3 tactics to advance innovation through engineering culture

As modern businesses evolve into technology companies, the focus is on the culture of software engineering. A bad setup can break a business as competitors sprint forward.

“If technology is at the heart of your business, if technology is something that allows you to win or lose the market, you have to master that technology,” said Amir Arooni, EVP & CIO, Discover Financial Services, s voicing Thursday at the Forbes CIO summit.

Building an engineering culture to advance innovation is not a one-time effort, but rather a continuous cycle of improvement. Knowing when to abandon tech projects, attract top tech talent, and empower development executives like DevOps helps companies connect their tech and business aspirations.

“All of us who grew up with a background in software engineering, we like to think of what we really do as an elegant marriage of art and science,” said Jen Hartsock, CIO at Baker Hughes, during from the same panel.

Over the past five years, Hartsock has helped Baker Hughes bring much of his tech talent in-house, a push away from outsourcing and towards building an internal culture of software engineering.

“If you really want to become a master craftsman in software engineering, it requires an investment of time and talent, closely related to that process area, or the customer outcome or the solution you are trying to deliver,” said Hartsock.

Here are three strategies for shaping the culture of engineering:

  1. ‘Radical downgrading’

In addition to the “build it, run it, love it” mantra adopted by the engineering community, executives need to understand when a technology has run its course, according to Hartsock.

“When something is born, sometimes we just want to let it live forever,” Hartsock said. “On the support of life, if necessary.”

As part of its journey of continuous improvement, Baker Hughes’ engineering teams turned to product thinking and envisioned the full lifecycle of a technology product. This includes deciding when a product has reached the end of its useful life for the organization or its customers, ”said Hartsock.

The IT environment can be simplified through “radical downgrading and radical modernization,” Arooni said. Failure to embrace these concepts can prevent companies from achieving “speed, quality and craftsmanship” in their engineering practices.

2. Talent guide

Employers across industries struggle to attract tech talent, especially highly competitive sub-assemblies of technology. Attracting these high-demand talent must start by fostering innovation and a sense of empowerment within the company, according to Arooni.

“You talk about creating an environment and collectively creating an environment that makes engineers happy and engaged in their work,” Arooni said. “People don’t want instructions, they want autonomy”.

Talent attraction aims to bring outside talent into the pipeline. According to Arooni, Discover develops talent internally through a number of strategies, including:

  • Certifications

  • Badges

  • Allow engineers to contribute to open source projects, and

  • The Discover Technology Academy, a development center designed by engineers for engineers.

At Baker Hughes, the talent attraction strategy has changed to accommodate the needs of new talent.

“Historically, we had hired people into leadership development programs on the assumption that everyone wanted to be a generalist,” Hartsock said. “What we needed to do is change so that we allow both generalist career paths and then deep technical paths as well.”

3. DevOps

At the top of the IOC’s agenda are top priorities, such as improving productivity, quality or efficiency.

“If you want to do that, DevOps isn’t something new, but it’s the way to go, so I’ll encourage everyone to get started ASAP,” Arooni said.

Practices and tools can help leaders improve and develop the engineering culture. Learn about the DevOps, DevSecOps, and Site Reliability Engineering implemented as part of its engineering culture approach.

These methodologies use “the automation, monitoring and continuous deployment that form the basis of our collaborative software development and operation cycle”.

About Perry Perrie

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