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Leading DevOps Transformation at Nationwide: Insights from Sanmat Jhanjhari

Mon 26 Feb 2024

Ahead of DevOps Live at ExCeL London on 6-7 March, Techerati spoke with Sanmat Jhanjhari, the DevOps Lead at Nationwide Building Society.

Sanmat reflected on three significant years that have notably shaped his career and life, offering insights into the transformative power of leadership and the adoption of DevOps practices in a traditional banking institution.

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Building Foundations and Team Dynamics

Jhanjhari’s initial year was marked by the ambitious task of rolling out a centralised service within Nationwide, a challenge compounded by his self-described ‘pedantic nature’.

Leading a team of six engineers, he embarked on a journey to develop a service that would serve as a cornerstone for the organisation’s DevOps transformation. This period was characterised by a focus on establishing clear ways of working, avoiding the pitfalls of creating ‘Rangers’ – a reference to the lone-hero archetype often depicted in IT narratives like The Phoenix Project.

“It was all about leading the team … being pretty disciplined and pedantic, it was a bit difficult to shape the world,” Sanmat explained, highlighting the initial hurdles in establishing a productive team environment.

The emphasis was on clarity, documentation, and the establishment of guardrails to ensure a standardised approach to work. This was not about imposing rigid structures, but about fostering an environment where everyone, regardless of their background or previous experiences, could contribute effectively.

The challenge was to harmonise diverse working styles and experiences into a cohesive team dynamic, an endeavor that required flexibility, openness to experimentation, and a commitment to psychological safety.

Leadership Growth and Empowerment

Sanmat’s second year represented a period of significant personal and professional growth. Transitioning from an individual contributor to a line manager, he navigated the ‘unknown unknowns’ of leadership.

This journey was about more than just managing a team; it was about fostering an environment where the team could thrive, innovate, and become self-sufficient.

Key to this transformation was the establishment of a psychologically safe environment where team members felt empowered to voice their concerns, challenge ideas, and contribute to the collective vision.

Nationwide’s modern blueprint, emphasising honesty, directness, and the pursuit of excellence, served as a guiding principle. Jhanjhari focused on empowering his team members, encouraging a culture of autonomy, and ensuring that feedback channels were open and reciprocal.

“It took a while to build a bond with the team members … but what we managed to do is create a fabric of trust and transparency,” he shared.

This approach was not without its challenges, but through continuous experimentation and a focus on creating a safe space for open dialogue, the team began to thrive.

Harnessing Team Power and Fostering Innovation

The third year saw the culmination of Jhanjhari’s efforts to build a high-performing team. With the foundational elements in place and a strong team dynamic established, the focus shifted outward.

The goal was to scale the adoption of the centralised DevOps services the team had developed, necessitating a more external focus and engagement with broader organizational stakeholders.

This phase was about leveraging the team’s collective power to innovate and drive forward Nationwide’s DevOps initiatives.

Jhanjhari’s leadership style evolved to emphasise delegation, trust, and the promotion of leaders within the team. This period was characterised by a strong emphasis on continuous improvement, challenging the status quo, and a relentless pursuit of excellence without succumbing to the pitfalls of perfectionism.

“The focus should not be on getting the best out of me, but on getting the best out of the team,” said Sanmat.

This ethos has led to the promotion of team members to leadership positions and the continuous delivery of successful projects.

The Future of DevOps at Nationwide

As Sanmat looks to the future, his focus remains on empowering his team, fostering a culture of innovation, and ensuring that Nationwide’s DevOps practices continue to evolve. He believes in the power of leading by example, promoting diversity and inclusion, and recognising and rewarding team members’ initiatives.

As he prepares to share his experiences at DevOps Live, Sanmat’s story serves as an inspiration for those looking to navigate the complexities of digital transformation and foster a culture of innovation within their organisations.

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