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Spotlight on IT: Srikanth Kataram

We caught up with NCFE Software Delivery Coach, Srikanth Kataram, about his role and life in the IT team at NCFE.

Tell us about yourself.

13 years ago I came to the UK from India for my Masters in Computing) at Teesside University. I moved to Newcastle after my graduation and it has been my home ever since. Before NCFE, I worked in IT in various sectors including health and public service, finance and manufacturing. I started my career as an Application Support Analyst and then moved to a development role following senior/ tech lead and managerial roles. Each role gave me an opportunity and I made most of it, I see problems as opportunities and I love to be challenged. I am highly people focussed and I do enjoy working with teams and individuals to understand their and a projects issues and concerns. I enjoy working towards common goals and objectives of a team for organisation success. My current role in NCFE as a Software Delivery Coach has given me the opportunity to build the teams and work with them from initiation to delivery of the projects we undertake at NCF.

What does a typical day look like in your role?

NCFE is quite flexible on working patterns, I’m usually at the office between 0900 and 0930. I plan my day by checking my calendar and ensure I am available for my teams throughout the day to address any issues related to work and the business. We have 3 agile teams running in parallel and I participate in various meetings to monitor the project backlogs, status and delivery. I work with departments across NCFE on various projects and prepare the delivery teams for work which is in pipeline. As part of my role, I am also the Recruitment Manager for our delivery team looking for talented people for our opening roles.

What do you see as the biggest changes and transformations in the IT team since you’ve been at NCFE?

As part of my role is to identify the skill gaps within delivery teams, the biggest change since I’ve been here has been to introduce the UI/UX stack in our teams. We now have full time dedicated resource to work on UI/ UX of our agile projects working with relevant stakeholders of the business. We have now started collaborating and working with various departments in NCFE to understand core business systems and processes which helps us to understand our customers and their needs. There is much more focus on continuous improvement on our development processes and agile practices to be competitive and to match the industry standards.

What motivates you in your role?

I have been in this role for 6 months now and I can safely say that no two days are same here in NCFE. Every day is different, if you are open to challenges and willing to change things this is the place to work. I am so lucky to work with bunch of talented good people around me. On top of that, it is great feeling to work for non-profit organisation and to contribute towards the development of young and adult learners to achieve their goals.

What are the latest innovations/software/projects that you are using in the IT team at the moment?

We are re-engineering our monolith applications with cutting edge tools and technologies using micro services architecture. Our new digital transformation programme is to focus on customers and more importantly on our learners from registration to issuing a certificate through self-serve portals. Beginning of this year, we have implemented new automated Personal Learner Record (PLR) system that supports the transfer of learner data to a central government system. We also have full blown DevOps infrastructure in cloud to automate our code builds and deployment which will help in speeding up our development projects for NCFE continued success.

What does the future hold for the IT team?

It’s great time to be part of our enthusiastic and dynamic team of highly motivated experts. As we step into this new digital era, we are prepared to embrace new digital technologies to focus on next steps of the programme including certification, claims, results and assessment delivery and it is exciting times to join and involve for NCFE success.

What opportunities are there currently in the IT team?

We are currently recruiting for Principle, Scrum Master and Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET) roles in our software delivery team in Group IT. It’s very exciting time to join our delivery team to develop our new digital business platform in all areas of business.

Lindsey Gibson, Head of Group IT at NCFE, said of Srikanth’s role and recent developments in the IT team:

“For a number of years, the Software Development Team were set up with the Scrum Master also having team leader responsibilities which included line management, this worked well in some cases but created issues too. We knew that the model of merging Scrum Master and Line Management responsibilities is not recommended in Agile, however, the team was not large enough to have a degree of separation. Line Management is a core responsibility in any business, there’s the general admin to do, but the important aspect for me is the Performance Management, in particular creating opportunities to help each person to be the best version of themselves.

NCFE encourages a culture of coaching and I saw an opportunity to embed this into the team by creating a role of Software Coach. The idea was to re-design the role from a traditional approach of management with a top down approach to a role which is focussed on people-orientated outcomes, such as development and motivation needs, creating well-defined career paths.

Historically, line managers in the team have previously had a technical background, starting as a Developer and then risen through the ranks. I believe it’s important that the person in the Software Coach role has a big interest in software, but I didn’t feel that a technical background was essential for this role as the technical experts should exist within the team.

Ideally for us, Sri demonstrated he had both a technical background and a very strong people focussed mind-set.”

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