Spotlight Interview with Sam Warner, DevOps Specialist & Martin Blower, Head of DevOps & Technical Strategy at Black Pepper Software

Sam Warner, Dev Ops Specialist at Black Pepper Software




Martin Blower, Head of DevOps & Technical Strategy at Black Pepper Software



What do you hope attendees will gain at your webinar?

Sam – Martin and I know that DevOps is a huge world, and it can feel quite intimidating at first. My goal with this webinar is to demystify the buzzword. In this talk, we’ll be focusing on what it actually means to be doing DevOps, some of the most common pitfalls people fall into when attempting to adopt it, and discuss how it can be successfully implemented at an organisation. Attendees should come away with a deeper understanding of the subject, and a greater level of confidence that they can adopt this revolutionising mindset.

Martin – Whilst DevOps has been around for a number of years now, there is still considerable confusion around what it means. There appears to be a focus on tools, DevOps teams or DevOps roles that can be useful in the right context, are not magic bullets.

Following the webinar, I would like the attendees to leave with a better understanding that without the right mindset and approach, DevOps is just a buzzword and any return on investment in the above will be limited at best.

What discussions do you look forward to having with the attendees?

Sam – I’m most interested to find out why the attendees are interested in DevOps. Aside from the clear fact that everyone is talking about it at the moment and no-one wants to be left behind, I specifically want to understand where their current pain points are, and what aspect of it they’ll gain the most from, be it automation, better internal communication, improved speed of delivery, etc.

Martin – I’d like to understand where they are on their journey of implementing DevOps, what they hope the benefits will be, what blockers they are anticipating and what successes and failures they have encountered so far.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Sam – I am a keen problem solver. Ever since I was young, I loved being presented with something tricky and working my way to a solution. Now I’m older, and I’m lucky enough that this has become my job! Being one of the in-house technical staff at Black Pepper, I am constantly presented with our client’s interesting domain problems, and along with my team, coming up with inventive and innovative solutions to fix them! I also really enjoy learning the inner workings of different sectors, and working with a variety of clients gives me the chance to understand them better, from sport to finance to education.

Martin – As a child, my favourite toys were Lego and Meccano; I loved building things. Software gives a similar pleasure; not just solving a problem, which is a reward in itself, but trying to come up with elegant designs that solve those problems in the most straightforward or flexible way. I don’t get to write as much code these days as I would like, but working with others in the team to devise a solution and see it take shape still gives a buzz to this day.

How did you get into the industry?

Sam – My fascination with technology started at school, where I had an excellent teacher that taught me IT, and then Computing. As part of that, I learned some of the building blocks of writing code and then started to do more of it in my spare time. This eventually took me to university, where I studied Computer Science at Warwick. While I enjoyed every aspect of the degree program there, I was always most interested in the tangible problems that were set. It was here that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in software, using that software to solve real-world issues. In the second year of my degree, I was lucky enough to find a place on my doorstep that does this every day – Black Pepper Software. I became an intern over the summer and returned as a full-time employee the next year.

The rest, as they say, is history. Since joining, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge from all of my very clever colleagues, helped deliver numerous projects, run a number of conference talks, and been given opportunities to grow in every way imaginable.

Martin – I was fortunate enough to have a Maths teacher who was interested in computers and arranged an after school club that could send programs on mark-sense cards (showing my age here – this was before the time that schools had their own.) to a local university to be executed. This created a fascination that grew as home computers took off.

After college, I spent a number of years working in software and electronics at a research association before moving to a software house specialising in financial services. The rest as they say is history, but that passion for delivering solutions that make people’s lives better is still present.

Where is your favourite place in the world and why?

Sam – I was fortunate enough to go to China a number of years ago now, but that was beautiful. I visited a few places over there, but Xi’an was my favourite, and had so much – the Terracotta Warriors and Great Wild Goose Pagoda being my favourites.

But it’s too easy to get caught up in wanderlust, especially during Covid, and because of the restrictions we find ourselves under it really does highlight how a favourite place doesn’t have to be exotic, or far away. I’m originally from London and still up until the pandemic spent a lot of time visiting friends and family there, but can’t now. I think that has to be my favourite place.

Martin – I’m not sure I have a favourite place as such. I’ve enjoyed visiting many places, but have never been anywhere truly exotic.

Standing on Santa Monica beach overlooking the Pacific was a special experience in the past, but having a special needs child adds complexity to long distance travel. As a result we tend to vist my son’s favourite place. He loves the ‘house in the forest’ at Center Parcs.

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