3 ways cloud services engineers drive innovation at ServiceNow

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  • 2021
October 15, 2021

3 cloud services engineers at ServiceNow

The Seattle-based cloud services engineering team at ServiceNow has cultivated a culture of creativity, risk-taking, and problem-solving—despite the weight of their work being deployed at a global scale across some of the most complex regulated markets.

The members of the team have varying backgrounds, roles, and years of experience, yet they have one thing in common: They greet new challenges with a “beginner’s mind” in order to have a fresh eye and foster opportunities to grow and learn together. Here are three ways ServiceNow cloud services engineers are making the world work better:

1. Taking risks and trying new things

For this team, a great deal of calculated risk-taking and out-of-the-box thinking goes into achieving successful outcomes for the company.

Director of Systems Engineering Danna R. pushes her team to continually expand their knowledge and skills while they work. “There is no shortage of interesting and cutting-edge work in systems engineering. I encourage my team to follow their passion and volunteer to work on projects that stretch them technically and professionally,” she says.

“When tackling a problem, we always look for a way to ‘yes’—a way to solve. We also know that becoming complacent and not adapting to new ideas and new technologies is not going to keep us in the front of the pack. We never take the easy approach, just to check off a box. We are not afraid of uncertainty, and we have an environment where challenging decisions and status quo are healthy and encouraged,” she adds.

Jamil A., senior manager of cloud capacity planning and forecasting, says his team is always looking toward the future. “We think in terms of innovation and scale. We think about what's next—whether that's scaling the design of our capacity infrastructure, teams, tools, or processes,” he shares. “My favorite part of our team's evolution is the journey we're on to deliver value that exceeds our customers' expectations at new levels.” 

Software Engineer Prachi V. enjoys jumping in with open-minded curiosity to learn new things and solve new puzzles. “This year, we are onboarding at least seven different server types, and each has its own configuration requirement. The servers that we provision are then used by the platform team to run ServiceNow instances,” she says. “It’s really fun diving into the details and understanding the configurations for every server.” 

“It’s really fun diving into the details and understanding the configurations for every server.” Prachi V.,  senior software engineer, ServiceNow

2. Mentorship and career growth

Danna believes mentorship is an important part of “lifting all ships” at ServiceNow, especially on the cloud services engineering team, where things are constantly evolving. “We onboarded six interns last summer, and we challenged them with some really fun work. They got to partner with some amazing engineers and solve real problems for us,” she says. “Hopefully, they will become part of the ServiceNow team when they graduate.”

Prachi is living proof of that. She began her career at ServiceNow as an intern more than a year ago. “Even while interning, I felt valued by my team, and they gave me great opportunities and still continue to do so,” she shares.

“When I joined, I knew nothing about server provisioning. It’s just been a year, yet it seems like I’ve covered a lot of ground already. I was able to take on new responsibilities and branched out to different domains. This gave me a good overview of how we work and what we do,” she explains. “Of course, I had to ask for help from time to time, but everyone on the team was supportive and we didn’t miss a single deadline.”

Danna echoes Prachi's sentiment, saying it's common for the team to encourage members to shadow and rotate within other teams.

As the company grows, teams expand, and opportunity flourishes. “When I joined the team, we were a small group of talented engineers managing all aspects of capacity, planning, engineering, and operations in one time zone,” Jamil notes. “Today, our team has evolved to a global presence on three continents in multiple time zones in less than two years, with plans to expand to a fourth this year.”

"There's a lot of thirst for what we can bring to the table. It's a matter of figuring out how to make complex things simple for people who are not from the field." Jamil A., senior management, reliability engineering management, ServiceNow

3. Teamwork and partnerships

Many engineers take pride in knowing they create the foundation for other teams to succeed in the company. Jamil gives insight into how the team handles challenges and fast-moving shifts in company demand: “We most often use what I like to call the Batman approach to capacity planning. We try to anticipate and prepare for every outcome,” he says.

“Our team recently received the highly unusual ask to pivot our demand signal in response to a significant customer acquisition in the quarter's closing hours. This challenged the team to deliver a substantial amount of unforeseen capacity to one region. Working with our partner teams in cloud supply chain, capacity management, and finance, we quickly performed an impact assessment, iterated through the scenarios, and presented our solutions,” he explains. “As a result, we delivered the largest order of server hardware for our cloud in a single quarter, with optimizations that met our long-term capacity planning objectives.”  

Danna shares a similar story of partnership, creativity, and innovation: “Recently, we were asked if we could use a third party’s data center and infrastructure to host our services—basically, provide our SaaS from someone else’s data center. This seemed crazy. A long shot. Monumental. We put our engineers to work, and we partnered with Microsoft,” she notes. 

“It has been a long road, but in March 2021, we launched our first ServiceNow implementation fully running in Azure. Unblocking this barrier gives us leverage to know that we can be flexible and try out new markets without building data centers ourselves. It will also allow us to use cloud-native services that others have developed already,” she adds.

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