Welcome to our Leaders in Tech editorial series. Speaking to leaders in the industry to capture their stories, career highs and lows, their trials and successes, their current company and their role, most recent projects, advice to others, and the individuals who they most look up to in the industry.
This week, we talked to Deepak Selvaraj, Director of DevOps and Quality Engineering at Engine, to find out more about why he joined the tech industry, what his role entails, what are the challenges he faces as a tech leader, and his advice to aspiring engineers and developers.
First of all, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your current role?
In my current role as the Director of DevOps and Quality Engineering with ENGINE transformation, I am working with major public and private sector customers to enable their DevOps journey with a clear focus on quality and value metrics at every stage of the (people, process, platforms) transformation. I am also an active contributor to the tech community hosting and participating in multiple workshops and conferences globally.
Prior to Engine; I have been leading Virgin Media’s B2B DevOps and QE teams where my team owned multiple cloud platforms responsible to serve 500+ million end users every month across 120,000 public and private customer venues. Over the past 10 years, I have been working with multiple major private and public sector customers such as BT, Arqiva, AT&T, UK regional airports, NHS and have been a key contributor to Openstack platform development.
I also hold a master’s degree in Future computing at the University of Kent with a major focus on cloud security and artificial intelligence.
Regarding my personal life, we are a family of three; myself, my wife, and our 3-year-old son living in Hemel. I am also an active contributor to the tech community hosting and participating in multiple workshops and conferences globally. I generally enjoy playing cricket and badminton, where I spend most of my weekends.
Can you tell me about your journey and how did you get where you are now?
It is a very long story! My interest in computers started to develop when I was around 6 to 7 years old. My dad used to run his business through a small shop in India, and I used to spend a lot of time using human calculators, standing along with him in the shop to work out the cost of purchase for customers who would come in and buy groceries. I gradually got curious about understanding the process behind a calculator, which slowly developed into helping my dad with setting up a till and growing up to do my own web development business as a kid.
During my undergraduate studies, my interest in problem-solving and logical reasoning helped me to master my skills in C, Data Structures, C++, Service Oriented Architecture, and Distributed Systems. The logic and the creativity studied in these areas aroused in me a passion to explore several new technologies and it is with that interest, I decided to strengthen my career by pursuing a post-graduation in the field of computing. I got a scholarship to pursue my master’s in the UK at the University of Kent.
During my school and college days, I have actively participated in various cricket matches. My team has won in national level and state level cricket matches. My zest towards participation in sports helped me to develop skills such as teamwork and interpersonal communication. Gradually I completed my master’s with merit and got placed as a web developer in a telco-based company called Arqiva. From there, I was very lucky to have worked with the right team, leaders, and projects which helped with my growth to where I am today.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
To be honest, I look out for multiple individuals as my inspiration and mentors. Starting from global leaders such as APJ Abdul Kalam (ISRO scientist), Richard Branson all the way down to my first leader Kirit Patel, an off-license shop owner in the UK. I used to work part-time during my university at Canterbury and I have always admired and impressed how good he used to be with upselling, transforming, and increased customer satisfaction. I always think the soft skills I have learned from him, and my dad has helped a lot throughout my career growth so far.
How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?
To show them that you care and never let your team feel alone. Regular 1 on 1’s and talking to them about more than work helps. Continuous recognition, helping them with making time to learn new technologies, and showing that they are not alone during obstacles help a lot too. I have seen a massive transformation within my team members by simply just following up on these small things.
What is your expertise?
I truly think my expertise is with problem-solving. I love taking up complicated problems be it technical or non-technical and can organize a clear plan of action to have them resolved and make it look simple. Building metrics and influencing the team to focus on the ‘automation-first’ approach/digital transformation is one area I have been acknowledged to be good at by my peers.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love being a leader in technology! If I had to choose one aspect that made leadership the most rewarding, it would be the fact that I can change someone becoming independent and feeling more confident with the technology they are delivering and becoming more of a leader themselves.
What are the challenges you faced during your career?
The two most important recent ones:
- Setting up an offshore team for delivery from scratch. culture, right tools, process transformation.
- Leading cloud adoption and migration from a typical data center landscape– this required a complete transformation across multiple business units. Change in culture, process, platforms, etc.
What are your current goals?
My current goal is to set up an effective DevOps and Quality Engineering practice within Engine Transformation to help our public & private sectors globally. My priority would be to help our customers to enable their DevOps journey with a clear focus on quality and value metrics at every stage of the (people, process, platforms) transformation.
What are you the proudest of in your career so far?
I have a few proud moments. If I had to share the two most recent ones, it would be transforming the VMB Wi-Fi platform cloud adoption and migration programme with zero downtime and enabling my team to build a network automation platform to migrate 2k plus devices to an upgraded secure service. This generated around 60% more revenue for the business than originally planned. Seeing my team members who grew from graduates to senior associates and from Snr associates to heads of Departments as a result of multiple successful deliveries and learning.
What have you learned from your experience so far?
I must echo Richard Branson’s quote here, “Look after your team and they will look after your customers”. I have learned this through experience and it’s truly effective when it is applied in real-time. I strongly believe in order to grow and serve in tech; your attitude matters as much as your tech skills do.
Do you have a memorable story or an anecdote from your experience you’d like to tell?
As you know by now, I love Richard Branson. Around May 2017, there was a competition within Virgin Media when I used to work there, and the winner gets to participate in one of the new product launches called VOOM which was inaugurated by Richard Branson. I participated in the competition and won an opportunity to meet Richard Branson in person – one of the most memorable experiences of my lifetime. It was a dream come true moment!
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring engineers and testers who want to grow in the IT industry?
3 key takeaways in the industry which has helped me accelerate my career progression:
- Being a team player. Sounds simple but sometimes it is hard; especially with covid and new ways of working it is very easy to be siloed. Make sure you continuously engage with the rest of your team.
- Having the right attitude. We all might know something the others don’t know, but be polite and help each other.
- Continuous learning and adapting to change. Tech transformations and evolutions would never stop; it is going to grow so rapidly as you could imagine. AI, VR, AR, Bitcoin, etc. lots to learn, and if you are a tester, developer, ops engineer, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t shy away from learning new tech. Learning is not optional anymore.
There might be too many suggestions out there, but make sure you understand your strength and weakness. Choose your focus areas to improve and make sure you continuously get better at them.