Team management is a thankless task. If it is well done few people will notice but the headaches of a poorly-run team will stick in minds for a long time.
This is perhaps more the case for the management of cloud engineers and cloud infrastructure teams who’re tasked with ensuring the upkeep of cloud environments that more and more global businesses are reliant upon. As infrastructure tech professionals, they lurk behind the scenes of the digital environment, away from the digital coalface of mobile apps and or Conversational AI. Yet they’re an indispensable part of the the digital world.
“The principal job of the programmer is to programme and understand the logic of programming. But the principal concern of the infrastructure engineers is keeping the environment that programmers work in constantly available, that it’s secure and that there aren’t issues with its function,” said Marco Antonio Mejia, a cloud consultant of 25 years’ experience and employee at a large US cloud provider.
Nearshore Americas spoke to several industry experts to hear about the best practices that should be used to manage a healthy, productive team of cloud professionals.
Leverage and Integrate Legacy Knowledge
While many companies may be performing a complete ‘lift and shift’ of their legacy systems to the cloud, many others are moving towards the cloud while still keeping at least some of the legacy systems in place, working with a combination of on-premise data center services and cloud.
Though younger engineers may have little knowledge of pre-cloud computer times, most engineers do. And it’s combining the experience of both these team members, who bring different perspectives to cloud-centred engineered problems, that helps create a more efficient, stronger team, says Mejia.
“Different levels of experience within the same team can sometimes cause team members to rub up against one another. It’s important to integrate these two perspectives, or members of the two ‘generations’, that each have their own mindsets. One has worked mainly within legacy environments, the other on the cloud,” Mejia explained.
Though some Latin American markets have the opportunity to leapfrog legacy technologies and, other established markets are more legacy-dependent, so it’s important to factor in the legacy angle even with a team of cloud engineers.
“Some clients in the US, and some in South America, whose entire infrastructure is in the cloud, that isn’t the same case in all of Latin America. This means it’s very valuable to have this understanding of physical legacy systems,” he added.
Guarantee Communication and Trust
Perhaps a step before managing teams is even spoken about, the recruitment of quality infrastructure team members who have the characteristics needed to gel with clients, should be a primary aim.
Gerardo Hernandez, Cloud Delivery Manager at Improving, whose team works remotely, says that identifying and recruiting professionals with the core attributes of technical ability, industry experience, commitment and communication skills helps build quality cloud engineering teams and management complications.
“In cloud practice, I’ve found that most clients are not actually looking for engineers who know everything but someone who can actually lead the learning process. Many clients are open to learning with the engineering team if the team can lead the conversation. We had a recent client who needed a problem resolved using BASH, but our team member didn’t know it. Through communication, trust and willingness to learn, the problem was resolved simply,” said Hernandez.
Replicate the Sector’s Innovative Environment at Work
Tech professionals are being handsomely paid for their skills at the moment, and salaries have risen continuously in the last few years. But money is not the only reason for tech workers to be in the job. Engineers in particular need to feel that they are being challenged and that their workplace reflects the innovative environment of the greater tech environment, Mejia believes.
“Different levels of experience within the same team can sometimes cause team members to rub up against one another. It’s important to integrate these two perspectives, or members of the two ‘generations’, that each have their own mindsets,” — Marco Antonio Mejia
“Right now the cloud sector has the ability to constantly innovate and team members expect the be in an exciting, challenging, innovating environment,” he said.
Producing an innovative work environment can drive passion and commitment, important factors when talent gaps are seeing professionals bounce between companies and turnover grow.
Apply Standards in Moments of Crisis
The cloud environment can be a challenging one and technical professionals need thick skins to deal with the pressure, especially those whose job it is to firefight on major incidents like security breaches.
Improving’s Cloud Response team is dedicated to battling such incidents, and stress resistance is vital. But so too is following protocol that has been laid out.
“The key factor in managing a team here is following standards. We have policies and procedures for pretty much every move we need to make on infrastructure emergencies. We first assess, then define the scope of the problem before comparing and coming towards a solution,” said Hernandez.
Major cloud providers like AWS and Azure have lists and lists of standards to execute on their clouds. “We adapt some of those if needed, and have a framework to provide a baseline,” he added.
Give Teams Ownership
Enabling teams to feel ownership over projects generates a stronger response from team members, argues Julio Lynn, Director of Software Engineering at Sonora Software.
“All projects are different, but those where teams can feel real ownership help generate commitment. On some projects we help with all the client’s requirements, the entire development life cycle, defining the architecture and so on,” said Lynn.
But ownership can only be given after engineering teams have proven that they can perform to required standards.
“I want my team to have the freedom to feel that they can do what they need to do on a project. But that freedom and ownership comes with responsibilities. If team members deliver them they’ll have my support and I’ll protect their freedom forever,” added Hernandez.
Plan, Plan and Plan Again
With cloud engineers and tech professionals ensuring the upkeep of vital architecture, it is critical that teams do so resolve issues quickly and accurately. Extensive planning produces a well-oiled team able to react to obstacles and go about business efficiently. Not only does planning help performance climb, but it also helps harmonize teams, particularly in the remote environment.
“I’d rather spend 80 hours planning and 20 hours executing than the opposite because the more planning we do the fewer errors we will make. This applies in general but specifically in cloud where production environments are tight and there is no room for error,” Hernandez explained.