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  • How Automation Fueled My IT Career: An Interview with SMA’s VP of Engineering

How Automation Fueled My IT Career: An Interview with SMA’s VP of Engineering

SMA VP of Engineering Ryan Dimick shares how he mastered workload automation and orchestration to prioritize high-value tasks that fueled the growth of his credit union IT career.

Jamie Green
Jamie Green
President, ContentOvation
Temps De Lecture
7 mins
Derniere Mise A Jour
mars 2nd, 2022
Partager

In the pursuit of a successful career, any professional would benefit from the ability to prioritize high-value work on their to-do list without the distraction of repetitive low-value tasks consuming much of their time. There’s no better example of how such a focus can accelerate your position within your company than SMA Technology’s own Ryan Dimick.

Now Vice President of Engineering at SMA, Ryan started in computer operations at a credit union. We spoke with him about automation as a catalyst in his successful career trajectory, how he continually creates value, and how a well-oiled automated process can be transformative for financial institutions, insurance, retail and other transactional businesses.

You worked at a credit union before joining SMA. Can you tell us about it?

I started at Corning Credit Union in computer operations. I did all the fancy computer commands to post checks to accounts. I worked with the business units to ensure all of their processes were happening. It was very manual. Everything I did was repeatable. Meanwhile, through OpCon, SMA gave us this vision of, ‘We have this product that can do all of that for you.’

We purchased OpCon, and I fell in love. I quickly became the product owner of OpCon and had a mission to drive it as far into the business as possible. First, I prioritized automating what would give me the most time back. Then, I used that time that I gained back to continue investing in automation to the point where I automated my old job almost entirely. That was the fork in the road where my career really changed.

What pain points did OpCon solve for you at that stage of your career?

It helped us minimize mistakes. Errors happened when typing everything manually, and when they did, they were painful. OpCon helped the operations team with consistency and lowered risk. It also helped us with staffing. OpCon institutionalizes the knowledge of your business processes so that it’s encapsulated in the tool rather than tribal knowledge in a teammate's head.

OpCon enabled us to allocate people to higher-value tasks. It let us go to lights-out processing when we used to do five-day processing or longer. So if you were to go to an ATM on Saturday, it would act as though you did your transaction on the system date of Monday. OpCon allowed us to have true processing dates open through the weekend.

I started to work on some of the more advanced problems we had as a business and continued to drive that automation. Instead of being a computer operator, I became more like an IT project manager who facilitated digital transformation. Everything from the teller line to the cards processing team to the finance staff, I went across the credit union for the next two years and tried to automate everything.


How easy was it to adopt OpCon into the credit union?

It was very simple and quite intuitive. I picked it up quickly with no real formal training. I met with the team at SMA for a couple of days, and I ran with it. I had some system knowledge, but there wasn't much behind what I did at the time. I saw OpCon as an opportunity to transform the business and be the catalyst behind it.

It’s about providing more value. Manually running tasks is not value creation. What made us great was our customer service. OpCon freed up my time to go further on those other initiatives that made us unique.

How did you come to work for SMA Technologies?

After a few years at Corning, I’d transitioned to a developer. However, I still leveraged OpCon to drive further automation with the development team. Our CIO was Todd Dauchy, who is now the CEO of SMA. We became OpCon power users and built a great relationship with the executive team. A year after Todd accepted the job with SMA, he asked me to join.

June 1, 2013, I started full-time at SMA. I was a missionary of OpCon. I traveled to customer sites to implement automation. Solving business problems, not just being a developer, was a great experience. At night, I'd call Todd, and we'd collaborate, and I would write code and come up with ideas. Eventually, I became a Software Architect and then Director of Cloud Services.

In February of 2019, I became Senior Director of Development and took over a 30-person development team at SMA. I was responsible for modernizing our practices and bringing us into the future. At that point, we did no more than two update releases a year. Now, we release updates every six weeks. We focus on quality and automated testing. We're meeting all of the latest security standards, training, doing things like peer reviews of all code.

Early on, a lot of my time was changing the culture of how we build products. Part of that is understanding customer problems and not just being people that produce code. Last year, we went through a significant rebuild and refreshed what we are looking for in our engineer profiles. Recently, SMA promoted me to VP of Engineering.

What type of profile do you look for in your engineers?

There are a lot of steps in the value stream of delivering products. It's everything from understanding and recording a customer's need or challenge to prioritizing whether or not we can do something to meet it, then designing it, developing it, testing it, figuring out how to educate around it, etc.

The primary goal is to have engineers span as much of that stream as humanly possible. First, we want them to talk to customers and understand real customer problems. We want them to use that knowledge and understand how to best solve that customer problem.

We want them to be able to build it and then speak about it: ‘This is what we built. This is why it's important. Here’s how you get the most value out of it.’ Articulate that to internal customers here at SMA and external customers. The development team exists to build products that give people back time. Our job is to create whatever it is that refunds their time.

It’s been nine years since you worked at a credit union. Do you find that the same issues you saw then still need to be automated today?

Absolutely. People are always looking to offer more products and services, which naturally means there are more applications to maintain. There are more integrations that you have to think about. And so, the ask of what you're expected to deliver as an IT team continues to go up. You're never going to scale your budget as fast as the demands are going to go up. That gap between expectations and what you have to deliver is the opportunity for automation. Over time, not just in credit unions but everywhere, that's grown tremendously.

Automation is becoming table stakes. Finding creative ways to get more out of your automation is a competitive advantage. When I first started in credit unions, the most important customer was the next person who walked in the door. Technology wasn't necessarily a big play. Over the last 15 years, everything has become much more remote and technology-centric. A better handle on the processes and the technologies in your business can be transformative if you have the proper tooling and the right mentality for value creation. It's less about how friendly you are and more about what services and what kind of turnaround times you offer. Automation is so critical to that.

Where do you want to see yourself and SMA go in 2022?

For me, ‘22 is all about setting the foundation for the future. We recently acquired file transfer technology. One of my big projects this year that I'm so excited and passionate about is integrating that with our workload automation tool and delivering best-in-class file management. From a product perspective, continuing to advance OpCon’s cloud-enabled capabilities is also on the horizon.

In addition, we are getting the engineers more engaged with understanding customers’ problems and delivering innovative solutions to those problems. So those are the cultural shifts that we will continue to push and hopefully deliver some great product with it.

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