Dialogue Series

How to Effectively Manage People in a DevOps and Agile World


With digital innovation advancing and increasing the pace of our lives, IT has moved past the point of being seen as something purely technical. Rather, it is something consumable that is made by people for the benefit of other people.

But consumers have high expectations for how technology is meant to fit into their lives — from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they go to sleep. As such, IT managers, DevOps professionals, security engineers, and other experts are responsible for making that reality possible.

To accomplish such a feat requires focusing on the people within the DevOps space, the role IT management plays in leading them, and the impact team structure has on technical evolution. This is something we’ve been focusing on at my organization Sky, Europe’s leading media and entertainment company with more than 23 million customers across six countries. As Head of Technology Products at Sky, it is my job to provide infrastructure and guidance that make it simple for teams to move projects forward.

With technological advancements continuing to accelerate, it’s more important than ever to prioritize effective team structure and management. In this episode of DevSecTalks, I met with host Ashley Ward to discuss different methods of structuring and managing IT teams, advice for leaders looking to improve their strategy and communication skills, and the various ways IT professionals can take steps to advance their careers in this rapidly-changing industry.

The Speed of Technical Evolution and its Impact on DevOps Teams

In traditional enterprises, operations teams were clearly split from development and engineering teams. This evolved into DevOps, which instead entails continuous back and forth communication. Now, we’ve shifted from DevOps to DevSecOps, in which security architects, engineers, and other cybersecurity professionals are also involved in the development lifecycle.

Technological advances haven’t just changed the pace of work, but also the way we structure our teams. Additionally, our view of technology has to evolve to ensure it is useful for the people using it because every decision has an almost immediate impact.

For example, consider how easy it may be from the business side to express the need to move to the cloud. But from a team and people perspective, it’s critical to think about such questions as, “How does shifting left fit within the framework that security teams have built?” This is what connects modern technology with the human aspect of software development, and it illustrates why effective IT management is a key component of successful digital transformation.

How to Achieve Effective IT Management

It is not enough to recognize the human element of technical evolution for modern enterprises. We must also recognize what constitutes effective IT management and how it is different from the technical work itself.

Understand the Difference Between Leadership and Management

If you’ve been an engineer and suddenly find yourself in a management position, it may be daunting to think about the “people” side of your world. I’m here to let you know that it isn’t all that scary. In fact, if you understand the difference between leadership and management, it can make things easier right from the start.

I see leadership as setting a positive example through the work you do whereas management is more about achieving the best possible outcome from a given set of constraints, including people, quality, time, etc.

Be a Part of the Team First

This means that each person is just that — a person with thoughts, feelings, goals, frustrations, and so on. Each individual makes up a piece of the whole team, so effective IT management means you have to start with yourself.

Start by being accountable for your decisions and don’t be afraid to speak up. Even if a choice you made ended up not being the right one, it served as a learning opportunity. This is also true for managing your own manager. The biggest piece of knowledge I can share with you here is that for anything management-related, always start with how you manage yourself.

Develop IT Manager Skills

There are many books and YouTube videos that provide guidance around fine-tuning your IT management skills, so do some research to find good resources. It is also important to be patient with yourself as you learn these new skills.

As you educate yourself on how to become a good manager, be sure to take time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you see where you can augment skills you already have and improve upon those that might not come as naturally.

Making the Leap to an IT Management Position

Having held various leadership and management positions at every company I’ve worked at, I have learned quite a bit along the way. If you are thinking about how to become a manager at your organization, keep these three considerations in mind:

  1. Know that a manager’s job is to work on behalf of everyone else. Think about how can you use your knowledge and expertise to help those reporting to you.
  2. Take time to learn the ins and outs of your organization, such as how the finance department works. Familiarize yourself with how funding works for your team’s projects. It is also wise to identify the key members of other departments who you’ll need to interact with in order to move projects forward for your team.
  3. Consider talking to your current manager about your interest in management to gain insight into what the experience is like. See what projects you could take on so that you are gradually managing something important, even if it is not other people just yet.

Expand your IT Management Expertise With My Episode of DevSecTalks

Even though our industry typically focuses on the technical aspects of IT, it has been fascinating for me to see how the evolution of cloud native security as a whole, which includes teams and people, has evolved.

To gain more insight into the concepts explained in this post and how you can become an IT manager, I encourage you to watch my episode of DevSecTalks. And be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode or post.

Connect to Meaningful Experiences With Sky

Sky is Europe’s leading media and entertainment company with more than 23 million customers across six countries. They offer a variety of broadcast and media products and services, including live streaming, cable TV, and cellular services, and are committed to furthering their social impact commitments.

To learn more about Sky products and businesses, their pledge to become a net-zero carbon company by 2030, and career opportunities, be sure to visit their website.

About the Author

Bryan Ross is the Head of Technology Products at Sky. He is passionate about developing effective teams and creating simple solutions to complex business problems. Bryan has held management and leadership positions in organizations both big and small and believes that focusing on the customer experience can help make IT faster, easier, and more valuable to the modern business.