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Engineering Practice Lead

Last updated: 2022-05-23

Engineering Practice Leads (EPLs) are senior leaders of Infinity Works. They have a broad remit to drive excellence of practice, including technical and delivery quality.

The role is less about working on one specific client account and more about the EPL taking their knowledge, experience and behaviours and make others as good as they are. To make all projects run as smoothly as theirs do. To encourage more people to be ambassadors of the company and the wider industry, in the way that they do. To get people to broaden their skills and work towards being competent all-rounders just like them. Essentially looking after things that are cross-cutting concerns, company-wide. They do not form an "Ivory Tower" of thinkers and approvers, but remain consultants, leading by example to add value for the client. The emphasis is on instilling quality rather than assuring quality. They should embody "Thinkers who do and doers who think."

This role can be carried out by those at career level CL7 Principal and above.

Role Essentials

  • Engineering Practice Leads are still part of the delivery team at Infinity Works and will, where necessary, devote time to working in a hands on capacity on a customer engagement. The expectation is that they will spend approximately 50% of their time in a billable role.
  • They will champion Infinity Works' ways of working, with a bias towards taking action and delivering successful outcomes for customers.
  • They will occasionally be the first person on a new engagement, using their specialist skills to establish solid relationships, better understand the challenges of the engagement, establish effective ways of working and deliver results.
  • They will continue to develop their professional skills to ensure they can effectively support colleagues with help and advice.
  • They will be based wherever necessary to achieve their objectives. This will typically be at a client site or an Infinity Works office. This may include national or international travel from time to time.

The Role in Practice

Engineering Practice Lead is a both a role and a job title. It builds on the role of a Principal Consultant by widening the focus to cover multiple accounts at the same time.

The primary aim of the role is to ensure engagements:

  • Build the right thing
  • Build it right
  • Build it fast enough

Success in the role relies on two very different skills:

  1. Building relationships and working with people to influence outcomes, even when they may initially disagree with you and where you have no direct authority to "tell" them what to do.

  2. A deep knowledge and experience across all aspects of delivering and operating software systems. The ability to think and act holistically, ensuring teams consider how systems will be used and operated from the start, and bring to bear the right tools and techniques at the right time. Proven ability to design and engineer for difficult functional and non-functional requirements.

Engineering Quality

EPLs are responsible for the quality of all engagements across the company. Each EPL will work with designated accounts, independent of region. This is not purely an assurance role, although that is certainly part of it. They need to understand the technical and delivery quality of all engagements they support and be able to influence teams to improve quality where necessary. For example it may be perceived that a particular team are producing too many regressions. The EPL will need to first learn that the quantity of regressions is perceived to be an issue, confirm it is genuinely an issue (not just perception), then understand why this is the case and finally to help the team address the root cause of the regressions.

Cross Pollination

As a "floating" role that gets to see a lot of detail as to what each client account is doing, EPLs are in a good position to "join the dots" and spread knowledge and best practice between accounts and to help others to do so. Similarly they will also share this to the wider EPL community so it can be used throughout the company.

Engineering Culture

Our engineering culture is well documented. EPLs must live the culture themselves and they are responsible for bringing the culture to life, making it a core part of how IW teams conduct themselves. They need to know where we're falling short of our aspirations and be able to address this.

Technology Curation

A core part of our culture is to be "modern not trendy". EPLs are responsible for keeping IW at the forefront of technology, bringing new technologies into the fold when they're ready, and not before. This requires them to remain knowledgeable about modern technology and to influence teams to use appropriate technologies.

As well as keeping the tech modern they are responsible for IW using a diverse range of technology as per the "Right Tools For the Job" part of our culture. They need to be aware of what technology is in use, what is not, and which of those we should introduce. For example we want to have skills across the major three IaaS vendors (AWS, Azure, GCP), rather than focusing on one vendor.

We have many open source contributions and we want to encourage more where appropriate. EPLs are responsible for encouraging, curating and publicising our open source contributions

Working Model

EPLs may work mostly with accounts in their local region, but occasionally accounts will span regions and EPLs will work with Client Practice Leads and Tech Directors to determine which EPL is best suited to handle multi-region accounts.

The bulk of an EPLs time is spent on the Delivery Quality aspect of the job and there are principally three different modes of working to achieve this. All rely on the ability to measure quality, but more importantly to lead by example and instill quality.

New accounts first person in

As it says on the tin, EPLs are sometimes be the first person to start an engagement but crucially they will not be there for the long term. Their role is to get the new engagement off to a good start and get some good foundations in right from the beginning. To avoid getting "stuck" on the account though they must also bring along the person who is going to lead the account going forward and work alongside them during the initial days and weeks. When the time is right they can then exit, ensuring everything is handed over to the long term lead.

Existing account check in

For accounts that are already up and running we need a different approach and here we have the concept of the check in. This is a series of high level qualitative questions that act as prompts to work out where the team can most benefit from some support, in a similar way to an AWS Well Architected Review. EPLs should check in with every account they support at least every 6 months. The check in will show them where the team needs support. It may then be down to them to jump in and help out and establish quality, or perhaps find the right person to help. The EPL keeps the Client Practice Leads, directors and the EPL community informed of their findings and the areas they're helping with.

Self-serve and peer to peer

In addition to the direct support and challenge EPLs provide through the first person in and check in modes of operation, they are also responsible for enabling self-serve and peer to peer mechanisms to ensure quality in a scaleable way. They work with the Technical Director, other EPLs and the wider communities to maintain and evolve the Delivery Quality framework. This allows teams to know what good looks like and to self-assess against that to drive improvement work. They ensure teams have arrangements in place to get support and challenge from peers and that these are effective.

Relationships

Advocate

EPLs have an advocate, just like everyone else in the company.

Client Practice Leads and Account/Tech/Delivery Leads

EPLs should see themselves in a virtual team with the Client Practice Leads, Account Leads, Tech Leads and Delivery Leads for the engagements they support. Their job within that virtual team is to drive continuous improvement by mentoring people and enabling knowledge to be shared.

Other EPLs

EPLs are expected to work with other EPLs across the company and align their goals.

Technical Services Lead

EPLs report to the regional Technical Services Lead, who is ultimately accountable for successful delivery and operations of the engagements they support.

ISO

You'll carry out your role in accordance with the requirements of ISO9001 and ISO27001 as reflected in the Company's policies and procedures and the ISO9001 and ISO27001 organisational structure charts.