This blog post is published on behalf of our colleague Bruce Becker.
Here is what Bruce has to say about working at EGI:
I’m here to tell you that you should apply for this job, because it’s one of the best things anyone can do. How do I know? Well, it’s actually my job – for the next few weeks at least. After that, it’s going to belong to someone awesome, maybe someone like you!
I joined the EGI Foundation at the beginning of March 2018 after collaborating closely with it since its inception. As co-ordinator of the African regional infrastructure which peered with it, I have always believed in the mission of the federation, and worked towards its vision and goals. When the opportunity came to join the Foundation in 2018, I jumped at it. For the last year, I have personally experienced some of the most stimulating challenges of my career so far and have my colleagues to thank for that.
I had planned on staying at EGI for a long time, and had made several investments in it. However, wheels were set in motion in my personal life which drive me down a road that diverges from EGI and indeed the entire field of research infrastructures. The decision to leave EGI was a very heavy one to make, and the parting is sad, but that is a story for a different time.
If you’re like me though – someone who has spent years at the convergence of research and the digital technologies that enable it, someone who cares deeply about the experience of research communities and the platforms which they use, someone who believes that as research infrastructure engineers we can have nice things… hell, we should have nice things, and there’s no reason that we can’t have nice things – then you should drop whatever you’re doing and send your CV now.
The job description states you will:
… be responsible within the operations team for ensuring the EGI Federation delivers quality and trusted services that meet the technical and security requirements of its users, while ensuring its technical infrastructure is always current and deploys state of the art technology.
But actually, it’s so much more than that.
Work at the nexus of European e-Infrastructure
As part of the European Open Science Cloud, EGI is one of the entities driving the cutting edge of global research. EOSC is the the next step in decades of development in the federation of e-infrastructures, and this step is a big one. The services operated by EOSC member institutes will be delivered to millions of European researchers, and co-ordinating its development is a gigantic task. In the EGI Operations team you will be exposed to colleagues from a wide variety of domains, from data, cloud, networking and security infrastructure, to collaboration tools, identity federations, and more. There is probably no better place to work if you want to contribute to the development of the future of European Open Science in a concrete fashion.
EGI and EOSC support some of the most impactful research done anywhere in the world. You will be working to deliver services to projects which make you go “damn that’s awesome”. If you have a natural inclination to wonder at the beauty of the universe, if you care about climate change, biodiversity, human health and biology, or just want to catch an epic wave, you won’t be disappointed. This environment is special – you will be working at the interface of people, technology and science. The breadth of intellectual enterprise you will come into contact with will be constant source of stimulation and inspiration – if you’re into that kind of thing.
Work with the best people in the field
The EGI Foundation collaborates with peer infrastructures and external resource providers from across the world. The EGI Operations team is responsible within EGI for the smooth inter-operation of many services from across these infrastructures and the co-ordination external resources from providers across the world. You will be in one of the biggest professional networks in the research world, working with peers across Europe and the globe. These peers, like you, have almost uniformly dedicated their careers to the vision of delivering professional services to researchers in the pursuit of the cutting edge of science. The environment is challenging, stimulating and rewarding.
Put skills to work
The EGI Foundation is small and focused. Everyone is senior and everyone contributes all the time, often across teams. It is inevitable that during the course of your career you pick up niche skills and specific interests that you realise you happen to be good at. Often, at bigger employers, self-expression via those skills and interests is discouraged because it’s “not part of the job description”, and this can be an extremely frustrating situation. EGI has 5 small teams: management and finance, user and community support, operations co-ordination, communications, and policy development. In an organisation that counts just over 20 people, there are no silos. You are expected to contribute where you can, with whatever skills you have, outside of your core competency.
Work in a process-driven environment
Yes, EGI is small, but the federation it is responsibile for is huge, and the scope of projects it is involved in is impressive. The reason it functions so efficiently is thanks to the organisation’s process-driven nature. The EGI Foundation has obtained several certifications for quality (ISO 9001:2015) and IT service delivery (ISO/IEC 20000-1:2011). Internally, the Foundation runs a tight ship, with all processes defined and executed clearly, and continually improved. It is concise, transparent and practical and puts everyone on the same page. When you come to work in the morning, and tasks land on your desk, you know where they come from, what to do about them and most importantly why they are important.
Ops is notoriously about playing fireman, and the trope about constantly putting out fires across the infrastructure is somewhat true even in our case. However, we play safety inspector too, continuously checking our process, improving it, decreasing the day-to-day cognitive load, allowing the team to work in a calm and rewarding environment.
Work in a service-oriented environment
Everything in EGI is a service, and all services are managed according to the FitSM standard. This is the same standard that pervades our industry and EGI is not only one of places which offers training in it, but has fully adopted it as a means to build EOSC. Developing and operating services means having professional relationships with customers and providers alike, having empathy users, and putting their experience first. All services are in one or more catalogues, and executing and improving processes for managing and operating them are part of your responsibility. In the Operations team, you will need to work closely with service and product owners of the EGI Internal Service Catalogue amongst others.
As part of the Ops team, and taking over my position, you will likely be given some responsibility for part of the service management system. I was handed the capacity management process, and worked during my time there to implement something that was both good and made sense for EGI and EOSC. The same is true for all of the processes – people own them. With excellent direction from the executive team, you are entrusted with the responsibility and authority to build this thing together. Understanding that decisions you make, input you give and work you do has an effect makes you consider the ramifications – this is not an academic exercise, this is not a trial run, people are depending on you. Shouldering this responsibility personally, and understanding that everyone else in the organisation does so too is an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience.
Love your day job
EGI is small, and spread out across the expanse of Europe. Most of the time members work at their remote stations and rarely get to be together all in the same place. Remote work is not for everyone, and although it affords many benefits, it takes a special discipline to consider those “not in the building”. If you join the small core of staff that works in the Amsterdam office however, be prepared for a very special experience. If, like me, you end up working remote, be prepared to feel 100% part of the team, irrespective of your physical location.
I had a personal relationship with almost everyone in that office, stretching back years and they weren’t just “so-and-so from xyz team”. I’ve never been a great one for mixing social and professional activities, preferring to keep them separate, but EGI definitely changed this. Be prepared to work with real people who bring their whole selves to work every day.
Have nice things
Cloud computing infrastructures have matured and their attraction is mesmerising. There are at least four huge private platforms for consumers to choose from, and in some sense EOSC is competing with these. However there is also a Cambrian Explosion of creativity under way in the computing world. The Landscape of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation gives an impressive view of tools at our disposal for building a better infrastructure. We have partner projects such as DEEP and XDC pushing the boundaries of what research clouds can do and bringing state of the art software to production.
Patterns like DevOps are the new normal. We are coming to appreciate the importance of instrumentation and telemetry, the need for observability and how that improves our understanding of our users’ experience of our services. This isn’t just about keeping up with industry trends. It certainly isn’t about out-competing peer infrastructures – this is antithetical to EGI’s mission. We succeed and fail together. It is about building and delivering the best platform possible for research.
During my time at EGI, we quickly worked to implement improvements in the middleware component delivery pipeline, improve the software-defined deployment scenarios, product compliance and security test profiles, machine-readable product descriptions, and more. We started working on continuous delivery of components, smoother user experience and simplifying the way people discover and access these services.
All with the goal of delivering value – more reliably, safer, faster… better.
These are 9 reasons why working for EGI is probably the best thing you can do right now. If you need another one, it’s simple: the pay and perks are very competitive.