From Burnout to Taking a Capability-Centric View to Solving Problems
DevOps: A Catalyst of Change
November 27, 2018
In this post, Tanusree McCabe, a solutions architecture director, lends invaluable insights about her exciting adventure within Capital One’s digital journey. Since 2015, Capital One has championed a large-scale tech transformation. As part of Tanu’s job as a solution architect, she helps to provide leadership and guidance that leverages the latest technological developments.
We sat down with Tanusree to discuss her background, her thoughts on diversity efforts at Capital One, and what burnout taught her about the technology industry. The following answers are condensed from our conversation.
Are there any female or diverse technologists whose work has influenced you throughout your career? What guiding principle have they taught you to follow?
My older sister has always been a guiding light for me. She is a technologist who paved the path for me to study computer engineering and work in a technical field. There are many guiding principles but a few that stand out are incorporating values such as integrity into work, and having the confidence and courage to keep going.
Studies bear out that diverse groups help to generate a wider range of ideas within teams. How are creativity and diverse opinions important elements for your particular team? Your industry?
In architecture, we take a capability-centric view to solving problems. When applying this view to teams, it means that every team member brings a set of capabilities to bear. Every person brings perspective, lessons learned, and insight based on their experiences. It is very important to allow for a diverse team to enable creative solutions and insights that would otherwise be missed.
How do you recommend that we amplify and elevate the work of marginalized communities and how have you seen teams at Capital One allow this to be part of the culture?
Capital One’s culture allows for an environment in which all individuals, regardless of the communities to which they belong and can contribute. Individuals are empowered to voice their thoughts and express their opinions. I’m reminded of how my children are being taught to view perspectives from other people with positive intent; that’s important as adults, too, to recognize that we may all have unconscious bias and to overcome that with perceiving others with positive intent.
In addition, the company makes important investments in local and national initiatives to help girls and women in all stages of the pipeline. I think it’s very neat that we partner and support organizations like AnitaB.org and Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing.
Why are you hopeful for the future of the work produced by women and other marginalized communities at Capital One?
I am hopeful because we’re empowered to do the right thing and produce real results. In fact, what drew me to the company is that from the outset, Capital One has worked to build and maintain a culture that values diversity and provided a supportive business environment that offers opportunity, respect, and encourages inclusion. I really appreciate that we encourage associates to challenge the status quo and bring their unique perspective to every discussion.
Additionally, I know that our Women in Tech initiatives brings together associates who focus on developing a love of technology in young women; are committed to improving the representation of women in the technology field; and care about the career development of women technologists.
How did you decide to come to Capital One?
The top three things that drew me here was the technology, the people and the culture. Capital One is all-in on the cloud, and their scale makes for very interesting problems.
There are two things I really appreciate about our culture. One is that our leadership is not afraid to make decisions, which is huge. That comes from the Agile philosophy. This allows us to move forward and continuously improve. The second thing is the ability to take an idea and make an impact. When you have a good idea, it’s not just an idea on paper that’s forgotten about. It can become reality and really make an impact.
Capital One has nurtured my talent. The exposure to cutting-edge technology allows us to use the latest and greatest innovations to help us innovate for our customers. It’s nice to always be at the forefront of new technology and be a pioneer in its usage.
Our culture helps us move forward as a team so that’s nurtured me as a person. I’ve been able to learn from my colleagues on different ways of thinking. How I attack a problem today is different from how I would’ve done it a year ago because I’ve learned in that year other people’s perspectives and the considerations they make when they’re tackling a problem. Now I can say I’m a better architect today than I was a year ago.
What project are you working on now at Capital One?
I’m working on the team that provides the architecture for cloud, infrastructure, monitoring. My initial role also included architecture for DevOps. I now weave DevOps into all the other areas that I support. We want to become as automated, resilient, and self-service as possible, which is a DevOps principle.
As a solution architect, what tools or practices have you found to be useful to balance everyone’s needs and provide technical leadership relevant to your work environment?
I believe in being methodical with analysis. I ask, “what’s the problem statement?” I then try and understand the motivation of various stakeholders. That gives me more perspective on the best fit solution. To get to a solution, I often need to research alternatives and learn how things work, while understanding our compliance policies. In addition, I often work with various leaders across development teams to get a better understanding of how they run applications so that I can ensure that the guidance I provide is feasible.
How did you know you wanted to change your job?
It was not a straight journey for me to arrive here. I started out as a traveling consultant so that I could work from anywhere, and learned a great deal from that experience. I then worked as a federal contractor, helping the government through infrastructure modernization efforts.
At one point in my career, I experienced burnout. There’s a good book about DevOps. It talked about a character that ends up being a bottleneck in all processes. The character’s intent is good, but he’s the only one who knows everything. I was that person at a previous role and it was not sustainable. When I burned out, I reevaluated my life’s choices. There were things I needed to do better. One was to delegate. Another was to take a hard look at my day job. I knew I liked the technology aspect of my job and that I wanted to solve problems at scale. That was the moment when I made the decision to make a lateral move back to tech. I liked the technical side more than management side of things. I like that Capital One encourages career progression on both sides but let’s me choose the path that makes the most sense for me.
When I burned out, I had a choice: I could’ve just stagnated there and given up and said this entire career is wrong for me. But what I would say is, first, don’t get to the burnout point. Second of all, recognize that nothing is going to be perfect. There will be good times and there will be bad times. But if you’re in the bad times, don’t dismiss the entire technology field. Maybe dismiss the particular circumstances of the situation that are making it bad. Maybe it’s time to change the job, change the role, or change your workplace. Technology itself is quite broad and there’s a lot of ways to work within the field so it’s all about determining what’s the right fit. It’s okay to take a couple of turns to find that right fit.
Since it wasn’t a straight journey for you to come into the DevOps career path, were there any challenges or people to prevent you from coming into this career path?
My challenges were more self-inflicted than anything else. There’s no challenge on actually starting to work in DevOps. There are certainly challenges in implementing it, I would say there’s a toolset in DevOps but then there’s also the culture side of DevOps. How you get people to embrace change is more of a human problem than anything else.
Being able to influence people is key to successfully getting solutions in place. It’s not enough to say this is the right solution, you have to be able to work with people to get to the right solution.
What are your thoughts on companies that embrace DevOps?
DevOps is like a movement. I see it as a catalyst for change. Companies that have embraced DevOps have been given an advantage to innovate, because they’re in a mindset of continuous improvement. DevOps is all about improving our process continuously, improving our practices, improving our automation so we can do better things. Coming from an infrastructure background, my goal is to make infrastructure work as well as it can so that the applications developers can focus on what they do best, and serve our customers. They shouldn’t have to worry about infrastructure at all.
What’s the single best motivation to make you wake up and come to work each day?
I’ve been really happy with my role. It’s interesting work and great people to work with. We are breaking new ground and I really do learn something new on a daily basis. To me, that’s very exciting to solve problems that may not have been solved yet because of the nature or the scale of the problem. That’s unique to Capital One.