John O’Connell, head of production engineering at eShopWorld Image: eShopWorld
John O’Connell, head of production engineering at eShopWorld. Image: eShopWorld

How did the advent of cloud transform product engineering?

17 May 2018

For eShopWorld’s John O’Connell, it is the rapid pace of technological change that keeps his work varied and interesting.

Given the ubiquity of cloud technology nowadays, it’s difficult to comprehend how relatively recent an innovation it is. As recently as the early 2000s, cloud still had yet to penetrate the mainstream. Back then, cloud was in the same position as blockchain is today.

As head of production engineering at eShopWorld, John O’Connell is well aware of the transformations in the industry of late. For him, keeping pace with new technologies means that his job is incredibly varied and each day brings with it unique challenges.

We spoke to O’Connell about his role in eShopWorld, his typical day (if there even is one) and how the advent of cloud totally changed his working life.

What is your role within eShopWorld?

I am head of production engineering at eShopWorld and technical lead on the eShopWorld platform team.

Production engineering has teams ranging from DevOps, cloud infrastructure, automation, security and database to production support and helpdesk.

The platform team is responsible for building the next-generation eShopWorld platform and tooling to improve velocity and developer productivity.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

Working in a cloud-only (multi-cloud) agile environment means that, fortunately, my days are really varied.

Typically, I would review production dashboards and catch up with the various teams in the morning, take part in stand-ups and then plan my day around the various ongoing initiatives.

What types of project do you work on?

The production engineering and platform teams would always be working on a number of initiatives in parallel.

Currently, we are working on the next-generation platform using cloud PaaS components to power future growth, resiliency and performance needs; information security and GDPR; implementing an enterprise resource planning system; and roll-out of improved cloud automation tooling.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

Problem-solving, analysis, teamwork and communication would be the skills used every day.

The technology space and eShopWorld business are evolving fast and provide excitement and challenges in equal measure. Having and using these skills is an important success factor.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

Keeping up with rapid innovation of the company for our customers and frequent changes in the technology space introduces complexity, which keeps us on our toes. This makes each working day hard but also exciting.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

Automate, automate, automate. We hate toil and are always looking to code or automate to remove toil so we can solve tomorrow’s challenge.

We also use a range of tools for communication ranging, from PagerDuty to Microsoft Teams and Slack, to coordinate across the teams.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

Working with multiple agile teams, I quickly learned that multitasking was very important to succeed in my role.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

The advent of cloud computing and the move towards shipping less code more frequently has increased the need for continuous integration and delivery tools, and tooling for observability of the platform.

The risk associated with large big-bang releases is a thing of the past and we are moving towards multiple releases per day and more frequent product feature shipping.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I enjoy working with smart and fun people delivering value for retailers. The culture is also friendly, with most of the team having started in the last two years, so it was easy to slot in.

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