DevOps Industry Awards Judging Panel: Darren Griggs

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Darren Griggs is the Director of Engineering of Vanquis Bank.

Darren’s 37-year career has constantly been at the heart of the latest technology. Starting his career as a software developer in the days when you sat with the business, having full knowledge of the business process in achieving customer satisfaction, developing code immediately on the back of business needs, testing and deploying on the same day. Sounds familiar, this is how banks worked in the ’80s.

Darren moved away from development as the financial services industry reacted to regulatory requirements creating controls that resulted in software delivery becoming abstract from business and customer needs.

Darren has been an evangelist since a chance meeting with Gene Kim a decade ago and has been on a quest to introduce ways of working which result in the experience he had as a young developer. Job satisfaction in creating beautiful customer experiences with the absolute context of business, product, and customer. Creating an environment of creativity that fosters innovation.

Darren has recently started a new quest in Vanquis Bank to achieve that very outcome, and he continues to serve those engineers that create beautiful customer experiences from a blank canvas.

Darren will be part of the judging panel at the DevOps Industry Awards 2021.

 

Can you introduce yourself and your current role?

I’m Darren Griggs and I am the Director of Engineering at Vanquis Bank. I’m accountable for technology delivery across engineering capabilities. At the moment, we’re building upon our strengths as a bank, towards becoming the customer champion of our sector.

I feel very fortunate to work with some brilliant engineers and people. We are always looking to improve our ways of working and deliver the best products and services. It’s a pretty cool job.

What inspired you to get involved in the IT industry?

When I was a child, I was always fascinated by technology. I liked all of those things that involved computers.

When I was a school, there was a computer in a very small room. I used to spend break and lunchtime to try to understand how it worked, these were the very first school computers. Then my parents brought a Sinclair spectrum. It came with a book that taught you how to write code and create experiences, so that’s where it all started and at the time it was an exciting hobby to have.

I think that was what inspired me to get into IT. Fortunately, my school introduced computers to my parents which provided the opportunity and has continued to fascinate me since…

Can you tell me about your journey and how you got where you are now?

I’ve been very fortunate, to be honest. I was very good at math and I got a two-week job experience in the first year of my A-levels. At the end of these two weeks, they offered me a job. I was going to say no as I was in my first year, but it paid £40 a week – which was an amazing amount of money back then! So, I said yes.

My first job was in bookkeeping and I continued to study accounting at night school. I quickly realized that it wasn’t as interesting as I expected, but I had a really good department manager who started to get to know me and asked what I enjoyed doing. I told him what I was doing when I wasn’t working, and he told me about an opportunity. So, I moved on as a computer operator.

There, I was changing tapes on tape drives 7 feet tall, and hard drives 12” wide and 6” deep. Now, these computers were so large you needed a room about 40 ft wide and long to put them in, with very heavy air conditioning as they got so hot. I started to become curious about the programming that sat behind these huge computers, I was then sent on a 6-week training course, and there I was a software developer and started to do delivery. I moved from software to testing, then infrastructure, service delivery, and support, I was learning how IT works. This was a progressing journey.

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work with some great leaders. One of them called Boe taught me how to explore my curiosity and, instead of working for the organization, get the organization to satisfy my curiosity. To do that, you have to share your ideas, influence people…

One day, I sat down with him and tried to figure ways to reduce the failure rates in operations… How to fix it before it fails. That is how I started to get involved in DevOps and how to improve workflows &  quality, reduce errors… It really guided me towards the path I am now today. A chance meeting with Gene Kim also helped cement that thinking, and really help me work out how big a challenge that was going to be and the level of influence and support you needed to have any chance of succeeding.

Still to this day, the use of technology and continuous learning and improvement is a journey that has no end.

What made you want to become a judge for the DevOps Industry Awards?

I was asked to do it and I thought it was pretty cool! I get to see what else is going on across the DevOps communities. I think that is a great opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of what’s going on and understand how people are solving today’s challenges.

To be able to judge so many different entries in such various categories, it’s amazing! It’s so wide. It started years ago as such as small thing and now it touches everything! It’s just incredible, to be honest.

What are you looking for in the entries?

The most important thing is how it creates value. It’s really important how you explore the opportunity and value of a project, a product.

There are a lot of different angles to look at to try and understand what it meant for the company, for the people, for the client, for the stakeholders, shareholders, etc

The question is: how far does the value go? You need to think like a pebble dropping into the water about those ripples, and how they extend across the organization and create value over time.

It does take a lot of effort and time to be a judge, you have to be conscious of how much effort goes into each and every entry, how many people have given their time for this. But it’s so worth it.

How to keep your team motivated despite challenges and hardship?

I think transparency and staying open and honest. You need to take the time to talk about things and care for people.

It’s been a difficult time and there was nothing we could do to prepare ourselves for this. So, having good collaboration across organizational boundaries as well as making sure everyone is aware, understands, and is conscious of the challenge It’s a matter of working as a big team and helping everybody through it.

It’s important to create a platform to share ideas and share what’s going on. Always try to create space for people to be comfortable and ask for help.

What are you the proudest of in your career so far?

It’s the engagement and the opportunity to work with different people. When you meet lots of different people, you learn new things, new ways, and new ideas. Things you never thought about before. With people engagement, you can achieve amazing things.

I’m proudest of being able to overcome constraints that were never thought possible, helping people achieve things they thought impossible.

One of my favorite quotes “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine” – Alan Turing.

What has been your greatest challenge?

How to get buy-in, how to influence real change. How to adjust to new ways of working. That’s something I’m very conscious of. Helping unlearn what is known and starting afresh is a constant challenge.

What is the favorite part of your job?

Working with the people. Meeting different people, working with them to achieve what seems impossible. Working with people to get through problems and solving them.

Finally, do you have any advice for this year’s participants?

Think about business value. It needs to be interesting and satisfying. You need to think about how it creates value – how far does your value ripples, like a pebble in the water

Think about the customers, the company, the stakeholders, and everyone involved!

 

To participate to the DevOps Industry Awards, click HERE.

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