Welcome to the next feature in our Leaders in Tech editorial series. Speaking to leaders in the industry to capture their stories, career highs and lows, their trials and successes, their current company and their role, most recent projects, advice to others, and the individuals who they most look up to in the industry.
This week, we talked to Ricardo Moreira, DevOps Manager at Vodafone Business, to find out more about why he joined the tech industry, what his role entails, what are the challenges he faces as a tech leader, and his advice to aspiring engineers and developers.
What is your current role and responsibilities?
My current role is as DevOps Manager for Vodafone Business IT’s Delivery Factory. I’m responsible for 5 different DevOps services with 53 engineers in total located in the UK, Egypt, and India.
What inspired you to get involved in the IT industry?
Back in the 80s my first personal computer was a 48kb Spectrum, “Chucky Egg” and being able to “write” to the computer to do whatever my creativity could think of. From there, I wanted to learn what was happening under the keyboard (literally) – that’s what I call a life-changing present!
Can you tell me about your journey and how you got where you are now?
I could write an entire book about it – who knows, one day! Long story short, as I mentioned before, it all started with my first computer and the discovery of Basic as a programming language. Then, still in high school, I wanted to know more about how it was possible for a machine to work like that, the electronics behind it. I found out the wonders of Transistors and 8086 16-bit microprocessors and Assembly language!
From there, I moved onto the likes of building my own projects like automated kitchen extractor vents or a car battery health checker to mention just a few. Earlier booms of the internet becoming available generally to home consumers (who doesn’t remember those ultra-fast 58kbs modems or that high pitched sound of the handshake of your modem with the ISP server?!) and “accidentally” stumbling across a portable CB radio from the 1970s made me curious to know more about the Telecommunications world ultimately leading me into attending a Telecommunications and Electronics Degree in Portugal… but that wasn’t really what I was looking for though, I had the luck to get more details around Linux OS and C, C++ and Python and had the chance to do some freelance jobs building websites.
What started to excite me was being able to build stuff and automate or auxiliary any manual reoccurring tasks. From there, I was into doing freelance jobs such as corporate websites, industrial IT support, and my favorite – Freelance coding (Python, Android, IoS). It was during this freelance work that I came across meeting many people around the globe and started to get in touch with the mindset and concept of Agile, the likes for the industry operational best practice frameworks, and concepts like Lean and Kaizen. I can say I was really lucky to be involved with the industry and different teams and specialists from around the world very early on in my career.
I would like to mention a pivotal moment in my career when I was directly managing around 100 people from many different nationalities and backgrounds in a food factory for a year and a half. It was a really eye-opening experience for me around people management skills and from which I learned some valuable lessons for life.
After this moment, I returned to an IT career path as a Software Developer where I have been involved in the full lifecycle from design through to delivery of a product for ‘Tier 1’ Telecommunications companies. With the success of this product, I had the opportunity to build a team responsible for development and support in an Agile ecosystem, having the ownership of designing, implementing, deploying, and supporting not only the product but other side projects as well. The mindset of this “offshore” team was (and still is) to automate everything that was being done by hand and monitor and control the software development lifecycle – something that these days we call DevOps or DevSecOps (we even added a new virtual team member which we affectionately called “Bot”)!
Most recently, I’ve been involved in the awesome and exciting task of leading the way for Vodafone Business IT in DevOps where once again I built from scratch a high-performing team that was established to be DevOps enablers and center of excellence for the different projects across Vodafone Business IT.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
I don’t have a traditional approach to this topic as I tend to borrow a little bit from everywhere that I think could make a difference in my life. That includes people like my first Portuguese boss and his very peculiar and pragmatic leadership style to very successful people like Elon Musk. I can’t leave without referring to some other personal sources of inspiration like the Agile manifesto, Kaizen, and to “very” old school books like Hagakure or Sun Tzu.
How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?
With innovation and taking them out from their comfort zones, showing them that the only way to overcome any obstacle is always through teamwork and resilience, and the fact that together we are stronger.
What are your current goals?
I want to share the lessons learned and best practices from implementing the Vodafone Business IT Delivery Factory DevOps model for high performing teams in order to help, learn, and continuously improve with my colleagues in a collaborative way.
What are you the proudest of in your career so far?
Some of my proudest moments are when I really make a difference with people, knowing that I was an enabler for their success – that’s what gives me strong feelings of fulfillment and a sense of “mission accomplished”.
On a more private note and a “secret” pleasure is a service that was designed and coded by me that is still in use since I built it in 2011 without any bug or incident in a highly demanding production environment.
What has been your greatest challenge?
One of my biggest challenges was in a fast-paced and very demanding environment where the team I worked with didn’t speak any of the languages that I’m fluent in (English, Portuguese, etc)!
What is the favorite part of your job?
Being able to coach teams and see that they are progressing and being successful and being part of the process to build “stuff”.
What have you learned from your experience so far?
No matter the background or upbringing of a person, we all have hidden talents that are just waiting to be unleashed.
Also, it’s impossible to please everyone, accept it!
Do you have a memorable story or an anecdote from your experience you’d like to tell?
Once, I was working hard on coding parsers with my team for an ETL system when all of a sudden the offshore office manager introduced me to someone on his video call. The gentleman started to ask me some random questions about where I was living, whether I had kids, what I was doing at the moment etc. I was so focused on the algorithm we were building that all I could say was “one of these days, outside working hours, let’s have a coffee or drink and I will be more than happy to explain what I am doing, but now please forgive me I have got to get my head around this code“.
The following day I received a phone call from my superior asking me what the hell I did yesterday as the CEO wanted to have a word with me as soon as he gets the chance to visit our office – of course, I replied nothing as I didn’t remember meeting or speaking to the CEO. Of course, the gentleman on the call was the CEO! He kept good to his word and we went out for food and a good chat around work!
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring engineers and testers who want to grow in the tech industry?
- Be honest and sincere about your faults, knowing your weaknesses is halfway to making improvements.
- Be resilient and accept that failure is part of your learning process.
- Accept everyone’s point of view. You never know where the solution will come from.
- Never work by yourself – be part of a wider team.
- And lastly, always challenge yourself and respect your colleagues.