Every month, we sit down with a member of Team Opal to talk about their role, their challenges, and what kind of advice they have to share with future coworkers. In our latest installment, listen in as Jeremy Running, Senior Manager of Engineering, DevOps, shares his story.
Tell us a little about your role at Opal.
I’m the engineering manager for the DevOps team. We oversee infrastructure and cloud resources, respond to production alerts, and handle site reliability and pipelines—basically, taking the code when developers are done with it and ensuring that it can be tested and deployed to production.
How big is the DevOps team at Opal?
We have a team of three, including myself. One of our engineers recently departed from our team and moved into a product automation role at Opal, so we’re currently looking to hire another DevOps engineer. It’s a cool time for our team, because we’re moving onto a new technology for hosting our platform.
How did you come to join the team at Opal?
I joined Opal in March of 2021, so I’m relatively new. The previous engineering manager here moved into a Director role, so he was hiring to backfill his role. I had previously worked for the same company for almost ten years, but after they were acquired, it was time to move on. I tried on a few other DevOps engineering roles at other companies, but I couldn’t find the right fit. Then I saw the Opal job posting on LinkedIn. I knew Opal was a local company here in Portland, and I could relate to and understand the Opal planning platform—when I was first working as a web developer, I worked on a lot of marketing teams, because before people knew where to put web developers, it was sometimes in the marketing department! I was also really impressed with the caliber of customers that had put their faith in Opal as a solution.I decided to apply, and I knew within the first five minutes of my interview that it was going to fit me really well, just because of the dialogue and how I felt instantly comfortable meeting the team. It really felt like sitting around with people of like minds, just talking shop. It immediately made me hopeful that it was going to be the right fit, and that’s just been proven time and time again as I’ve been with Opal for the last several months. It’s definitely the most intense but the most fulfilling and rewarding job I’ve ever had.
And how did you get into DevOps engineering in the first place?
I started my career as a software engineer, writing code, in the late ‘90s. But I developed into more of a DevOps engineer role when I realized that the coding aspects of it were just a little bit less my speed. I’m more about maintaining systems. I kind of equate it to building with Legos. I’m more comfortable having ready-made pieces that I can fit together and customize and make sure that they fit the function of what we’re looking for—rather than pouring the plastic for the bricks themselves. I like to put systems in order.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
My favorite part is just being part of this culture of support, encouragement, and growth. Everybody has each other’s backs—it’s been really impressive to see. And for the size of the company, I’ve been really impressed with the maturity of the DevOps implementation. The director of tech ops—the guy who used to have my job—is a big part of it, but it’s also because how brilliant and hard-working the DevOps team is. It’s also because of Opal’s insistence on bringing in quality people to every role. There’s never been a sense of just filling seats. It’s always about finding the right people who have the skills and bring something new to the organization that everyone can learn from. To me, that shows the high caliber of the culture Opal has of wanting to harness everyone’s talents, give everyone a voice, and let us have an open discussion about any topic. We have this kind of hive mind of problem solving, because everyone has insights—it’s just a matter of tapping into them, and celebrating and making sure everyone gets credit when a solution has been presented. I’m a huge sucker for that kind of thing. Everyone strives for greatness because everyone shares in the success.
What’s the biggest professional challenge you’ve tackled at Opal?
For me, it’s been getting up to speed with a totally different area of DevOps. I started my career as a Microsoft developer. C# was my primary language for coding, and I was always in Azure, using their tooling. I was just completely engulfed in the Microsoft ecosystem, which is very specialized and not necessarily what the DevOps community as a whole has embraced. That’s more Linux-based, more about AWS, and all about command-line tools versus interfaces. The concepts are exactly the same—it’s still DevOps, and it’s still the same support role—but moving away from Microsoft tools and adapting to a new technology stack has been a little challenging just because I want to get down in the weeds and help my team as much as possible.But I’ve seen the advantage of tapping into the open-source community of DevOps engineers for best practices and problem-solving. It’s been interesting to see these advantages come to light, and I never want to go back! It’s also been an excellent opportunity to come in and lead a DevOps team as a manager, which has been really special and something I’ve wanted for so long. The human connection has always been one of my biggest motivators, but it has always been missing from my role as a developer. I want to make sure everyone on my team has what they need, is supported, receives feedback….that taps into a part of my personality that I’ve never been able to harness at work. I’m grateful for the opportunity to show that support and enable my team to put out their best work. It’s really satisfying, and I’m so proud of my team.
What advice would you give someone on their first day at Opal?
Listen. Really take the time to listen, learn about the history, and trust that these are good people who make really smart decisions. When starting at Opal, that learning and discovery can teach you so much, because that context positions you to understand how you can contribute and where your skills are likely to assist in the success of the company.
You started your role at Opal while working remote. What advice do you have for people starting a new job while working from home?
Be proactive to connect with people! Join coffee chats, take advantage of any opportunities to connect with people however you can. If you ignore those chances because you think you’re too busy, you miss out on building connections outside of meetings and requirements. For me personally, it helps me feel more comfortable. You feel more comfortable speaking up in meetings because you had a laugh with your coworker last time you got together. It’s up to you to do it, though.
What surprised you most about working at Opal?
When I first joined, I was blown away by how many people reached out directly on Slack, in meetings, on Zoom, just to say, “Welcome to the team. We’re glad you’re here.” I loved it! I got a message from someone whose name looked familiar from a gaming Slack channel. I said, “Thanks for the message! So what do you do here?” And then I noticed “CEO” under his Slack screen name, and just laughed. George, our CEO, was reaching out to me just like anyone else had. And I realized, wow, I feel comfortable here. These are my people. And I hadn’t felt like that since my old job, where I stayed for ten years. From day one, I felt like I belonged here.