“DevOps Is A Product, Too”: Amrisha Sinha with MaestroQA (Video + Transcript)

March 8, 2021

Amrisha Sinha (Infrastructure Engineering Team Lead at MaestroQA) covers 5 DevOps insights that are essential for engineering managers to know to unlock their true potential.


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Angie Chang: So, our next speaker is Amrisha, who is the Infrastructure Engineering Team Lead at MaestroQA or Maestro. She works on all aspects of the application for infrastructure and security, along with deployment pipeline. And before Maestro, she was a senior network DevOps engineer. She’s based in New York City and has been for 15 years. Welcome.

Amrisha Sinha: Thank you. Let me just share my screen here. Hi, thank you so much for having me. That story before me was so inspiring. Thank you, Ashley. It was great for me to hear as someone halfway through my career and someone who’s just had a baby. It was a lot of advice that I will definitely action.

Amrisha Sinha: So, I’m here to talk about DevOps and how it’s a product as well within the organization that the DevOps engineers work with. As Angie said, I’m the Infrastructure Engineering Team Lead at MaestroQA, but I’m also a DevOps engineer. I just happen to do both at our company. And what I’m going to cover today is really five insights to help you empower your development team, your product team, and DevOps all at once, if this is a team that you have at your company.

Amrisha Sinha: A little bit about me. I’m a diplobrat. And for those who don’t know what that means, my father is a diplomat, and I’m Indian, but I was raised all over the world. We moved every three or four years. And the main thing that I learned from that is how to figure out a new school, a new environment, and where I fit into that, and really making the best of it. And that’s what led me to Cooper Union and Cornell, where I got my degrees, and have been in New York ever since.

Amrisha Sinha: I focused on various types of systems engineering, and really looking at the whole system and how to make it work better, what are the things that go into making all the little pieces, all the little cogs work together. And what I’ve learned about myself is that I’m just a problem solver. I do logic puzzles for fun. I have a puzzle a day calendar at my desk that I do to get the juices flowing, and I really enjoy them.

Amrisha Sinha: And over the course of my career, I’ve developed a real passion for engineering automated solutions for the teams that I work in and help everyone else get so much more out of the work that they do, because they don’t have to worry about fitting pieces together.

Amrisha Sinha: A little bit about MaestroQA. MaestroQA makes an omnichannel quality assurance software for modern support teams. And some of our largest customers are Etsy, MailChimp, Peloton. And one of our partners is Zendesk.

Amrisha Sinha: All of these companies, all of our partners, use our software to improve agent performance, optimize their customer experience processes, and we give them a platform where they can unlock business level insights, look at analytics about how their support teams are performing and improve metrics like retention, revenue, CSAT. And yeah, I have the privilege of working here for the last year.

Amrisha Sinha: Let’s dive into this. What’s DevOps? It’s one of those terms that a lot of people hear about, but not everyone really understands how to define it, and something that I’ve been sort of working on as well. DevOps is development operations. It’s the practice of getting your code commits from the repository into production, like everything that has to happen in the process. Which, if you lead a product team, you know there’s so many little pieces that all have to work together seamlessly in order to make sure that the deployments happen.

Amrisha Sinha: DevOps can be broken into three main functional areas: continuous delivery, which is how do I get every commit, every margin to master into production, continuously without a break, without waiting for something else to happen. Infrastructure automation. Frequently, the changes that you make will require some changes in the infrastructure, in the stack, in the server, in the load balancer. Something has to happen in order to facilitate this new feature you’re rolling out.

Amrisha Sinha: So, how do we automate that and make it part of the testing and the development? And monitoring and orchestration. Once your changes get into production, collecting feedback on how it’s performing, metrics on how the CPU is working or how customers are, what the end user experience is. Collecting all of that and feeding it back to your product team so that they can action on it and then deploy new changes. At the end, DevOps really makes your deployment process look like this infinity sign that we’ve got here. It’s making all of these pieces work together in ad infinitum.

Amrisha Sinha: As I mentioned, deploying software requires a lot of coordination. I’ve seen many different versions of this kind of flow in various organizations that I’ve worked in, and you need a development team, you need an infrastructure team. If you get large enough, a release or a change management team, a QA team to do testing, and product management to kind of make sure that there’s new stuff going on and all the things that product managers do.

Amrisha Sinha: And it requires a lot of coordination across all of these teams, which introduces delays, opportunities for misunderstanding, or having to spend time educating each other, translating what you need. And that takes up a lot of time, and it takes time and efficiency and interest away from your existing teams. Having to understand how to communicate your needs to an infrastructure engineer when you don’t have that knowledge, takes time away from development ,time from change management, time from testing.

Amrisha Sinha: So, it really is a cost to your teams in order to have to figure out how to get your changes across, right? DevOps kind of brings the cost of how much time your team spend communicating with each other down because the DevOps engineer’s job is to simplify this pipeline and make it happen more efficiently and more smoothly and consistently.

Amrisha Sinha: Where does a DevOps team fit? If you look at your team and you realize that it’s time to introduce DevOps, not something that a small company necessarily needs, but if your company’s growing, your product’s growing, and you find that you need DevOps, where would a DevOps engineer typically fit?

Amrisha Sinha: DevOps engineers aren’t developers and they aren’t infrastructure engineers, but they do require enough proficiency in both to be able to communicate with both teams. And so, they fit between these two teams, and are typically as an extension of release management teams or change management teams, and are kind of a missing piece between tying everything together.

Amrisha Sinha: We have the skills to build you a custom delivery pipeline, which is essentially software. And this pipeline is operated by your existing release team, and it interacts with their infrastructure. DevOps engineers, our goal is to build you a custom solution that fits, and stay there to continue to maintain it as your needs evolve, as your product evolves, and as your organization evolves. A DevOps team is really there to build you this product and continue maintaining it.

Amrisha Sinha: Let’s get into five insights on what will help you best work with DevOps engineers and empower them, if you’re managing a team with a DevOps function, and how to really make the best out of this really special skillset that DevOps engineers bring.

Amrisha Sinha: The first insight is that the team that’s responsible for doing your deployments, you have some sort of function there, you’ll either have a change management team or a senior developer that’s very knowledgeable about the deployment process, they should be involved in the pipeline design process. They’re giving you the user feedback, the initial discovery of what does the team actually need in terms of a pipeline. They should be heavily involved. They should be encouraged to interact with DevOps thoroughly, be demanding, and talk about what their pain points are.

Amrisha Sinha: This pipeline that you see here. Some version of it exists in every organization. A DevOps engineer needs to come in and figure out what this looks like and how to start automating it and how to solve the pain points so that everyone can go back to doing what they actually love doing.

Amrisha Sinha: So, make sure that your release team is talking to your DevOps team, providing feedback and looking at designs and fixing what needs to be fixed and making sure that the problem is well understood.

Amrisha Sinha: The second insight is, once a pipeline is done, this can take weeks depending on how automated you already are, to months to years. Once a pipeline is done, the DevOps engineer isn’t going to sit there and run it. DevOps engineers don’t replace a release management functionality or an infrastructure functionality. They add to it. It’s like you’re buying software, except you are hiring the person to make the software for you.

Amrisha Sinha: You wouldn’t expect to make software and then use it yourself. You would expect to make software, have an end user use it, and then keep deploying patches. DevOps engineers do the same thing. Once you’ve built a pipeline, hand it off to the team that’s actually going to run the releases.

Amrisha Sinha: And then look at new technology, look at what direction tools are going, and see if the problem’s changing… the problem that they’re solving for, the deployment pipeline is changing, and make up bits to it and make adjustments to the pipeline. Bring in new technology. It helps DevOps engineers also feel empowered to stay on the cutting edge of technology and make sure that you’re keeping your end users happy and not having them go two steps back when the entire process changes. DevOps engineers make sure that the pipeline updates along with it.

Amrisha Sinha: The third insight is to use the best tools for the job. Emphasis here is on plural. You’ll be able to find a lot of DevOps tools that kind of do everything for you, “Plug me in and I’ll do everything.” And that’s great, but not every organization has a canned deployment system. And if you have a DevOps engineer, you have the person there that will integrate five different tools into one seamless pipeline for you. There’s no need to compromise on the experience for your developers or for your end users or for anyone else involved by using a singular tool. You have a person on hand who has the skills to figure out how to fit in the right tool for the right job in the pipeline and write the scripts or the programs necessary to make sure that it’s a seamless integration. You have a person to do the integration for you, and don’t discount the impact that that can have on the end user experience.

Amrisha Sinha: Fourth insight is to use an iterative approach. Integrate automation deployment workflows into the pipeline early, and then provide feedback on how it’s going. I’m sure everyone here has had some sort of experience where you’ve worked on a feature or deployed some software that didn’t quite land. And it’s discouraging to go through a long design process and a long implementation process, and have them not land. The way we’ve all figured out solving that is by using an agile approach. Iterating early, providing a minimum viable product, and then seeing how that goes, collecting feedback and improving the end user experience.

Amrisha Sinha: It’s the same for DevOps. We can spend months building your pipeline, and if it doesn’t land, it’s discouraging for everyone involved. So, automate one part early, as you can see the infrastructure deployment, see how it works. If it works, go ahead, automate a different part, then string them all together. It’s very useful to provide feedback early, to figure out if the problem being solved is correct, if the pain points that have been identified are actually pain points or not. Same thing as you’re building a product. If you get feedback early, you do better, you have better end results, right?

Amrisha Sinha: The last insight is that we’re problem solvers, as I said at the beginning. We want to solve your pain points. We want to build a solution that works for this particular team. We want to fill any gaps, and not really sell a previously sold solution or come back and just reimplement the same pipeline over and over again. We’re engineers with unique skills that live in this gray area between all of these teams.

Amrisha Sinha: So, if the puzzle piece doesn’t quite fit correctly, let us know. We’ll find a better solution. We’ll make whatever changes are needed. That’s how I see my role. It’s really coming into a functioning team, pieces that fit together, and tying it all together into a picture that works, that’s efficient.

Amrisha Sinha: Bringing in DevOps means allowing your release team to focus on actually releasing software and not coordinating with changes, with infrastructure, and making sure development changes are done, making sure developers are working on code and building the next great feature, not worrying about whether their changes are actually going to get into production properly. That’s why you bring in DevOps. Yeah. Tell us if something’s not working. Tell us. We’ll find a better solution. Until you give us that feedback, how would we know, right?

Amrisha Sinha: For anyone who’s watching and taking screenshots, I summarized everything into this slide for you. These are your five main takeaways on how to empower your team when you bring in a DevOps engineer, how to take some of that load off your team, and how to make your DevOps engineer happy. These are things that I’ve learned over the course of my career, and I think are good to know for managers, for leaders within the company.

Amrisha Sinha: We’re unique. We’re unicorns. We have skills that go across many different functional areas. So, letting us solve your problems and let everyone else do the work is kind of fun for us. And staying on top of technology, also fun for us. Hopefully these insights will help you get the most out of your DevOps engineers. It’s really exciting to see what DevOps is doing in the last five years. It was a very nascent field when I entered it about six years ago, and now it’s really blowing up and it’s very exciting for me to see.

Amrisha Sinha: Lastly, we’re hiring. We’ve been awarded best place to work by BuiltIn NYC in both small companies and in New York City. As Angie mentioned, we’re located in NYC, but remote first. We’ve been making a lot of out of state hires lately, some incredible team members. These are the roles we’re currently hiring for, but find me on LinkedIn or send me an email. It’s just amrisha.sinha@maestroqa.

Amrisha Sinha: Send me an email for referrals. We’d be happy to have a conversation to see about where you fit.

Amrisha Sinha: We’re growing very rapidly. If I had to count, I’d say we’ve probably added about five people this year alone so far. And we serve the biggest brands, and we’re just looking for people to come join us and help us make excellent software.

Amrisha Sinha: And just on a personal note, I had a child in July, 2019, and I came to Maestro about six months after that, and I’ve found that it’s an amazing place to work. I feel very supported as a woman, as a working mother. And we are trying very hard to be a great place to work, which includes having conversations around race, gender discrimination, and we do this on a weekly basis.

Amrisha Sinha: So, please connect with me on LinkedIn. Happy to talk further about my experience, and I can talk about DevOps for hours. Happy to do that as well. Thank you. Any questions?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi, Amrisha. Thank you so much for that amazing talk. I think it’s been really insightful for all of us to hear about MaestroQA, and of course the DevOps journey as well. But with that, we are going to just call out that people can post questions in the Q&A section, and post comments in the chat. Amrisha, if you can get the chance, you’ll see some questions and comments that you can respond to. We will now switch over to the next session, which is the panel. So, thank you so much, Amrisha.

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