Cloud & DevOps 2020: A Conversation with Cloud Leaders

On Thursday 4th June, I hosted my first webinar for Maxwell Bond where I was joined by Cloud Leaders James Heggs (CTO, Tech Returners), Tina Howell (Platform Lead, AND Digital), Dave Whyte (Operations Lead, Auto Trader), and Jason Hughes (Lead SRE, Jaguar Land Rovers). At Maxwell Bond we value transparency, integrity, and value, and this was my way of engaging with my network of Cloud and DevOps specialists to add value to them, so that they left the webinar more informed of the market, and more equipped with the knowledge and tools they needed to excel in their careers.

The evening was full of really great points, topics, and questions, which you can see and read by watching the full webinar recording or by downloading or whitepaper. However, as a consultant specialising in DevOps and Cloud infrastructure, who works with multiple clients and candidates in the space, and as somebody who is genuinely interested in the market, I wanted to summarise my key take aways from the session.

The future of remote working with cloud teams:

All panellists outlined that the pandemic has proved companies can work from home but that there are both pros and cons.

Pros included the avoidance of having to commute long distance every day which has improved work-life balance. Many have enjoyed more time with family too whilst still improving their productivity from home.

However, it’s important not to forget the mental health side. Dave is the mental health first aider in his company and he suggested it’s much easier to help out in person as you can usually see if someone isn’t feeling too well/not feeling right (having the visibility). Everyone has responded differently to the pandemic, and it falls to the managers to provide the correct level of support, which can be difficult to identify.

There were also factors like Zoom/ Slack Fatigue and the transition to asynchronous communication, that was initially frustrating and disruptive. This has called for the acceptance of more flexible hours as everybody is now working to different schedules depending on their situation.

It’s going to be hard even when offices open as some might not be ready to move back right away and even when they do it’ll have to be staggered. Tina has suggested that approximately 60% of their staff are not ready to return to the office.

In terms of recruitment, Dave further mentioned that it’s going to cause a lot of competition to retain/gain quality candidates as flexible working will become more important to job seekers and may influence which companies they want to work for.

Following the ease of lockdown, all of our panellists expect to see a more balanced approach to remote and in-office working. 


New ways of making Dev’s and Ops more effective:

Giving Devs the autonomy to fix any issues with their releases before it escalates to an Ops matter makes things slicker between Dev and Ops, and also encourages ownership and accountability.

Self- Application Assessments are also great at quickly identifying and fixing issues before it escalates. It’s also important to have the right tractability tools in place, otherwise dev/ops couldn't work together. Businesses need people to implement the right tools otherwise things go wrong; best practice is often to build it yourself.

Promoting a Blameless culture is also important for psychological safety – So if some errors do come up within dev teams, they all get together and find out what happened, so it doesn’t happen again. It’s a more collaborative approach and makes it much easier to work with together within DevOps.

Jason made a valid point about empowering the developers, and helping them feel responsible, accountability, but also valued. It’s important to provide the right tools, training and support to help them take ownership of their own work.


Cost management of Cloud-Based Platforms

Sometimes it’s the basic checks and optimisation methods that really do the trick. Tina has saved one client $25,000 per month, just going through their estate and stripping down; right-sizing the system, only using what they need to use, installing AWS nuke to get rid of sandboxes. Basically, it’s making sure that everything is being built and used for the right reason.

After building, it’s imperative to control usage and costs. This could be as simple as using quotas, which are fundamental to preventing excessive, and often accidental, expenditure on huge data queries.

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