Disney Animation Studios


How do you instill the agility and effectiveness of a startup company within the walls of one of the most storied animation studios in the world? This question guided our design of a new systems organization at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Our goals were simple: break down traditional top-down management silos, empower staff to make autonomous decisions, and remove bureaucracy. We used scientific method experimentation with different structures and ideas, discussing the impact of each change with our staff along the way. We’ll discuss the methods we used to empower sysadmins, and how we’ve evolved into an organization that’s designed for and by technical staff.

Jonathan Geibel is the Systems Technology Director at Walt Disney Animation Studios where he leads a team of 50 technologists that push the boundaries of high-performance computing to advance the art of Animation. A 20-year technology veteran, Jon’s interests focus on designing adaptable organizations to enable engineering teams, high-performance computing, and technology futures.

Ronald Johnson is a 20-year SysAdmin veteran with a passion for communication technologies and organizational structures. He is currently a Systems Manager at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

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@conference {248728,
title = {{SysAdmins} Unleashed! Building Autonomous Systems Teams at Walt Disney Animation Studios},
year = {2013},
address = {Washington, D.C.},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = nov,


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