A generation ago, cloud computing didn’t exist. A decade ago, there was no such job title as cloud architect. Things change—thanks to people like Tanu McCabe. As an architect at Capital One, Tanu helps build the heart of the bank of the future: systems that unite cloud, the internet of things, and AI to empower customers like never before.
She says, “My job is basically to solve problems involving complex distributed systems and applications that have to be highly reliable.”
Tanu wasn’t planning to become an architect when she started her career. For almost a decade before joining Capital One, she worked as a consultant—first, to big companies, and later to federal agencies.
“It wasn’t exactly a straight road to get here,” she says. “I learned a lot about applying technology in public and private sector, and I really liked the way Capital One was embracing change and leading cloud innovation.”
In her time with the company, it’s become clear that she made the right decision. At Capital One, Tanu has the resources she needs to solve problems at the forward edge of technology—bigger problems than she’d get to solve at most other companies, which don’t operate at the same scale.
Innovating to solve problems at scale
Tanu’s work focuses on two domains, or functionality groupings—multi-cloud and monitoring and resiliency. Her job involves strategic and tactical aspects. At the strategy level, she helps set the course for how the bank uses cloud, for instance, and how it uses monitoring to improve resiliency. Tactically, she provides architectures for the applications that support those domains.
“It might seem like my work is very far from the customer experience. Most Capital One customers may not be aware of what technologies we use on the back-end,” she says. “But I see myself as an enabler of great customer experiences, in that what I do enables developers to spend more time delivering features that customers need, and less time worrying about how to use the underlying technology.”
For her cloud monitoring and observability work, Tanu partners with other architects as well as teams across the company to architect solutions, balancing concerns like privacy, security, and regulatory compliance.
“I do a lot of work around cloud observability and in monitoring and resiliency, figuring out how to get insights we need to ensure that our systems and the applications that run on them are failproof, or recover quickly from failure,” she says. “In addition to our scale, we have quite a bit of variety in our technology stack. So there are no easy answers—which makes it really interesting.”
For example, last year she was part of a large, cross-functional team that helped define the company’s strategic approach to container architecture. Containers are a relatively new technology, without firmly established best practices—especially at the scale and level of complexity of Capital One. Establishing a strategic approach to containers was a complex, unwieldy process requiring careful analysis and collaboration across the company. Today, Capital One is successfully implementing that container strategy.
To make this level of large-scale strategic problem-solving work, Tanu crets the collaboration culture at Capital One. “We're a varied and diverse workforce that brings mutli-faceted perspectives to solving problems, which is important to actually realize continuous improvement," Tanu notes. “We do more than just talking about a solution to a problem; together we implement them, too. That tangible output is what keeps me motivated to keep trying to do what we do.”
Change is about more than just new technologies
Embracing change isn’t something that’s important just for Tanu’s approach to technology—it’s central to her personality. For example, she was not very athletically inclined growing up, but took up running and cycling pretty seriously as an adult, and in recent years she’s taken to Cross-Fit in a major way.
“You might not know it from looking at me, but I can deadlift 185 pounds,” she says. “And my goal for the end of the year is 200 pounds.”
Working at Capital One has been an opportunity for big-time growth. Tanu credits the company’s Women in Technology group with helping her become more aware of the challenges facing people like her, and of the ways that giving every employee the support they need can help them succeed.
“As a mom with a career, even with an amazingly supportive husband and work culture, I used to think it was quite hard to manage everything. But when I started participating in the Women in Technology lean-in circles here, I realized that I’m not alone in having the challenges I do,” she says. “I’m getting skills and support as a woman from Capital One that, before I came here, I didn’t even realize I needed.”
According to Tanu, this kind of support permeates the company’s culture. The resources, programs, and communities at Capital One provide real value to her and others like her.
“The support at Capital One really stands out,” she says. “You can take risks and still feel supported and safe. That’s when you can do your best work. For change to occur, it all comes down to the people. People have to adopt change, people have to be willing to change. Our culture is quite conducive and receptive to that thanks to Agile and our leadership.”
- Favorite hobbies: Needlepoint, playing music, reading, writing
- Favorite volunteer activity: Being a Girl Scout leader
- Favorite TV show: The Big Bang Theory
- Favorite author: Agatha Christie
- Favorite musical artists: Pearl Jam, early Metallica (“pre-Black Album”)