In the latest installment of our #TechQA series, we caught up with Gonzalo Peci, Freelance Engineering Manager and SRE, to talk about digital transformation and how tech teams can maintain productivity and team culture when distributed.
Gonzalo Peci, considers both the benefits and challenges of pursuing a career in tech, as well as the changing role of tech teams in businesses. Gonzalo also gives some top tips for those looking to freelance as a tech professional.
Third Republic (TR): Could you start by giving us an overview of your background and how you got to where you are today?
Gonzalo Peci (GP): I started with tech young, mostly out of curiosity and honestly gaming; building my own systems, researching and trying to crack my own games (not actually cracking the games; I was just curious how cracks worked), trying to improve my system performance. From there I got my first jobs and started moving through tech jobs and learning along the way; Servers, Scripting, Coding, whatever I had the chance to get my hands on. The versatility of all that learning naturally led to where I am right now where I try to continue to learn all the time.
TR: You’ve been freelancing for around a year now, what are your top tips for others new to freelancing as a tech professional?
GP: Tech has a broad set of specializations and you can learn and intermix paths, I don't think there are many careers that allow you to do that. Additionally, you can find a tech job in any industry, so if you want to mix a passion for, let’s say, security and music, you most likely can find a company that needs A and does B. Depending on your ambitions, it's a continuously evolving space, which poses the challenge of adapting as you go. I started working on Windows systems on premises, virtualization, now I primarily do work with Cloud/Linux systems. It's also challenging to start in, you get overwhelmed by the information and diverse ways of doing the same thing.
TR: In your opinion, what are some of the benefits and challenges of pursuing a career in tech?
GP: Communication is key, do online stand-ups, hold online coffee gatherings, etc. You need to translate your work culture, and social interactions that keep that culture going, to online mediums. I found great resources on other successful, always remote companies, like Zapier, most of these companies share their practices online and it's a great place to gather ideas that work for your company. I’d like to reiterate on this, you don't need to copy paste what they are doing, but adapt their success stories to your size/team/culture.
TR: With the current circumstances forcing many businesses to operate remotely, in your experience, how can tech teams best maintain productivity and team culture when distributed?
GP: I think it's a wonderful time to, if you have not been doing it already, work closer with your business and product peers. It's important to understand what tools tech can provide to ensure the continuity of the business operations. Many of the tools and practices that are second nature to many members of tech teams, might be misunderstood or unknown by others.
TR: How do you think tech teams can best adapt during these uncertain times?
GP: Tech is now, more than ever, part of the business and the product. I believe companies that fail to understand this are struggling the most. Not just in terms of a fancy website or application, but all the automation, innovation and possibilities that are open today through technology. This has been changing over the last few years, pushed by the unicorn, AirBNBs, Netflix, Uber and Tesla. They showed there are other ways to innovate and develop products.
TR: What’s your opinion on the role of tech teams in businesses? How has their role changed throughout the years?
GP: I believe they will be increasingly present, from small shops to huge companies. But this is not new, what is new, is that more products are tech, from analytics to security. As we move deeper into technology more people realize, something that was an internal tool or system at one company, could be an entire product in itself, sometimes even more profitable than the initial company, and this feeds the innovation cycle as other companies can reuse this to create new products.
TR:Since you’ve been working in tech for some time, what does the term, DevOps, mean to you?
GP: The term has now been adopted as many things unfortunately, as with Cloud and many other keywords, it was commercialized and bastardized from its original meaning. DevOps is a set of practices, culture, methodologies to further integrate product development cycles. It started as breaking down the silo between Developers (building products) and Operations (supporting the products), and had a big impact on the way we develop, support and ship software today, with automation being more prevalent than ever. These movements of breaking the silos are present in many other areas, with practices like Agile bringing entire product teams together. This has the immense benefit of cross pollination, practices, and knowledge from one discipline flowing to the other.
TR: Digital transformation has been on the rise for some time and has been mentioned even more so recently given the current circumstances. What does digital transformation mean to you? What challenges and opportunities do you think it presents?
GP: Honestly, I think it's another “DevOps” that has deviated from its original meaning, because it's used for many different things as a sales pitch. Its meaning is about using technology to solve problems, what this means to each company can be quite different. In banking for example, it was initially about providing many of their services online, without the need to go to the office. Now it's about leveraging data, simplifying transactions, and using technology to try products faster as well as integrating to other services.
TR: What advice would you give to businesses looking to transform their digital and technological processes?
GP: It's important to understand what we are going to transform and why, jumping to a transformation without a clear objective, will certainly lead to frustration, as you might end up with different results than you expected. I would recommend involving your internal technologists, not just techs, but also other tech savvy employees that could help brainstorm ideas. Lastly, if you are modelling after some other company’s experience, reason why and how what they did applies to you, do not fall in the “X did Y, Y is successful, if I do X I will be successful.”
TR: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve received throughout your career in tech?
GP: Surround yourself with smart people you can learn from. Not only other techies, but people from all areas, it's incredibly motivating and will expand your understanding of how things work, from productivity and tech to business relationships and leadership.
If you’d like to be involved in our next Q&A, get in touch with us today!