Aspire to tech – Senior Manager of dev-ops engineering at Change Healthcare

Career Spotlight – Diana Chaytor

What is your role? What is your title? Where are you located?  How long have you been doing it?

I am the senior manager of dev-ops engineering. My role is to manage the dev-ops engineering team which provides the tooling and automation, infrastructure-as-code, and deployment methodologies for our cloud products. Our office is located in Richmond BC, and I’ve been in this role for over three years now. That is when we started our cloud journey, but I’ve been in similar management roles for about seven years now. In total, I’ve been with this company, one form or another, for over 20 years.

What makes your job interesting?

What makes it interesting is that our customers are the development teams. Contributing to their velocity and making life easier for them in aspects like builds and deployments, or providing tooling and automation that is usable by anyone. It is interesting because all teams have their quirks and their different products and being able to support all of those variations is our job.  On the other side, we’ve got the SRE team, which is supporting the deployment in production, so we ensure that we have the right tool set for them.

What is the most fun?

What makes my job fun is working with my team to come up with new ways to solve problems. That might sound cliché, but we are constantly developing new products, onboarding new teams, and encountering new problems. We are dealing with new technology, so to be able to sit down with different people and hash things out or dream up new solutions is something I love about my role.  Recently we’ve released a whole new deployment methodology, which was different than what we built two years ago and being able to design that, take advantage of new technologies, and figure out how it’s all going to work is actually a lot of fun.

What is the most challenging?

The most challenging thing is being able to meet the needs of several different product teams on different schedules. We are trying to build something strategically that all teams can use, but they each have their own individual needs and different release schedules. It takes a high level of coordination to ensure that we’re not a blocker, and that the development teams can develop their product and release it on their schedule. We are there to support them in various ways, through all stages of development.

How does your role help drive the company’s success?

My team and I drive the success of our cloud products and transition to the cloud. Without the work that we do, the teams could not deploy automatically.  We need to stay one step ahead of the development teams and ensure they have all the automation and all the security controls in place, as well as all the infrastructure-as-code to be able to deliver their product to the customer in a timely and succinct fashion. During Change Healthcare’s transition to the cloud, it was very much my team and I that had to get all the infrastructure in place, get everything working and have a platform for the teams to be able to put their products on and deliver them safely.

What does a typical day look like for you? What do you actually spend your time doing?

As a manager I don’t get my hands dirty as much as I would like, per se, but my typical day is working with my team to assess what they’re working on, and how it sits in the priority list. I assess requests that come in from different teams and ensure that everything gets scheduled appropriately. I deal with fires and other emergencies that come up so that I can triage them and get them in place and interrupt my team as little as possible.  For me as a manager, I feel that my role is very much letting my team do their best work and for me to juggle the other stuff for them to keep the stress away from them. I do work with the other teams on planning and on some of our strategic initiatives too. I do a lot of planning and scheduling to ensure that all of my team members have the resources they need and enough time to do their jobs well.

Tell us about your career history.

I started working for Change Healthcare straight out of University – I actually met them at a job fair hosted at my University. I started as a software tester. I tested the integration between our software and the various machines operating in hospitals like ultrasound machines, CAT scanners, and MRIs. My job was to ensure that we could connect to all of these machines to get the images it sent back successfully. I morphed from that into various other roles with the company. I looked after performance testing for a while and little bit of beta testing.

I got sent to a lot of customer sites because I had a technical background, but also had no problem, speaking with people and customers. My first year had a lot of travel and I was troubleshooting at many customer sites, which I really enjoyed. From there, I moved into our research department where I did a lot of different tire-kicking projects and testing new technologies – trying to break our product with new technologies.  It was a lot of fun.

I did precursor work to projects that became products later, so that was fascinating. I also got to help run the innovation program. We had four people submit ideas and get to pitch to them to the executives, as well as our patent program that we had rolled out as well.  I had my hands in everything, I got to work with people in all parts of the company, from sales, to support, to development, and then I was ready to move into a management role, so I took on managing our performance test team, as well as our configuration management team. That role has morphed into my current role for dev-ops engineering.

What was your very first job and how did your career path take you to where you are today?

My very first job was operating a fast-food concession stand in Stanley Park. I actually ended up becoming a manager of that concession stand in between high school and university.  Surprisingly, it gave me skills that I still use today around organization of people and resources, but also dealing with the public. It taught me a lot about how to communicate properly and answer lots of questions. It also taught me that I had a people-persona versus an introverted-persona. That’s actually quite useful and stuck with me all these years.

Where might you go next?

I really enjoy my position right now. There are still enough challenges here to keep us occupied for the next while.  I don’t really have my sights set on the next step, per se, I am focusing on my current work. I know that, with the growth of our cloud technology, there’s lots of opportunity for change and lots of opportunity for new roles that might not exist yet. So, I am staying open right now. I would like to continue to grow my leadership skills and maybe apply those in different ways, or in a different role but overall, I am content with where I am and the work I do.

What’s your next role? What motivates you for your future career? Will you stay in tech?

What motivates me for the future is seeing so much opportunity in our space. Healthcare customers were afraid of the cloud for a long time.  They were worried about security, reliability, and they were worried about their data being stored somewhere else. But for the most part, we’ve gotten over that hump. Healthcare companies are embracing the cloud more and more, and that just opens up possibilities for us to not only move things to the cloud, which have been traditionally on premise, but also to come up with all new solutions – new things that we haven’t even thought of yet. That motivates me to stay in healthtech.

Any final words of advice, or advice for young people?

From my experience, it’s good to have a goal, like a particular role you would like to try out, but also to be fluid about it. You can accept roles that are lateral moves – even sometimes downward moves but in a new area or industry. You don’t always have to strive to go to the next level. Look at opportunities, as they come in, as chances to gain new skills and experiences. See if things are interesting to you. Sometimes you’ll accept a role and later realize that it is not the right fit for you. You’ll have to try again, but you will have learned from that experience. So have a clear goal in mind, but don’t try to have every detail of your career mapped out. Be open to new possibilities and take those on.  They can change your whole perspective.