Being a FinTech CTO in Hong Kong Day 26

It has been 26 days since I arrived in Hong Kong in my new role as CTO. It feels like I’ve been here a lot longer though, in very positive sense. Time is flying by and we are all keenly conscious of need to see clear progress towards our goals, and to this end, here are the main activities that I’ve been pursing and rationale behind prioritising these tasks.

Automated SDLC and DevOps Circuit

The number one task for my platform engineering team has been to containerise and automate the deployment of every component that we have identified and captured in our planing and tracking tool. I’m delighted at how quickly my engineering team have tackled this task. The automated deployment of our corporate website is being tested as I write this blog post and I’ll know shortly if it has been successful. As for the other components (development, staging and core platform) we are now finessing the deployment process so that anyone in engineering can execute a deployment in a reproducible fashion (including me).

In line with our guiding IT principles of NoDev, NoOps and NoIT I want my IT resources to automate any activity they find themselves repeating. Ultimately I want our IT to offer the business a race course for product development, not a series of barriers with manual processes and lengthy lead times but fully automated continuous build, test, deploy and destroy capability.

At Hong Kong Jockey Club for our Christmas Party

Current and Target State Capture

The target application and infrastructure architecture diagrams were pretty easy for me to create as the high level vision for IT and our core platform is something I have been refining for several years now. The rest of the executive team are happy with my proposals as are my engineering team. There are no ideological or technical blockers to realising our target state, it is now a matter of planning, resourcing and finance.

The capture of the current state was a matter of several white board sessions with my senior engineering team. Photo’s taken, diagrams pending, not enough time in an HK day :). The liberal use of micro services written in Golang and initially orchestrated deployment using Kubernetes is our starting position, but I am pursing a PaaS to eliminate the engineering effort with Kubernetes as soon as I can. Ultimately I want by engineers to focus on the delivery of business logic and not managing IT infrastructure.

Budget

So far not as painful an exercise than I expected but its early days and I’ve only been looking at 2017. No surprises, staff and infrastructure costs are the highest and demand the greatest attention. I will need to bring in experienced consultants to make sure our security and compliance processes are water tight and implemented. Our technology suppliers are the biggest unknown in terms of costs right now and wading through the numbers is going to be an onerous but essential task along with vendor negotiations. On that note, to my potential vendors out there, I would suggest that if you are progressive enough to see the benefit of the publicity of being included in these blog posts you should really give me a significant discount 🙂

Delivery Timeline

Done in the space of a few hours for our initial product launch but will require elaboration. I need the timeline to include every story and its completion date and this needs to be done as soon as possible so that I can assess how to plan the delivery.

Recruitment

I’m finding some excellent talent here in HK. Fortunately I’ve inherited a wonderful team so my task is merely to resource the gaps for product launch and fingers crossed by the end of January the engineering team will be fully staffed. My key concern is ensuring I have enough redundancy to deal with attrition and of course retention which I hope my next point may assist in. At this stage I am not looking to outsource any development but I will augment the team with professional services and invest in raising skill levels.

Office Relocation

I’ve been in Hong Kong for 26 days and we are moving, welcome to FinTech. Our new offices are going to be amazing. A huge thanks to Jason Wun and Ringo Wong from wework for working so closely with the business to provide a inspirational environment for our team. We’ll be heading out of Central and into Wan Chai by spring. More space, more air, less crowded and free beer! Those are just some of the benefits of the move but I have to say one of the key things that persuaded me was Jason and Ringo’s enthusiasm to support our IT community building here in Hong Kong. I look forward to arranging regular events not just for the FinTech community but IT and business community at large.

Technology Partner Selection

My personal number one task is to close our RFPs for three different categories of technology with ten different vendors next week. This has been a huge undertaking and one of critical importance, executed in a matter of weeks, which almost everyone informs is not long enough.

There are competing concerns to ensure we have the right technology suppliers on the one hand and to allow the engineering team to begin development of the core platform on the other hand. There has been a huge amount of information to analyse, questions to ask and general administration to manage. However I agreed with the business that I’ll close this task next week and I will.

Would I have preferred more time to make my decision, of course, but I can’t keep the engineering on hold any longer and to some extent we are simply going to have to manage the risks, whatever that means. In any case I have been very pleased with the quality of responses from our potential suppliers and ultimately I feel confident enough to give the business a decision that will allow them to proceed with full commercial negotiations.

Thats it from me, I’ll be back in the London for Christmas and will return to Hong Kong to see in the near year. My Christmas present to the engineering team will be access to the sandboxes and APIs of third party suppliers to allow them to get on and create our platform.

Hussein Badakhchani

Hussein Badakhchani is a Distinguished Technologist and Enterprise Entrepreneur specialising in Cloud, PaaS and Middleware infrastructure as well as Java/JEE application development. With over 20 years of professional IT experience in Banking, Finance, Telecoms and Biotech sectors Hussein has a wealth of knowledge and practical experience in IT strategy, leadership, innovation, and transformation.

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