Our Kubernetes Platform Journey at Veterans United Home Loans

When I joined technology at Veterans United Home Loans, I saw a fast-growing company and technology department. I missed the startup to midsize business growing pains. The feeling and culture still felt like a startup. These days with the significant growth, we are on the road to an enterprise. In 2016, the technology department was small enough to fit everyone in one building called Oscar. In short order, we grew and grew as a department. The rapid growth led to the physical division between the infrastructure and software services departments. Over time because of our growth and as humans tend to do, we formed tribes around our specialty.

Early on between 2016 and 2017, we dreamt of a platform that would ease the development process and reduce handoffs. I pushed for unification between software services and infrastructure. It was not the right time. While we were growing fast, it was not fast enough to need the burden of this new platform. Looking back, it was for the best.

In 2019, I took the plunge and crossed over to infrastructure as a technology product owner. My mission, to be the product owner of the platform engineering and developer experience teams, unify the departments and serve the needs of our future platform. During this time, my boss worked with technology leadership to whittle the 100 different technology goals into three goals.

In 2020, we reached shared alignment on technology goals. On August 6th, 2020, the platform task force delivered our proposal to technology leadership based on our research. We chose to build a platform to speed up development on top of Rancher’s distribution of Kubernetes.

While we overcome that initial challenge, we are now starting the next part of our journey, the hardest part. Technology has never been a barrier for us. The challenges we will run into are the cultural and behavioral changes. Besides, many of us want something different out of this next platform offering. We want to bake the governance opinions for security and software architecture into the platform. We want software developers to travel the golden path of success for their new projects. Stability and ease of use are also top of mind. The architects envision a focus on design at the start of a project while increasing the speed of iterative development.

This journey is only beginning. There will be many challenges as part of this 18 to 24-month project. We are searching for the answers to mitigate the risks and challenges we are expecting to encounter. In a recent conversation with one consultant, I asked, “What do you predict will be the largest challenge in our partnership?”. This question unlocked an outpouring of their experiences with other customers. They declared that we needed to start small and focus on finding the value first. One client invested more than a year of effort! The client then asked when there be a return on their investment. Do not fall into the trap of pursuing technology for technology’s sake. Use product management principles and seek value first.

While this journey will not be easy and there will be new and ever-present challenges, we have the right people in the right places. Our only limit on this project is our desire to learn, grow, transform, and the hunger to provide value to others.

If you want to help us on this journey, please consider joining us.