Image by Andrew Newbury

As a post graduate of the Monash University Computing department I was approached to answer a number of interview questions aimed at helping current students understand the types of roles available in industry and what faculty graduates were doing in their roles many years later. Below is the text of my response.

  • What does your role as an Iteration Manager at NBN involve?

Frequently delivering great working software to our business. Turning thought into substance. Always looking for improvements and removing impediments to the team’s success. Practically this is leading a key development team responsible for Fibre to the Curb (FTTC), our latest product release. I’m not a coding subject matter expert, rather my expertise is in how the development team works, how we turn ideas into reality. In part I do this through Agile ceremonies including the daily stand up, sprint grooming, sprint planning, retrospectives and the product showcase. The “how” instead of the “what“. While our development team’s focus is building great working software, my focus is enablement through forward thinking. Looking to the future to better support the team and our business. I employ Agile frameworks and particularly the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).· How long have you been involved in Agile based projects?

With Agile two years full time and peripherally for five years. Professionally I’ve spent twenty-four years in information technology and many more tinkering with systems and software before joining the workforce full time.

  • What are some of the benefits that you have seen from using an iterative based approach?

The primary business benefit is reduced risk. Risk in terms of cost, time, function and missed market opportunity whilst being able to rapidly respond to an ever changing competitive landscape.

The development journey isn’t easy: you’ll make discoveries, encounter obstacles, some impassable, some negotiable, you’ll climb mountains and ford rivers, you’ll wonder if the journey will ever end. How you make software is just as important as what you make. Iterative development gives you a foundation, a religion if you will, a set of common practices, a common language, a shared understanding of a common framework to enable you to build valuable software and deliver it frequently. Professionally you’ll join a small team of dedicated multi skilled developers: a complete “full stack” team. Iterative development works best when your team owns the “outcome”, it’s a different mindset. You and your team members are responsible for the entire lifecycle, from design to build to production release. Fewer handoffs results in greater delivered quality. For a developer the benefits are significant: you own the outcome and with ownership and accountability comes empowerment. You don’t take orders, instead you employ your creativity and intelligence to fulfil your shared goal: working together with your colleagues to deliver valuable working software frequently.

Through my career I’ve worked on many multiyear “waterfall” software projects including one hundred million dollar engagements seeing some stall, some withdrawn from service and some never used by our business or customer. Iterative development reduces risk and empowers developers making it more likely that we’ll be successful.

  • Over your career to date you have worked in / consulted to numerous organisations including Bupa, NAB, Intel and Accenture – just to name a few. What tips for success would you share with students and recent graduates who are just starting to establish their careers?

Technology is easy. Other people are the hardest thing that you’ll ever experience. Learning that people make software, people staff projects, people run organisations and people buy products. To be successful you’ll need to learn how to get along with many different personalities, manage differing and sometimes conflicting goals across a multitude of stakeholders and learn to make compromises.

Practically? Be inquisitive. Set high standards. Know that change is constant and embrace it. Know that you are replaceable and that there is always something to be done. Don’t be a “lone ranger”, while you probably hate/hated group assignments that’s how the working world works, in groups. Accept it. Learn how to work in and with groups. Groups who may have completely different motives to you. Learn how to manage conflict. Not physical conflict but in competing and sometimes divergent views, imperatives and agendas some of which may not be shared with you.

Having a higher degree is your entry ticket to the game. How you think, rather than what you think now, is more important than what you know today. You will be challenged. You will be unsure what to do. What does success look like, how will you know when you’ve won? Define success. Work your way backwards from where you are now and plan how you’ll get to the end game. Be methodical. Be persistent. Be organised. Listen. Enjoy what you do and don’t forget to smile, professional life is serious but doesn’t need to be solemn.


  • What has been the greatest development or innovation that you have seen realised, and what are you hoping to see realised in the future?

The lunar landing.

Armstrong: Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.
Mission Control: Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground.
20:18 UTC, 20 July, 1969

That still sends shivers down my spine. The vision, the commitment, the energy behind the audacity of that single unifying goal ennobled in the famous speech by American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy at Rice University, Texas on 12 September, 1962:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

The human trait, the quest for knowledge, the quest to know the unknown, to see into the seeds of time and to know which will grow and which will not, to reach past our present understanding, to extend ourselves. I’ve often thought that software doesn’t exist in space or time: you can’t feel, taste, smell, see or hear it. We build constructs with our mind that exist outside our classic senses. Where will this lead us? Where will this end? I hope to see a second human landing in my lifetime on a reddish planet adjacent to ours, enabling steps for the extension of humanity into the cosmos.


  • What’s next for you?

To never stop learning, to never stop questioning “why”, to never sell myself short, to give in to mediocrity, to decide that it’s good enough. To think, to learn and to experience the richness that our lives give us. To quote the words sung by Ian Curtis from the band Joy Division in the song Day of the Lords “where will it end?“. I don’t know but it’s going to continue to be one hell of a ride!

Andrew C. Newbury
Saturday, 5 May 2018