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Festus, a Release Engineering Manager who has been at Cellulant for 2 years and 4 months describes himself as vocal , quirky and motivated. He strives to have a positive impact on other people and the world around Him. He rarely shy’s away from an opportunity to do the right thing, even when doing so is far from easy.

In one word you could describe him as The Protagonist(ENFJ-A).

What team are you in and what are you responsible for at Cellulant?

I’m in the platform engineering team and I lead our release engineering unit.

Release engineering  is a sub-discipline in software engineering concerned with the compilation, assembly, and delivery of source code into finished products or other software components. Associated with the software release life cycle, it was said by Boris Debic of Google, that release engineering is to software engineering as manufacturing is to an industrial process.

I create, manage and support shared development platforms that enable our software engineering teams to release software sooner, faster and safer to our production environments; enabling product teams to get their products  to market faster; unlocking value for the business.

Often, teams struggle to ship software into the customer’s hands due to lack of consistency and excessive manual labor. Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) deliver software to a production environment with speed, safety, and reliability.

What and where did you study? 

I studied at Jomo Kenyatta University and my undergrad was a Bachelor of Business Degree in Information Technology.

Why did you study what you studied?

BBIT was the perfect course for me, I was looking for a combination of the two passions I had in business and IT. It enabled me to meet the increasing demand in the marketplace for IT professionals with a wide knowledge of business management, technical skills and the capacity to harness and implement IT strategies taking advantage of emerging technologies.

What drives you? 

I absolutely love working as a part of a team. I enjoy discussing ways to move forward with teammates, and I love to deliberate with them to ensure we are moving in the right direction. On top of that, I take pride in the work that I do, and it is humbling whenever I see a product or service being used in the real world that I was a part of.

What attracted you to Cellulant?

I first learnt about Cellulant 2 years ago from my previous colleague. We had just come from a brainstorming session where we were debating on the best way to collect payments for a subscription service we were building; and it was during this when they mentioned Cellulant and the work they were doing as a company in the payments space and immediately this piqued my interest.

Naturally I wanted to know more about the company. I had already known he was a previous employee of the company and had left to pursue other career opportunities. He told me about Cellulant’s platforms and more interestingly the developer experience in the company and what pain points he was trying to solve before he left. 

The developer experience was really what drew me to want to know more about Cellulant. I got to learn more about what problems developers were facing from a release engineer perspective, and at the scale at which Cellulant was operating became an interesting challenge I wanted to solve. And so I applied for a role, and the rest as they say is history.

Read Also; I’ve Always Desired and Worked to be an Outstanding Software Engineer – Michael Muriuki

What drove you towards fintech in general?

As an African ,I always felt our payment experience after MPESA was a bit fragmented and not unified, and so I wanted to be part of a company that was actively trying to democratise payments on the continent; a FABA if you will, and I found that in Cellulant.

What’s the one problem you are best at solving for your clients/customers/market?

DevEx – Developer experiences is one of the problems I’m best at solving.

Unlike User Experience (UX) — which is a familiar term that describes the experience of users while using an application, the term Developer Experience (DevEx/DX) is less popular and a secondary priority in many organizations.

This term refers to the interactions and feelings that a software developer has while using or working on a product in order to meet a specific goal. Although people’s tastes are different, there are some common elements that make developers more satisfied, productive, and less likely to leave their jobs.

In my work I always strive to deliver better DevEx for our product teams. A positive developer experience with the infrastructure means that you, as a developer, have fun and are satisfied with your daily use of your tools. This leads to more happiness at work and affects the quality of the software you’re producing.

A simple way to look at is:

if(developer.happy == true){ jobTask.enjoy(); jobGoal.achieve(); } 

Which leads to customer delight in the products we deliver; and that makes it a worthwhile problem to solve.

What would you say have been some of the most challenging moments for you on the job? 

These are some major challenges I have faced while driving our DevOps transformation. 

  1. Overcoming the Dev versus Ops mentality

The DevOps practice is all about integrating teams together and breaking down silos within IT organizations.

  1. Moving from legacy infrastructure to microservices

Older infrastructure and applications can be problematic, even if it has served the company for years. Remaining on legacy infrastructure can spell stability problems, lack of support, and the fact that you will be left behind the swiftly advancing competition.

  1. Too much focus on tools

With the exciting prospect of adopting DevOps, the flashy new tools in the market can seem like they solve every problem under the sun. However, with the introduction of new tools, you also need to train teams to use them, ensure they meet security requirements, and of course, make sure that the tools are well-integrated with the existing infrastructure.

  1. Resistance to change

The move to DevOps can seem scary to a majority of team members and key stakeholders.

There are many more but these have been the most challenging, and while we have made great strides in our DevOps transformation as an organization we learn and evolve everyday.

Read Also; I am Driven by the Need to create Impact – Emmanuel Kabeya

Which have been the most rewarding moments?

In the last 2 years and 4 months there have been a lot of ups and downs; but I would say the ups of the job are what keep me going and to that one specific rewarding moment sticks with me everyday.

When it comes to my most rewarding moment I would say enabling our software development teams to deliver value Sooner,Safer and Happier using CI/CD as an agile methodology has been truly transformative and continues to deliver value to our customers and our organization.

Who has been the biggest influence in your career? 

It is incredibly important to look back and thank the people who have helped you throughout your career. No one does it alone. There are countless managers, co-workers, peers, vendors, clients, family members and friends who have given you opportunities to move your career forward. It’s the client who gave you a unique opportunity that expanded your skill set. It’s the manager who believed in you when you didn’t believe in yourself. It’s the friend or family member who gave you the confidence when you needed it most. It’s the co-worker who helped you learn a new software program. Regardless of who or when it was, it’s the collective impact of all these people who make a difference in your career every single day.

For me personally, while I have many people to be grateful for, two stand out above the rest. I’ve had the privilege of working for Patrick Quarcoo, Radio Africa Group CEO and founder, for 5 years. He taught me how to be a better marketer and a better media professional. First starting with tactics, expanding my knowledge in public relations and marketing and building my skill set in strategy and creative content creation; I’m forever grateful for the opportunity.

My father is another person who significantly molded me in a way that benefited my career goals. While he wasn’t in the marketing or technology field, he was always committed to his job, providing for his family and striving to do his best. I recall as a young boy getting straight A’s never really phased my father. I got a quick “good work,” and then it was on to something else. Good was never good enough. I continue to carry this throughout my career, and while employees I manage may not appreciate it at the time, they will somewhere down the line. Just like I did with my dad.

My father was never afraid of hard work and always pushed me to work harder. I remember being the only one in school practicing basketball long after my fellow players had retired to improve my skills. As a young boy, this was definitely not the way I wanted to spend my time. But it taught me to be good at something, you need to put in the time, commitment and ongoing dedication.

In your own words, what does Cellulant want to do in Africa and why is that inspirational for you?

Cellulant wants to democratize payments in Africa by creating and linking ecosystems that unlock values across different business segments on the continent, and that is truly transformative; not only for us as Africans but also the world.

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