DevOps & Distributed Teams – How Godel’s DevOps Division Works Remotely

Sergey, you’re heading up one of Godel’s core technology departments. Can you tell us more about what the DevOps division is responsible for?

Our division is now at around 35 people, working across more than 10 Godel clients. Our DevOps engineers form part of larger software engineering teams that work with our clients, but they’re part of the DevOps division centrally. This means we can pool best practices and as a group so each client benefits from the shared knowledge.

What was it like for the DevOps team this time last year, when you transitioned to remote work?

At Godel our clients are in the UK, many miles away from us, but each engineer feels like part of the client’s team. That works really well, so the remote working aspect for us was not as abrupt a change at Godel as it was for people used to working onsite.

Still, as a team, before COVID we benefited from working in one location – we all miss being able to turn around and ask a colleague quick questions or break away from coding to have a chat with someone in a different department. Even with clients there was change, since we lost the option for business trips to the UK and our video conferencing suites which link our offices to the clients’.

How did your team deal with the challenges of working from home?

Once we were set up for full-time remote work, we needed to look at how our teams could communicate, both internally and with clients. Godel is an agile business so we run daily stand ups, weekly retrospectives, planning sessions – it’s all standard practice across the company. It was important for us to keep the positive feeling of these sessions intact whilst we were all at home.

It’s a common thing for people to feel shy during virtual calls – with the option to switch off camera and audio, on a bigger meeting it doesn’t take much for one team member to stay hidden. The answer to this is even more investment in communication. For example, in the office it’s easy to schedule a wellbeing 121 with a colleague, then need to reschedule, and catch them for a chat later as they are walking by the coffee machine. At home, if we need to reschedule, your colleague cannot see your reasons – and you can’t see how they are doing. This is why we put so much emphasis on prioritising communication with our teammates whilst at home.

How have you handled the division’s growth during the past twelve months?

DevOps has been such an essential part of delivery for lots of our clients this year. We have completed a lot of work within cost optimisation for cloud platforms, which has been valuable during these tough times. In general demand for DevOps services has risen steadily, which has meant we have scaled and also expanded our service offering to cover DevOps from new perspectives.

One of my priorities is keeping DevOps practices and culture integrated into Godel’s ways of working. Across our tech divisions we are constantly sharing updates – what is and isn’t working across our practices, to keep finding best methods and optimising areas that need it. Then we also brought our DevOps team members into each part of the company – they act as “representatives” and get involved in different sides of Godel – education, innovation, consultancy – to give a “DevOps perspective” to the whole company.

What has helped the team stay close?

I’d like to give an example – at Godel we have always invested a lot in education programmes for our teams. If something in the field of tech interests our employees, we want to give them the platform to learn all about it. Individual technical courses work really well online, but the challenge has been adapting non-technical and team-based education to remote settings.

The structure that we put in place to share DevOps practices across the company has meant we have experts available across our departments to support DevOps education initiatives. Plenty of employees outside my division are very interested in DevOps education, so we had to provide contact points – people in DevOps division – to give everyone the opportunity to get involved. And then when somebody in my team wants to get involved in the wider company, we also have structure to support that. For example, if a DevOps team member wants to get into Talent Management at Godel there is a 5-module training course to get them ready to help their colleagues grow. It’s exciting for me, personally, to see my team step up and offer their help across Godel – it shows our division has so much more than just the tech skills!

To answer the question, getting around the problem of running education sessions remotely has been a project that took a different type of teamwork to our day-to-day software engineering roles. We’ve worked with other teams in Godel to offer new approaches to learning, which we might not have explored in the office. It’s been challenging, but exciting, and I’m proud of what the team has accomplished to get here.