How diversity can help us solve complex engineering problems
20 July 2021 • 5 min read
Interview with Mairead O'Connor
Engineers face an increasingly complex and diverse set of problems to help today’s businesses.
Scalability, security and accessibility issues are all commonplace, as well as maintaining a flexible architecture that provides the performance and reliability required for today’s increasingly digital world. To tackle such a range of potential issues, you need a diverse workforce - and AND Digital is leading the way.
There’s still a long road ahead. We spoke to Mairead O’Connor, Exec for the Cloud Engineering team at AND Digital, about how we’re promoting diversity in tech and helping clients crack their engineering problems.
Building a career in tech
Q: Tell us more about your current role at AND Digital and how you got to where you are today.
When I was at university, I was interested in technology and how it has driven social change. I also wanted a career working at the heart of change and, to be completely honest, one that’s a reliable way to make a good living with solid career options. Everyone should have the opportunity to earn good money in their chosen career – and a career in tech gives you that opportunity.
Since university, my career has revolved around delivery management and product management within an agile framework. In my current role, I work with clients, solving complex problems and building the right teams to solve those problems.
Q: How do you help clients with their cloud strategy?
A cloud strategy is a business strategy. That’s one of the key points I try to help our clients understand. But our team also needs to listen and understand what’s important for a client’s business to succeed.
Once we’ve built that mutual trust and understanding, we use our engineering skills to design a way to make changes in the right way. This may include migrating some or all of a client’s existing infrastructure to the cloud, for example, or introducing new cloud-based solutions to help a company streamline its operations.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, you can’t treat every project the same because every client (and project) is different. And engineering is only a technical tool to achieve a business goal – you need to work at the intersection of technology and the business to identify and implement the right cloud strategy.
So, diversity matters from a client perspective too – because there is such diversity in the clients we work with and the problems we solve, we need every kind of mind to help us solve worthwhile problems together.
Time and time again, it’s proven that the more diverse your team, the better your products and services are, ultimately, improving your business across the board. This is simply because a diverse team can solve a greater variety of problems because they approach those problems differently and with creativity. They can also understand different customer requirements and concerns.
We often help clients recruit for their own teams and, again, diversity helps from this standpoint too - providing a much wider talent pool for businesses to choose from.
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How to build an exceptional engineering team
Q: How do you build a great team in the world of cloud engineering?
Our cloud engineering teams in AND are very diverse and engineering-led. Typically, candidates need skills across programming, containerisation, DevOps, database management, APIs, virtualisation, and web services, to name a few.
My focus is on increasing the level of ambition we have in terms of the scale and complexity of the engineering problems that we solve.
Some of those problems may be invisible to the client – addressing the security, performance or reliability issues so many digital businesses face in the cloud, for example. Those processes and technologies that aren’t at the forefront of most people’s minds – but you’d certainly notice them if they disappeared. We help businesses understand and prioritise those issues.
To achieve this, I’m building teams dominated by engineers working on engineering problems. But that doesn’t mean I’m looking for one type of candidate.
Cloud engineering requires people with a diversity of experiences and perspectives to help us problem solve and identify novel solutions. We need cloud software engineers, systems engineers, network engineers. We need a vast range of skills to make this work.
AND's diverse and inclusive culture
Q: What are your experiences with diversity at AND, and how do you continue to promote diversity?
When I joined AND I had a six month old baby.
When I started work, there was a shared understanding that I – and everyone else at AND – have different things going on in our lives. Our families are regarded as part of our working lives. AND will flex around that. I didn’t feel like special things were being done for me – a culture just exists that allows me to be where I need to be both for my family and career.
AND also has many visible role models, helping to create a diverse and inclusive culture. You can clearly see that those important decisions are made by a range of different people. There’s a realness to it.
Another thing I personally value, and this aligns with AND’s own ethos, is investing in early career talent. The AND Academy, for example, offers an exclusive eight-week program to its cloud engineers, where you can gain an external industry certification at the end, from one of the top platform providers.
Also, every new ANDi also goes through a one-week onboarding process, learning about the company and its values, covering topics including bias and building teams that feel safe with each other.
Attracting a diversity of talent also brings a diversity to your problem solving – it means we’re not just doing more of the same, we can be ambitious, do different things, solve complex problems for our clients.
We're always on the lookout for talented and ambitious engineers. Join us: search all cloud engineering roles.