An API Story
Chapter 3: Everything on Course, and Even Time for Skiing
DevOps engineer Melissa Chao was first at the coffee machine for the daily stand-up meeting – one of the measures introduced after the workshop held a few months previously to iron out problems in the API project. After hearing out the various staff involved, the consultant hosting the exercise and CIO Louise Lagrange had come to the conclusion that the issues were as much organizational as personal or technical. Once they’d realized this and addressed the main problems accordingly, the mud-slinging had stopped. There had been a few hiccups along the way, but progress was now much smoother.
Smoother, yes. More relaxed, no. With assets under management having taken additional severe hits after a young client had removed 300 million several months before, the pressure from the boardroom and C-suite was mounting. Things were at fever pitch. The team was regularly putting in twelve hours a day, and the executive board expected weekly progress reports.
But this didn’t faze Melissa. The 25-year old DevOps engineer from Hong Kong was used to hard work, and had been a prodigy at university. She had had her pick of the jobs when she graduated in business IT, but after a couple of years at a boutique fintech she’d started to get itchy feet. Back as a teenager she’d been to the French Alps with her parents, and had fallen in love with skiing. The chance to work in Geneva came at just the right time, and she snapped it up. The fact that the job was with an ancient private bank made the whole adventure even more exotic and exciting.
Melissa was so well organized that she still managed to get in at least one day in the mountains every weekend. The rest of the time the API platform project kept her extremely busy. But she loved it. She was proud of her role in keeping the project on course. It’s been a tough journey, especially since she had to build up a full development tool set from green field. At first, the lack of automation in testing and deployment resulted in a few red heads and shouting battles. A version difference in the API definition here, an outdated configuration there and a missing firewall rule as a cherry on top and an angry mob would gather around her desk. However, recently her efforts to automate code creation, unit testing and deployment was paying off. Just the other day, deployment of a breaking change to production could be prevented because it failed in the contract testing. Now, there was time to attack a few tasks that were laying around for a while. She’d managed, for example, to implement and fine-tune a set of new tools to automate the security monitoring, which certainly made everyone’s life easier. But she wasn’t just pleased with the technical challenges she’d resolved. She’d also discovered motivational skills she hadn’t realized she had. For instance, when Finn had approached her with concerns that the developers weren’t all on board, she’d come up with the idea of organizing in-house hackathons to get them interested in learning new technologies. Now everyone looked much more excited about what they were doing.
The rest of the API project team rolled up. First to arrive was project manager Finn Galbasini. Despite the fact that execution was in full swing he appeared relaxed: a far cry from the hassled-looking young man Melissa had first encountered when she’d joined the team a few months previously. Next came Paul, the lead of the back-end developers. He was smiling, even though he and his team had just pulled an all-nighter resolving a niggling security issue. He’d got such a sense of achievement he really didn’t mind. Plus the rest of the API project team was quick to show its appreciation. Next in was the IT implementation consultant. He liked to attend at least one stand-up meeting a week to keep track of developments.
Finally, CIO Louise Lagrange turned up. By now she trusted the project team implicitly, and didn’t usually come to the daily meet. But she liked to drop by occasionally, if only to give encouragement.
Louise herself had a lot to be encouraged about. The more the solution took shape, the more she was seeing benefits way beyond those she’d initially anticipated. She’d realized from the outset that creating a new API management layer and placing it between the business and IT would make it quicker and easier to implement new client-facing features without disrupting the underlying systems. What she hadn’t appreciated was that this new layer would dramatically simplify dealings between IT and the business. For years, IT had struggled with the chaos of different people in the business talking to different people in IT whenever they wanted something done. With everything now coordinated by the API management layer, this was already turning out to be a whole lot more straightforward. Her team had already delivered the first projects on the basis of the API management platform, managing to integrate some really useful new fintech in a matter of months. This was all good news for IT, and good news for the business.
It hadn’t all been smooth sailing. Some people in the organization had felt threatened by the new solution. But thanks to her behind-the-scenes diplomacy and efforts to establish a new development and governance process – backed by the support of an increasingly enthusiastic general partner − Louise had been able to allay most of their fears.
The stand-up was short and unspectacular. Sure, there was a major infrastructure issue to address, but by this time everyone in the team knew the routine and exactly what to do. After only ten minutes the meeting was wound up.
Just as people were about to leave, Rolf Wagner, the junior relationship manager acting as the business product owner of the API solution – who several months earlier had shot Finn to pieces and warned that the API project would end in disaster − walked up to grab a coffee.
«Great work, guys. We’ve just finished the final testing phase and the relationship managers are really stoked. This is going to make a big difference.»
The story continues… but you’re going to have to write it yourself!
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