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Achieving Excellence in DevSecOps with PepsiCo’s Julia Khromova

Thu 22 Feb 2024

Ahead of DevOps Live at ExCeL London on the 6-7 March at ExCeL London, Techerati caught up with Julia Khromova, the DevSecOps Excellence Lead at PepsiCo.

Julia shared her remarkable journey over the past three years, highlighting the challenges, triumphs, and invaluable lessons learned that have profoundly shaped her passion for DevOps culture.

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2021: The Year of Foundation and Resilience

In 2021, Julia Khromova, as the service transition lead for a major digital transformation project, was at the helm of establishing a new DevOps organisation.

As the service transition lead for a major digital transformation project, Julia was at the helm of establishing a new DevOps organisation.

The Onset of a Transformative Journey

The task at hand was monumental: to deliver digital transformation with the first deployment in the UK and lay the groundwork for a Europe DevSecOps setup that prioritised speed and efficiency in a corporate giant like PepsiCo.

It involved navigating the complexities of team shaping, onboarding, and delivering massive knowledge transfer, culminating in taking over the support and future development of a huge enterprise solution.

Julia said: “We were faced with initial setup hurdles as we worked to establish a new Europe DevSecOps organisation. But working alongside some amazing professionals like the DevSecOps Europe lead and his team made it all worthwhile.

“It was intense, with days stretching up to 14 hours and a ton of pressure. But by the end of the year, we’d built a solid foundation for a DevOps setup focused on speed and efficiency”.

The adoption of agile/SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) methodologies, integrated with IT service management (ITSM) practices, became their beacon of hope. This strategic approach allowed them to prioritise delivery while ensuring that support functions remained front and centre.

The Impact of COVID-19 and the Importance of Balance

The COVID-19 pandemic caused additional pain to the hurdles of 2021.

“The stress got even more intense because we were tackling a transformation project entirely remotely. It meant no face-to-face meetings and relying heavily on Zoom calls. It was surreal,” said Julia.

Like many others, instead of seeing colleagues in person, Julia was interacting through avatars, with kids and pets making surprise appearances in the background.

“Despite all the craziness, we always found time to share a laugh. Keeping a sense of humour was key to getting through those tough times,” added Julia.

Reflecting on the impact of the pandemic, Julia highlighted how it necessitated a complete transformation in work dynamics, particularly emphasising the significance of maintaining a work-life balance during such tumultuous times.

“One big lesson I took away from all that chaos is the importance work-life balance, and making sure to recharge your batteries,” said Julia.

2022: A Year of Growth and Collaboration

2022 stands out as a remarkable year of growth, collaboration, and profound learning for Julia Khromova.

After the foundational challenges and resilience-building experiences of 2021 in the UK, this year presented an opportunity for Julia and her team at PepsiCo to truly harness the power of DevOps and agile principles, leading to a period of unparalleled teamwork and efficiency.

Seamless Teamwork and the Success of Second Deployment

The second deployment in Poland marked a significant milestone for Julia’s team, showcasing the fruits of their labour and the effectiveness of their collaborative efforts.

“Our second deployment in Poland went way smoother, all thanks to the awesome teamwork between the business and IT, and the way Dev and Ops teams synced up seamlessly,” Julia reminisced.

This success was not just a testament to the technical skills of the team but also their dedication to embracing a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.

Learning from the Past

One of the key lessons from 2022 was the importance of reflecting on past experiences to forge a better path forward.

Julia and her team took the insights gained from the challenges of 2021 and applied them to improve their processes and approaches.

“We took what we learned from the ups and downs of 2021 and made some changes that really helped us streamline our processes and work smarter,” she explained.

This adaptability and willingness to learn from failure are core tenets of agile principles, emphasising the value of delivering impactful results early and often, and ensuring alignment and understanding across all team members.

The Magic of Business and IT Synergy

A critical realisation for Julia and her team in 2022 was the transformative impact of a strong partnership between business and IT. In many large organisations, IT can become isolated, focusing on technical goals without fully aligning with the business’s needs.

However, Julia’s team broke down these barriers, fostering a culture where business stakeholders were treated as integral partners in the DevOps journey.

“Right from the beginning, our new DevSecOps crew made it a priority to partner with business, treating them like VIPs,” Julia highlighted.

This approach not only accelerated the project’s success but also cultivated a sense of shared ownership and enthusiasm for the product across the organisation.

Dedication to Continuous Improvement

The success was largely attributed to the team’s commitment to excellence and continuous improvement. By fostering an environment where feedback was actively sought and implemented, Julia’s team was able to achieve significant advancements in their DevOps practices.

“It was all about the team’s dedication to getting better every day and their commitment to working closely with business stakeholders,” Julia noted.

This mindset shift towards embracing change and striving for betterment each day was instrumental in navigating the complexities of DevOps and achieving remarkable outcomes.

2023: Leading DevSecOps Excellence in North America

In 2023, Julia Khromova embarked on a pivotal chapter in her career, leading the DevSecOps Excellence team in North America for PepsiCo.

This year was a transformative period that saw Julia steering the team towards innovation, collaboration, and operational efficiency.

Fostering a Culture of Continuous Improvement

“Throughout the year, I focused on fostering a culture of continuous improvement, collaboration, and innovation within the team,” Julia reflected.

This approach was not just about refining processes or introducing automation; it was about creating an environment where every team member felt empowered to suggest changes, experiment with new ideas, and learn from both successes and failures.

Introducing Automation and Refining Processes

“By introducing automation, refining processes, and nurturing talent, we were able to achieve remarkable results,” Julia stated, highlighting the tangible impact of these initiatives on the team’s performance.

Nurturing Talent and Team Spirit

Recognising the importance of individual growth, Julia invested in training and mentorship programs that equipped her team with the skills needed to excel in their roles.

This focus on talent nurturing went hand in hand with fostering a strong team spirit, ensuring that every member felt valued and part of a cohesive unit striving towards common goals.

The efforts to foster a culture of innovation, automate processes, and nurture talent paid off significantly.

“It paid off big time. Seeing the team feeling proud of what we accomplished was just awesome,” Julia shared, underscoring the sense of achievement that permeated the team.

The Power of DevOps to Change the Game

Julia’s experience in 2023 solidified her belief in the transformative power of DevOps. By giving it their all, Julia and her team demonstrated that DevOps could significantly impact efficiency, innovation, and team dynamics.

“This whole experience made me even more convinced of the power of DevOps and how it can totally change the game,” she remarks, reflecting on the broader implications of their work.

Empowering Women in DevSecOps

Julia Khromova is not only deeply committed to achieving excellence in DevSecOps, but also dedicated to supporting and uplifting women in the field of IT. Beyond her professional responsibilities, Julia channels her passion for diversity and inclusion into action by spearheading various initiatives and mentorship programs.

In 2021, Julia took the initiative to start a group called WWW (What Women Want) with a group of IT ladies from Enterprise Solutions. This group provided a platform for women to come together and engage in meaningful discussions on a wide range of topics, from cooking to managing work-life balance to staying mentally healthy.

Through these discussions, Julia fostered a sense of community and support among the group members, empowering them to navigate both personal and professional challenges with resilience and confidence.

Building on the success of WWW, Julia continued her efforts to support women in Enterprise Solutions (ES) by leading an ES Mentorship Circle in 2023.

These monthly meetings were designed to cover essential topics such as building a personal brand, collaboration and conflict resolution, personal efficiency, and many others. By providing mentorship and guidance in these areas, Julia aimed to empower women in ES to thrive in their careers and achieve their full potential.

Looking Ahead to DevOps Live

As Julia prepares for her appearance at DevOps Live, her journey through the challenges of the past three years has equipped her with unique insights into the evolving landscape of DevOps.

She emphasised that DevOps should be viewed not just as a methodology or set of practices but as a mindset that adapts to the specific needs of each team and organization.

“DevOps isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution,” Julia advised, encouraging attendees to consider how the core principles of DevOps can be tailored to enhance both team efficiency and business outcomes.

Julia’s anticipation for DevOps Live is tinged with a sense of responsibility—to share her experiences, the lessons learned, and the strategies that have proven effective in fostering a successful DevOps culture.

She aims to inspire others to embrace the principles of continuous improvement, collaboration, and innovation that have been central to her team’s achievements.

“It’s all about figuring out what works best for you and your customers,” Julia asserted, looking forward to engaging with fellow professionals who are equally passionate about pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in DevOps.

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