A day in the life of an engineering manager at Puppet

  • - Written by Norman Heaney - Manager of Engineering at Puppet

    I joined Puppet (which is a Belfast-based automation software firm) as an Engineering Manager at the start of 2019. The first team I managed developed and maintained Cloud content. Over the next six to nine months, three other content-focused teams merged, forming the Infrastructure Automation Content team.

    Helping this new team come together, aligning on processes, work for each other, and our open source community has been the highlight of my managerial career so far. 

    I graduated from the University of Ulster Jordanstown, back in 1999. As a graduate, I joined a company called Apion, and not long after joining, Apion was split and sold. I remained with the same company for 19 years through a few mergers and acquisitions.

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    Openwave Mobility was where I learned my trade, starting as a tester, then moving into development. I was fortunate to work alongside some very talented engineers who helped shape my career.

    In the later years working with Openwave Mobility, I had the opportunity to take on a few technical lead roles, and it was these roles that fueled my interest in progressing into management.

    When I heard of an opportunity to join Puppet as an engineer manager, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. A few former colleagues spoke highly of  Puppet and having used some of Puppet’s tech in my previous job, it just felt right to start my new Management career with Puppet.

    What my typical day looks like

    I manage the Infrastructure Automation Content team. We maintain 76 repos across all PE-supported platforms. The team is responsible for a mix of core Linux, cross platforms, Windows, networking, and cloud modules.

    We work with our customer support teams and community to keep this content fresh and relevant to meet our customer and community’s business needs. On top of this, the team is focused on - and passionate about - developing better tooling that helps improve the developer’s experience.

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    We have a really large base of customers and community - over 80% of the Global 5000 use Puppet. We are an important part of the larger tech ecosystem that keeps some of the most critical businesses and institutions (like CERN) humming. It’s really incredible to think our small team is a part of something so big. 

    Currently working on...

    On top of our day-to-day activities, my team and I are focused on two key projects.

    A new Cloud CI for testing support modules. The new Cloud CI plays an important role in the Puppet Trusted Contributor program. This program looks to empower trusted members of the Puppet community, giving them access to Puppets supported modules CI pipelines. Doing so enables trusted contributors to merge changes and release modules.

    A new DSC builder that provides a best-in-class user experience for anyone who wants to leverage DSC Resources in their environments. By fully puppetizing DSC Resources into Puppet types, we ensure that we are able to give both author-time help (via documentation and the VSCode extension) and compile-time safety (validating that the properties passed are valid).

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    The tool enables per-property-reporting for DSC Resources - meaning you can see exactly what was set in each run, instead of just knowing that something was set.

    It automatically vendors the appropriate PowerShell module and its dependencies, ensuring that users don't ever have to worry about managing versions and deployments of those dependencies - just including the Puppet module in their manifest ships the code to each node.

    My favourite part about work

    Interacting with the team. The Infrastructure Automation Content team is split across three time zones and it’s great watching the team work together, build tools and content that makes a real difference to Puppet's open source community.

    As a manager, it is very rewarding to watch the team grow technically, work for each other, and empower our open source community.

    Puppet has a really amazing community and working alongside it provides for lots of innovation and bridges outside of the company. 

    Love for the tech industry

    Since secondary school, I got my first taste of IT, writing a simple basic program. I was hooked from that point on.

    This industry is fast-changing and challenging; there is a role for everyone and you are always able to grow and learn. 

    It’s hard to name just one most important tech innovation in recent years, as with each new technical development the door is opened to many more. Consider the advancements in Cloud technology, most if not all of us are using some Cloud-based service and may not even realise it.

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    Puppet are currently hiring for an Engineering Manager to join our team in Belfast - you can find out more detail and apply for the position here.

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