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The business of living on the edge

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Rajiv Pant Former CTO, The New York Times at Fastly Altitude 2016

Edge computing is a valuable part of building modern applications in a constantly expanding world. Developing server-side applications that take advantage of massive compute resources is exciting and crucial work. However, this kind of work is often seen as boring backend work by some of our non-technical and business stakeholders in large companies. The development of applications at the edge gets prioritized lower than user-facing projects such as mobile and VR apps and struggles to get the internal funding, resources, and attention it frequently needs. This talk, based on real-life successes (and failures) from the former CTO of the New York Times, explores ideas and experiences of getting edge computing, server-side development, and security the attention it deserves in your organization.

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The business of living on the edge

  1. 1. THE BUSINESS OF LIVING ONTHE EDGE Rajiv Pant Managing Partner, Solutions at Scale Former CTO,The NewYorkTimes 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 1
  2. 2. The Problem 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 2
  3. 3. Cloud and server-side engineering work is exciting to us technologists ■ To us, it is intellectually satisfying, complex and challenging work. It is not only critical to the business, but also enables innovation in product development ■ However, to a lot of business colleagues, it is “back end” work of which the benefits to the bottom line are unclear – Often, this work is perceived as competing with resources for “real” consumer facing product development – We distrust and fear what we do not understand ■ How do we solve this problem? 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 3
  4. 4. Story of the successful implementation of Continuous Delivery atThe NewYorkTimes ■ We asked the company to allow us put most consumer facing business projects on pause for 4 months while we implemented and migrated to CD ■ The results after this project was successful exceeded most expectations: – Dramatic improvements in the number of releases we put into production – Significantly faster speed of release and delivery.One team reduced its release time from seven days to 35 minutes – Higher quality of code in terms of lower errors in production.We cut the number of errors in production by more than half ■ However, to achieve these results, we had to persuade everyone to agree to slow down for 4 months. How did we do it? 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 4
  5. 5. The Solution ■ To succeed as a CTO or head of engineering, you need to work with the APIs of your fellow human beings – Actually, you need to go beyond APIs ■ 5 Lessons I learned as a CTO in major media companies 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 5
  6. 6. Instead of trying to be salesperson, be a friend ■ It is better to win people over, than to sell them your idea – Don’t push your solution. Draw others to your solution – Don’t pander either.Win over ■ Don’t make B.S. claims about future benefits of the project. Instead, emphasize the purpose and passion ■ Don’t try to falsely attach your infrastructure project to a product development the business has asked for. Present it on its own merit ■ Don’t spend your time as a technologist writing a business justification. Partner with a finance or business analyst to do that ■ Empathize with your business colleagues and help them empathize with you 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 6
  7. 7. Speak to the heart, not just to the brain ■ Go beyond making a rational business case.Generate excitement about the engineering work – Getting true buy-in requires evoking emotion and passion – Identify an external enemy ■ Share your genuine fears about potential losses resulting from getting hacked or systems crashing. – We are all averse to losses ■ Make it “our” project instead of “my” project. Request business stakeholders to talk about the project to their colleagues stakeholders, and bosses. Encourage them to include it in their presentations. – By doing this, they make a public commitment to it 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 7
  8. 8. Leverage reciprocity ■ Deliver successes to the business to build credibility first – Before you pitch a major infrastructure project – As a new employee, don’t use up your honeymoon credits on a project whose benefits to your stakeholders aren’t as clear ■ When your colleagues ask for something that you don’t value as much, be open minded to them – Your colleagues will reciprocate by embracing your ideas if you embrace theirs 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 8
  9. 9. Don’t be a “middleman.” Be a connector ■ If you are a CTO or senior manager, it is in your interest that your business colleagues know, appreciate, and have direct connections with your teammates – Their expertise supports and complements yours – They bring additional credibility – You make a stronger case as a team ■ Invite business colleagues to select gatherings of the product engineering teams 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 9
  10. 10. Regularly discuss your projects and their value with your colleagues ■ Never assume that your business colleagues won’t understand or appreciate technical stuff. Be a translator ■ A critical part of your job as a technologist is to regularly describe what you do and its value to your colleagues ■ …and vice versa.Take an interest in what they do 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 10
  11. 11. Solution: Summary 1. Instead of trying to be salesperson, be a friend 2. Speak to the heart, not just to the brain 3. Leverage reciprocity 4. Don’t be a “middleman.” Be a connector 5. Regularly discuss your projects and their value with your colleagues 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 11
  12. 12. Thank you for listening 7/25/2016 https://rajiv.com @rajivpant 12

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