Career Lessons and Learning Resources with DevOps Institute Global Ambassador, Feisal Ismail

Culture and Human Skills, Upskilling

DevOps Institute Ambassadors are volunteers from across the globe that want to help advance the career opportunities in IT and support emerging practices within the DevOps community based on a human-centered SKIL Framework, consisting of Skills, Knowledge, Ideas, and Learning.  

These individuals are advocates for the “Humans of DevOps” and are industry pioneers who are passionate about the DevOps movement, are recognized DevOps subject matter experts and who voluntarily contribute to the Collective Body of Knowledge (CBok) of DevOps. 

This week, we are proud to feature an Ambassador from Singapore, Feisal Ismail, principal consultant at Sapience Consulting. 

Below, we asked Feisal a few questions about the most important skills in his line of work, challenges he has encountered during his career, and his favorite resources for learning. 

With extensive technical and managerial experience supporting organisations across government, pharmaceutical, banking, and financial industries, Feisal is well-versed in creating and leading high-performing teams through effective work methodologies that leverage technology and best practices to achieve organizational objectives. A firm believer in DevOps, which he feels is essential in what he calls the “want it now” age, he is committed to advancing knowledge and trading experiences in this once-emerging, now-mainstream practice.

(You can connect with Feisal directly via LinkedIn).

Q: In your opinion, what skills are most important in your line of work today and why?

This is true now and I believe will be true for a long time to come. Communication skills – in particular, LISTENING and ELICITATION are the most important skills. There is an observed tendency amongst folks in technology departments to go into immediate action-mode and arrive at a solution within seconds of a conversation with a stakeholder without clearly and fully understanding the issue at hand. The end-result and desired outcomes will then be at risk if the start is botched.

This is not to say that the other skills, including technical and process skills, are relegated to second-tier skills – not at all.

Q: Tell us about a challenge you’ve encountered in your job or career and how you overcame that obstacle.

In my capacity as a consultant at Sapience, the biggest issue we consistently face in our engagements is the successful adoption of any implemented or revised frameworks and practices. It can’t just look good on paper.

The tricky part is usually the socialization of the new ways of working in a way that minimizes resistance. There are no silver bullets and nothing is ever “frictionless.” This often requires a careful assessment of the organizational culture, management appetite for change and levels of support, staff skills and competencies, and incorporating the right type of technology used. 

Open and honest treatment of the identified gaps in collaboration with our clients is essential.

Q: What are your favorite sources or mediums for learning? i.e. how do you learn best and why?

I am personally partial toward instructor-led learning sessions. Call me traditional but I think that there’s magic in a classroom-setting with participants from different industries and different job-profiles sharing their perspectives. Virtual sessions can also be fun but I think I learn best from the cross-pollination of ideas when it is expertly facilitated within four walls. Do not discount the value of the inevitable water-cooler casual conversations with fellow participants during breaks and even after class. I can attest to some enduring friendships arising from those occasions.

Lately, I’ve enjoyed watching short talks over TEDtalk. My learning diet is quite diverse and I am particularly fascinated by talks relating to the human condition.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give someone starting their career in tech?

“Be curious” 

It is the same advice I will give anyone starting out in any career. We all had that curious streak in us as children and then, along the way, most somehow lose it. I remind myself and the kids every day that it is acceptable not to know something. The sin is not wanting to find out.

Curiosity is the cornerstone of improvement, breeds innovation and powers progress. I think it is a top, top quality to have.

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