Operational Excellence, with SoFi's CTO

July 14, 2023

Written by Jeremy Rishel

CTO at SoFi

Operational Excellence, with SoFi's CTO

In a recent Engineering Q&A session, Jeremy Rishel, CTO at SoFi, shared valuable insights on how to achieve operational excellence within high trust, high regulation environments.

The conversation delved into various aspects of engineering leadership, covering topics such as operational prioritization, measurement, technology choices, technical proficiency, and cross-domain leadership lessons. This blog post distills these insights and provides practical qguidance for engineering leaders navigating similar contexts.

Operational Excellence: A Culture of Ownership and Customer-Centric Metrics

To achieve operational excellence, Jeremy Rishel emphasizes the importance of instilling a culture of ownership and aligning operational activities with customer satisfaction. This means that operational excellence is not the sole responsibility of specific teams but should be a shared commitment across the entire organization. Rishel suggests that teams should focus on metrics that directly reflect the user experience, such as reliability and availability. By measuring the impact of operational issues on end users, teams can prioritize resilience and allocate resources effectively. For example, understanding the implications of service interruptions or quality of service challenges helps teams quantify the impact on user behavior and outcomes. This data-driven approach enables engineering leaders to make informed decisions and direct their efforts towards improving customer satisfaction. By fostering a culture of ownership, where every team member understands the importance of operational excellence in delivering a reliable and compliant customer experience, organizations can create an environment that promotes collaboration, accountability, and continuous improvement.

Strategic Technology Choices and Maintaining Technical Proficiency

Selecting the right technologies is a critical decision for engineering leaders in high trust, high regulation environments. According to Rishel, it is crucial to prioritize engineering time and focus on activities that differentiate the organization. In the build vs. buy debate, he advises leveraging third-party technologies whenever possible, allowing internal engineering efforts to concentrate on areas that provide unique value. To ensure technical proficiency, Rishel recommends continuous learning and engagement with the evolving technical landscape. While time constraints may limit hands-on coding for engineering leaders, he suggests reading technical material and code to stay abreast of industry trends and best practices. This proactive approach helps leaders make informed decisions, communicate effectively with their teams, and fosters a deeper understanding of the engineering challenges faced by their organizations. By staying technically proficient, engineering leaders can effectively navigate technological complexities, make informed strategic decisions, and provide guidance and support to their teams in achieving operational excellence.

Learning Leadership Lessons from Diverse Fields

Rishel highlights the importance of seeking leadership lessons from diverse fields and drawing parallels between high uncertainty environments and the tech industry. He shares his experiences from the Marine Corps, where he learned valuable strategies applicable to fostering operational excellence in the technology sector. In high trust, high regulation environments, where stakes are high and resources are constrained, leaders must adapt to changing circumstances, make critical decisions, and inspire their teams to achieve excellence. The lessons learned in the military, such as problem-solving techniques, resilience, and resource optimization, can be applied to overcome challenges and foster operational excellence. Rishel encourages engineering leaders to expand their leadership knowledge beyond traditional business and technology resources. By exploring literature and works that offer unique perspectives on leadership, leaders can gain fresh insights and innovative approaches to managing teams, driving operational excellence, and achieving sustainable success. By learning from diverse fields and applying cross-domain leadership lessons, engineering leaders can develop a well-rounded skill set, enhance their decision-making capabilities, and effectively navigate the complexities of high trust, high regulation environments.

By applying these insights and fostering a culture of collaboration, accountability, and continuous improvement, organizations can build robust systems, deliver exceptional customer experiences, and thrive in high trust, high regulation environments.

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