“Women in tech catalyze a focus on pay equity, gender diversity, race diversity, thought diversity, and more. We also keep pushing to invest in the candidate pool by advocating for youth access to education that we did not have, so we have more representation in the future.”
Tanya Fàddoul, Vice President of Product Management and Engineering, DocuSign
We sat with Tanya Fàddoul, VP of product management and engineering – incubations at DocuSign. Tanya is an experienced and passionate leader with plenty of experience in corporate technology, often as the first or only woman in the room.
DocuSign’s incubations team builds and operates solutions that cross cultures, and legal jurisdictions, and impact people around the world. Like Valence, the group is chartered with designing and developing never-been-done-before solutions.
Here are excerpts from our conversation about women in technology.
It’s so great to connect with you! Why don’t we start with what you are doing today – what work are you doing for Docusign?
I’ve been with DocuSign for eight years, and since joining the company, I’ve worked on everything from sales to operations, to product management – I took a very non-linear path to where I am today!
I lead a phenomenal customer-obsessed product engineering group called Incubations, which is focused on cutting-edge and innovation. Our goal is to continuously learn from customers, co-develop with them, incorporate new capabilities, and pursue new market opportunities so people can realize innovative experiences as they go. We experiment with and on behalf of customers, and push the limits of what the platform can do.
I think a lot of women in tech can relate to your unconventional path. How did you get started in technology?
As I mentioned, it’s been very nonlinear! The short of how I got this start is customer obsession. I always go back to the customer and figure out how technology could catalyze a solution for a problem. I don’t have a programming background and don’t know how to code, but I am interested in how to solve customer problems, and how to lead people with the knowledge to solve them.
My family is made up of first-generation immigrants from Lebanon, and my parents fulfilled our American dream by starting out as entrepreneurs who also served SMBs.
My first job was an internship for a real estate company, and I was their fax girl. I would literally fax documents. Could you imagine having a fax person full-time in this day and age?
When I graduated from college, I sold advertising for a local CBS affiliate and worked in television. In 2010, a colleague from the CBS corporation made the move to Amazon and encouraged me to do the same. We felt that I could make an impact on the sales program since it was like a media advertising sale. So, I helped amazon launch Amazon Local which was a Living Social competitor that supported small businesses. I’ve been in how tech can change the world, ever since.
What can you tell us about the people who paved the way for you? How did mentors factor into your success?
Mentorship played a huge role in my career! Some of my heroes are my family, my heritage, those who came before me, and my community.
A standout mentor is Tom Casey, Docusign’s SVP of technology. He was a fierce advocate, sponsor, and mentor for a lot of my career growth. He put me in rooms and gave me a seat at the table when I didn’t have one. He recognized that someone like me, who can see every part of a business function, would add more value to product engineering. He told me that I don’t need to know how to code, I need to get the engineers jobs to do. He recognized that knowing how to get our technical team the most valuable engagements with customers would be my strength.
From there, my next hero is Leah McTiernan, GVP of Solutions Engineering. She partnered with me to make customer-related inputs from the field accessible and structured. She’s been a 10-star business partner and a female leader who challenges me, supports me, and gets creative with me. Together, we bring the collective bright minds together to solve problems and empower successful outcomes.
I think women have a hard time saying this, but I am my own hero. I often struggle with imposter syndrome, so I challenge myself to step back and acknowledge that I was resolute, resilient, curious, and an advocate to get to where I am. I paved the way for myself in an environment where women often struggle, which is in corporate technology. And while many things have changed for the better, a lot has stayed the same. So I am my own hero and I have lots of work to do!
Let’s talk about what’s around the corner in technology. What trends are you seeing?
The average person wants to be able to build, decipher, drive, and manipulate data so it enables them to do something, whatever it might be. So low-code and no-code is a huge trend. AI-assisted experiences will be everywhere, and consumers will learn to expect them. We will just interact with things that anticipate our next move that guide, nudge, and communicate with us.
I’m very interested in biometrics for identity verification. Gone are the days of passwords. We can already go to an airport and never use our photo identification. How does that impact industries like government, retail, and banking?
One trend that’s easily overlooked is in healthcare technology. What was achieved with COVID vaccines was achieved through technology. There’s now talk of a COVID pill – think about the speed in which this happens! Drug trials will accelerate, and technology will influence how we think about and deliver health and wellness, supplements, substitutes, and vaccinations.
Remote and hybrid work are here to stay, so we need to improve the way we work and be thoughtful about how this impacts women. Women often give up their at-home workspace so male partners can use the better workspaces. This is partly because men make more money than women, so pay inequity explicitly factors into remote and hybrid work strategies. When the breadwinner always gets the good desk, what does that do to us? It takes us ten steps back unless we have the tools to change it! Bringing technology to empower anywhere work is happening is a game changer.
What tech does the world need now more than ever?
My belief is that the world is at a sustainability turning point and technology is part of the solution. The business community needs to make sure that tech is used responsibly and sustainably. Tech needs to be developed and deployed to make the real world more sustainable by reducing Co2 emissions, developing cleaner and more reliable transportation, focusing on healthcare, energy consumption, and reducing waste in industrial production.
We need to use the power of technology not just for entertainment and consumerism, but to impact tangible progress in the real world.
Let’s talk about how to improve tech for women. Do you think tech is changing for women?
The percentage of female STEM graduates is about 19% and women hold only 24% of computing jobs. Women leave the tech industry at a 40% higher rate than men, and now women are trying to perform without the right workspace, which is not sustainable.
There is so much room for progress, but there is a pay gap that holds us back. Pay equity has become more of a focus, and companies are more regulated in reporting on equitable pay structure. The more we talk about the pay gap, the more balance and benefits women will be able to receive in the workplace.
What is the one thing you wish people knew to support women in technology?
We have so many organizations working to bring the curriculum to K-12 systems, federally and locally. Get involved, donate, and get kids involved in Code.org and their Hour of Code, which is offered everywhere. Make STEM interesting to girls early on.
There is an infinite amount of space for all working women in the workforce. Women set an example by supporting women, amplifying voices, mentorship, and sponsoring women. And as we support one another, we must realize that men are a part of this journey. Make people aware, and bring in allies and advocates that are part of this mission. Everyone can encourage women to invest in themselves when they are fighting for that seat at the table.
You spoke a lot about women supporting each other. Does being a woman leader in tech come with additional responsibilities?
Yes. Being a female leader in tech is a huge responsibility that I hold near and dear. Paving the way for others is what I owe to those who paved the way before me. Being a sponsor to people who are high potential, and opening doors are my obligation and responsibility. If a young person, woman, or underrepresented person wants to engage with me to learn from me and my network, I will make time for them because this is my commitment to the community and women. It’s incredibly important, and a way to continue to influence change.
What’s one piece of advice that you’d like to share with anyone reading?
It’s corny, but it’s important. Bring your authentic self everywhere you go. If you are goofy, then be goofy. Not everything has to be taken so seriously. If you are an over analyst, then analyze! You need different kinds of people in a room for greatness. Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book, “The Tipping Point”. Everyone has unique strengths that can ultimately cultivate some powerful ideas when used together. Bring your authentic self and invest in your education, invest in yourself, and continue to feed your strengths. We need your authentic voices to make change.
The digital front door has become the common name in the healthcare industry for a mobile website or application that unifies the patient experience and connects patients to care across the continuum.
In short, a digital front door connects and scales the virtual care journey to give patients what they need, when they need it.
The trend toward self-service in healthcare was already underway when COVID hit, and the pandemic sharply accelerated the demand for digital access to healthcare information. Appointment scheduling is one important aspect of a digital front door experience, and studies find that 40% of appointments are booked after business hours, and 67% of patients prefer online booking. Further, $150 billion annually is estimated as the annual loss from missed medical appointments. (source)
Some of our company’s earliest and most enduring clients have been healthcare organizations, and we’ve noticed three keys to success when developing and deploying a digital front door.
Key to success: Get the right stakeholders involved
“This is more than a digital shift – the shift to a digital front door requires a culture shift within the organization,” says Yuri Brigance, Valence’s director of software engineering.
Experience has taught us that having the right people in the room can make all the difference in the success or failure of a major initiative. Especially considering the role that change management plays here – People don’t resist change, they resist being changed. So you need to engage stakeholders from all impacted groups, from frontline workers to back-office operations. This will improve requirements documentation, roadmap planning, and buy-in as the work rolls out.
Key to success: Users Drive the Design Strategy
“While a digital front door is a technology solution, it’s ultimately about humanizing the patient experience,” says Sam To, designer at Valence.
In the case of a digital front door, the users may be patients, families of patients, or healthcare providers. In nearly all scenarios, people value products that are easy to use, simple to set up, and have a logical progression. This is especially true in a healthcare situation, which may be hypercharged by personal and situational stressors.
Equitable design should be at the forefront of design decisions because the healthcare organization needs to design for a wide array of users and needs. You can read more about our approach to equitable design here.
The design phase of the digital front door project should include user interviews, feedback sessions, prototyping, and more. Giving the UX design team access to users early in the process can help to identify the best-case rollout strategy, reveal opportunities to differentiate from competitors, and deliver precisely the right content to users when they need it – all leading to better patient satisfaction scores.
Key to success: Develop a feature roadmap and strategy for rolling out updates
“When embarking on a digital effort in healthcare, it’s important to start by understanding which changes you need to see in the organization. Are you pursuing improved patient satisfaction scores? Physician satisfaction? ED/Urgent Care wait times? Quality and safety scores? Each area targeted for improvement may influence priorities differently,” says Malia Jacobson, healthcare content strategist at Valence.
Many healthcare providers are leaning into digital solutions to address patient satisfaction, reduce service demand, and reduce administrative overhead. In addition to standard features of a digital front door experience, providers should consider designing for experiences such as:
Self-scheduling and care coordination
Find a provider
Infectious disease tracking
Privacy and security to safeguard patient data
Strategies to increase adoption, such as gamification and push notifications
Support for population health initiatives
Analytics and insights to derive more value from data
AI features, such as chatbots, to reduce clinical burden and improve patient flow
Support for healthcare information exchange in compliance with FHIR standards and best practices.
It’s important to understand how these features interplay as part of a big picture roadmap with a rollout timeline and strategy. You don’t have to release everything at one time to be successful, and adding features as the platform develops and collects user feedback will future-proof the effort.
In closing, healthcare has always been heavily impacted by technology, but the patient experience lagged behind other healthcare innovations. That is changing.
Data Mesh Architecture in Cloud-Based Data Warehouses
Data is the new black gold in business. In this post, we explore how shifts in technology, organization processes, and people are critical to achieving the vision for a data-driven company that deploys data mesh architecture in cloud-based warehouses like Snowflake and Azure Synapse.
The true value of data comes from the insights gained from data that is often siloed and spans across structured, semi-structured, and unstructured storage formats in terabytes and petabytes. Data mining helps companies to gather reliable information, make informed decisions, improve churn rate and increase revenue.
Every company could benefit from a data-first strategy, but without effective data architecture in place, companies fail to achieve data-first status.
For example, a company’s Sales & Marketing team needs data to optimize cross-sell and up-sell channels, while its product teams want cross-domain data exchange for analytics purposes. The entire organization wishes there was a better way to source and manage the data for its needs like real-time streaming and near-real-time analytics. To address the data needs of the various teams, the company needs a paradigm shift to fast adoption of Data Mesh Architecture, which should be scalable & elastic.
Data Mesh architecture is a shift both in technology as well as in organization, processes, and people.
Before we dive into Data Mesh Architecture, let’s understand its 4 core principles:
Domain-oriented decentralized data ownership and architecture
Data as a product
Self-serve data infrastructure as a platform
Federated computational governance
Big data is about Volume, Velocity, Variety & Veracity. The first principle of Data mesh is founded on decentralization and distribution of responsibility to the SME\Domain Experts who own the big data framework.
This diagram articulates the 4 core principles of Data Mesh and the distribution of responsibility at a high level.
Each Domain data is decentralized in its own data warehouse cloud. This model applies to all data warehouse clouds, such as Snowflake, Azure Synapse, and AWS Redshift.
A cloud data warehouse is built on top of a multi-cloud infrastructure like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), which allows compute and storage to scale independently. These data warehouse products are fully managed and provide a single platform for data warehousing, data lakes, data science team and to provide data sharing for external consumers.
As shown below, data storage is backed by cloud storage from AWS S3, Azure Blob, and Google, which makes Snowflake highly scalable and reliable. Snowflake is unique in its architecture and data sharing capabilities. Like Synapse, Snowflake is elastic and can scale up or down as the need arises.
From legacy monolithic data architecture to more scalable & elastic data modeling, organizations can connect decentralized enriched and curated data to make an informed decision across departments. With Data Mesh implementation on Snowflake, Azure Synapse, AWS Redshift, etc., organizations can strike the right balance between allowing domain owners to easily define and apply their own fine-grained policies and having centrally managed governance processes.
Combating online misinformation and building digital trust are increasingly important for organizations doing business online. Here are a few ways that our developers and content producers work together to improve access to reliable, trustworthy content for our clients.
The Internet is filled with impressive technology platforms that we use every day. But should we trust their content? For years, content platforms evolved to focus on the technology itself, not the content within. The result: Wary consumers who distrust much of what they read online. False online information costs the global economy $78 billion each year, and three-quarters of Americans believe online misinformation is a big problem. Let’s not forget the “infodemic” of public health misinformation that researchers believe contributed to the spread of COVID-19.
Per the International Data Corporation (IDC), false information destroys the trust that fuels our digital economy. Simply put, if website visitors don’t trust your organization’s digital content, they won’t stick around long enough to become a customer.
Organizations can win and keep users’ trust by creating trustworthy, reliable content. How? As developers and content producers, we help organizations improve content quality, clarity, and accuracy with these steps.
1. Include content producers and stakeholders in platform design.
At the beginning of a project, bring stakeholders, content producers, and developers together to identify the platform’s key audiences, desired user experience (UX), and the internal process through which content will be vetted, approved, moved through QA, and posted. Defining a process to validate and approve content prior to publication helps inform the development of the right back-end content management system. This ensures that the finished platform supports the publication of content that’s worthy of users’ time—and trust.
2.Help organizations use and optimize owned media channels.
An organization’s digital marketing efforts include paid, earned, shared, and owned media channels—the organization’s own website, blog, and other outlets within its control. While earned media (press mentions) and shared media (social shares) are exciting, many organizations learn the hard way that information published on external media platforms isn’t always accurate, and fighting misinformation is a draining, costly battle. Organizations with robust owned media channels can build and keep digital trust by carefully and consistently publishing reliable, accurate content on their own platforms to serve as a source of truth for users.
3. Address racial and gender bias in content platform design.
Poor platform design can invite discrimination and reduce the integrity of digital content. Take AirBnB’s efforts to create a more transparent platform by removing anonymity for both guests and hosts during the booking process. Researchers found that revealing a potential guest’s photo before a booking request was accepted allowed hosts to discriminate based on race. To create more equitable, trustworthy, transparent platforms, consider withholding sensitive information that could enable discrimination; build awareness of algorithmic bias; and measure the effectiveness of different platform design choices. (Find more information here: Harvard Business School: How Online Platforms Can Thwart Discrimination.)
4. Bridge language barriers.
Online misinformation disproportionately targets users with language and learning differences. Organizations can work to combat online misinformation by using plain language online and addressing language barriers by integrating language translation APIs like Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and Smartling.
5. Make digital content user-friendly.
The most sophisticated platform will inhibit trust if users can’t follow along. We learned how this is especially critical for healthcare organizations, public agencies, and firms operating in the health and wellness industry during the COVID pandemic. Creating platforms that support user-friendly visual aids, symbols, and a clear pathway through complex topics helps users find and understand reliable, trustworthy information they need. (Find more information here: National Institutes of Health: Making Data Talk.)
Prioritizing content quality and accuracy may be new for organizations used to focusing on platform design. But when content producers and developers work together to publish trustworthy, reliable content, organizations and their audiences win.
14 Ways to Design and Develop a More Sustainable Website
By Deborah Keltner
Could you have a more sustainable website?
While the shift from analog to digital content has kept trees out of paper mills, it has undoubtedly contributed to the climate crisis because of the carbon footprint of technology. Whether it’s e-waste or energy needed for computing, the tech sector has a huge opportunity to lessen its impact on our earth’s climate.
We need to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century to keep the global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius. You can learn more about Earth Day and its supporting events & initiatives here.
In honor of Earth Day, we are sharing a list of ideas, tips, tricks, and insights to help website designers and developers deliver more sustainable websites. We are still learning more about how to deliver more sustainable technologies, so if you have additional tips and tricks, we want to hear from you!
Let’s get started!
You are reading this on the internet! Did you know that the use of the internet alone causes emissions of approximately 2,330,000 tons of carbon and consumes 2,340,000 MWh of electricity every day? If you found this article via a web search, your search consumed about 0.3 Wh of energy and released 0.2g of carbon into the environment. It’s not much on its own, but it adds up.
Do you want to reduce your website’s carbon emissions?
Did you know: Offsetting the carbon from our website requires the work of 12 trees every year.
You can reduce the carbon emissions associated with your website by reducing the amount of electricity used to load, send, and view a web page, and then ensuring the resulting electricity required to access and use the site comes from clean, renewable resources.
Designers and developers have a lot of influence over the energy efficiency of the websites they design and create. Here are 14 tips for you to design and develop a greener an more sustainable website:
Get rid of unnecessary code, which uses computing power without benefiting users. If you have large blocks of commented-out code, don’t let it slip into production. Keep code clean and simple, avoid duplication and write efficient queries. This doesn’t just apply to the code you write, but also to the code you borrow. If you use existing frameworks and libraries, ensure that they are also refined and tailored to efficiently deliver the functionality you need and that you are not using over-built code. In cases where you are using a CMS like WordPress, avoid unnecessary plugins that add bloat and choose plugins that minimize server load and don’t add unnecessary weight on the front end.
Use compression. Some compression techniques can save data without compromising quality.
Consider programming language efficiency when choosing between programming languages. Less efficient languages have a higher carbon footprint.
Run computations on the server side. Data centers are more efficient than end-user devices.
Choose green cloud vendors. Ask whether your cloud provider uses sustainable energy sources.
Keep digital efficiency top-of-mind. Every day is Earth Day when you are prioritizing energy-efficient decisions. Our site is run on renewable energy, which helps offset our impact.
The goals of SEO are aligned with the goal of reducing energy consumption. When optimizing a website for search rankings, we help people find the information they want quickly and easily. When SEO is successful, people spend less time looking for information and visiting fewer pages that don’t meet their needs. This means less energy is consumed and the energy that is consumed is used to deliver value to the user.
Copywriting also impacts the amount of time people spend browsing your site. We don’t want people to waste time sifting through content that offers them little value, so clear and efficient copy can reduce wasted time and in turn reduce wasted energy.
Good user experience makes using the web easier and reduces the amount of energy wasted navigating to pages that don’t serve the correct purpose and trying to decipher what they should do next. Obviously, our UX Design team is here to help!
On most websites, images are the single largest contributor to page weight. The more images you use and the larger those image files, the more data needs to be transferred and the more energy is used. Regardless of any technical optimizations, designers and content creators should think carefully about their use of images.
Does the image genuinely add value to the user?
Does it communicate useful information?
Could the same impact be achieved if the image was smaller?
Could we reduce images that are not visible to the user, such as in carousels?
Could we achieve the same effect with a vector graphic (or even CSS style) instead of a photo?
Video is the most data and processing intensive form of content. As with images, ask yourself if videos are necessary. If they are, reduce the amount of video streamed by removing auto-play from videos and by keeping video content short. A website with video playing can be one or even two orders of magnitude heavier than a website without video in terms of page weight and creates much higher load on the users CPU, resulting in vastly greater energy consumption.
Web fonts can add significant file weight to the websites on which they are used. A single font file could be as much as 250kb, and that might only be for the standard weight. If you want bold, add another 250kb. To reduce the impact on custom web fonts, designers should consider the following options: Use system fonts where possible. Fonts like Arial and Times New Roman can be used without loading any font files at all as they are already on the user’s device, and try to be frugal in the number of typefaces you choose and in the number of different weights that you use for each typeface.
Build static web pages. CMS-powered websites make queries to the website database and dynamically generate pages, so the webserver has to do work thinking about what information to send back to the user each time someone tries to load a page. That causes the server to use more energy. In some cases, it may be possible to simply server static web pages with no database at all by writing the web pages as static files in HTML, CSS, and JS, or by using a static site generator or specialist static web host to convert your CMS-powered website into static files.
Consider reducing white space and embracing dark mode. Dark websites were one of the first techniques popularized for saving energy on websites many years ago and it faded away with the advent of LCD screens, which had a permanent backlight, using the same energy regardless of the color actually visible on the screen. However, with the advent of OLED screens that light up each pixel individually, using darker colors is once again a viable technique to reduce energy on end-user devices.
If you’d like to estimate the carbon footprint of your website, this tool is easy to use. In fact, it’s how we learned that our website needs improvement (we’re currently running dirtier than 78% of similar websites and producing 2.14g of carbon every time someone visits our site). https://www.websitecarbon.com/.
You may not be able to do every single one of these things, but every action you take to produce a sustainable website adds up, so lean into greener design and engineering on Earth Day and every day!
It’s Women’s History Month – Let’s Make Tech More Inclusive
By Deborah Keltner
We may be preparing to wrap up Women’s History Month 2022, but we aren’t done working to make tech inclusive. Women’s History Month provides education on how women helped shape the nation and empowers children by introducing them to historical role models. It also inspired us to share practices that make our company and our industry more inclusive to women.
While the month is over, our effort to bring gender equity to our company and our industry is ongoing.
Women have played a key role in the advancement of technology and computer science since its creation. For example, computer pioneer Grace Hopper devised the theory of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the creation of COBOL. And while women are an ever-growing part of the tech community, inequality in pay and opportunities persists.
No matter your gender, here are ways every person can make our industry more inclusive and better for women:
As a professional
Mentoring. It’s important that both men and women mentor women in technology. Letting women and girls know that they have a future in technology helps to increase the number of women pursuing careers in computer science. This pillar of support can be offered through professional groups or one-on-one. If you are a woman in tech, making yourself visible will inspire other women and girls. And men in tech should evaluate who you seek out or offer mentorship to, so you can make sure you are doing so equally.
Educate yourself. Read books and blogs for, by, and about women in tech. This reading list has some great recommendations. Follow Women in Tech on social media – searching the hashtag #womenintech can get you started.
Speak up. Point out non-inclusive behavior, even if it comes from someone above you in the leadership chain.
Evaluate your professional circles. Do you find that your network isn’t as diverse as you’d like? Start building professional relationships with women and people of color so your network looks more like your community.
As a manager
Eliminate bias in the hiring process. Look for ways to attract qualified candidates from a variety of backgrounds. Our recruiting team uses several techniques to make the process inclusive to women, including anonymizing applicants, monitoring job descriptions for gendered or exclusive language, encouraging applicants to include their personal pronouns, and setting system reminders to be inclusive while reviewing applicants or completing interview feedback.
Visibility is a serious challenge faced by many women. Women are often tasked with “invisible work” – such as day-to-day tasks and maintenance work – and therefore get credit for being diligent, but not strategic. Managers should make sure that everyone has equal access to strategic projects and that everyone is equally tasked with invisible work.
Address pay gaps – female tech workers make anywhere from 10% to 33% less than male counterparts, depending on seniority level. Ask about equity when setting the pay scale for a role so you do not perpetuate unequal pay.
Amplify women’s voices and do your part to ensure women are heard. To amplify a colleague who has shared a good idea in a meeting, speak up, name and credit the woman, and repeat her idea.
Use Inclusive language. Favor gender-neutral terms whenever possible. Here’s a guide:
Folks, friends, team, y’all
Women, folks, people, you all, y’all, friends
Legacy status, preexisting
Man hours, manpower
Person hours, engineer hours, level of effort, hours
Maintenance, cleanup, overview
Male or female connectors/ fasteners
Connector and receptacle, plug and socket
Man (verb, “I will man the desk”)
Workforce, human effort
Pronouns, personal pronouns
Gay (as a generic term)
First run, first launch
Challenges within the tech industry make it harder for women to pursue a career in our field, and even once women join tech, they are less likely to stay in it – both because of lack of role models and because it’s often male-dominated and gender exclusive. Valence is working to improve things for women in tech and raising awareness about this issue is one way that we can contribute to progress.
What else should we do to make tech inclusive? We’d love to learn more from others who are supporting women in tech.
By joining forces, Valence and MajorKey offer an even greater set of cloud services for businesses that want to power their digital transformation with cloud technologies.
MajorKey works with clients to migrate business applications to the cloud, and Valence builds services on the cloud. This is one reason these businesses are such a powerful combined force.
The cloud refers to software and services that run on a (usually) regionally located server owned by the cloud service provider, instead of on an on-premise server owned by a customer. Cloud servers are in data centers all over the world. By using cloud computing, companies don’t have to manage physical servers or run software applications on their own machines.
It’s big business. In fact, one of our partners, AWS contributed 14.5% of revenue to Amazon’s overall business in 2021, which would have operated at a $1.8 billion loss in Q4 without it – and AWS revenue was up nearly 39% compared to 2020.
There are many ways to use and understand the business impact of cloud technology. We are breaking down the distinction between cloud services and cloud migration for you here!
Cloud Migration and Cloud Services
Simply put, cloud migration is what happens when a company moves some or all of its software onto cloud servers.
In other words, cloud migration is moving your software to a managed server operated by the cloud provider; and cloud services are technology solutions built on top of those managed servers. There’s a whole range of capabilities bridging the two.
Let’s take a closer look.
Cloud services range in how much they abstract away from the customer. A good example is Amazon Cognito, which is a user management cloud service. Amazon Cognito has implementations of basic user functions such as login, logout, sessions, and security, so a customer doesn’t have to worry about a deeper technical implementation of these features and can focus on managing users.
Cloud services are so flexible that there are seemingly infinite ways to deploy them for a business. Cloud services are the infrastructure, platforms, and software hosted by cloud providers, and there are three common solutions:
Infrastructure as a service: The renting out of virtual machines and space to customers, while providing a way to remotely manage the resource. When a company migrates to the cloud, they are using this service.
Platforms: Providers like AWS and Azure build specialized software on top of their own cloud hardware and offer the software to customers as a service. These are specialty services and can provide patterns for things such as Data Analysis, Compute, IoT, APIs, Security, Identity, and Containerization. We wrote about Digital Twins in a previous post, which referenced Digital Twin platforms offered by AWS and Azure.
Software as a service (SaaS): Software can be built on top of the platforms offered by the cloud providers. Software developers can also partner with other third parties to provide fully built instances of software that typically come with subscription rates, customer support, and personal configurations of the software. Examples of this include Atlassian Jira and Confluence, Dropbox, Salesforce, and G suite.
These services can be transformative for businesses in general, but it’s not always easy to know the best way for your business to use them. The added benefits to this migration range per case, and here are four examples:
Scalability: Cloud services often offer on demand scaling options that can satisfy unexpected or planned growth. Depending on your product, this can be a lot easier than upgrading on-premise hardware, but not always cheaper.
Cost: Although we expect the costs to be passed to the consumer in some way, the logistics of maintenance and upgrades to the cloud systems is handled by the provider. In many cases this can translate to a huge amount of money saved for the customers.
Performance: Performance enhancing services like CDNs and regional hosting, when understood and configured properly, can have tangible and positive performance impacts.
Local Management: Being on the cloud means access to the digital portals to manage the services (most times). This creates a lower bar of entry for employees to manage and observe the resources.
Many businesses start their digital transformation journey by migrating infrastructure or applications from on-premises servers to the cloud. Notably, cloud migration can also refer to a situation where a business needs to bring the cloud resources they manage into an on-premises environment. It can also describe a situation where a business moves its data resources from one cloud provider to another.
Cloud migration to use cloud services is a process that presents many upsides, and is worth investigating! The process will add additional complexities – specifically, security and governance will generally be instituted upfront as a base for the rest of the migration. We design and engineer performant, scalable, and maintainable applications that save businesses money, fill in knowledge gaps, and provide users with a positive experience.
Here are two examples of cloud services that we’ve built for clients:
Building cloud applications with AWS lambda: We have bridged the gap between multiple third-party APIs and created new databases that consolidate data and deliver it to a web application. Cloud services remove the need for our clients to interact with these multiple services, which saves them time and money. At the same time, we used AWS Cognito to help our customer manage roles and users in a secure and trusted way. This removed the need for our engineers to write our own user management software, a cumbersome task.
Data pipelines: We identify problems in our customers’ current database providers and migrate data to a more performant and better structured database in cloud-to-cloud migrations.
We will continue to build and migrate while we investigate the future of the cloud. What are the new services and platforms? Who can benefit the most from them? How can we do it right? We will be prepared for the cloud migration and services needed from the real world to the metaverse, and beyond.
Three Ways We Bring a Learning Culture to Our Business
One reason that Valence consistently is awarded Best Place to Work by the Business Journal is because we are all about a Learning Culture. A Learning Culture is rooted in a growth mindset where people want to learn and to apply what they have learned to help their organization.
Our team weaves together consulting, design, and engineering practices while staying alert to new technologies and innovations, while also becoming experts in our clients’ industries, business units, and market trends.
That’s a lot to learn.
And rather than being intimidated by all the things we have yet to learn, we encourage our people to stay open and curious. Learning is a core value here, and it’s a key to our company’s success.
“One thing I love about this company is that it’s a learning place. I always feel comfortable calling our designers, architects, and engineers so I can tap their expertise and better understand what matters most. They always make the time and encourage me to ask questions, and it helps me feel confident in my role,” Angela Kaiser, senior project manager.
We leverage each other’s knowledge, and as part of MajorKey, we are exploring exciting ways to broaden our educational platform, especially since we are now a global business with learners and teachers in the US, India, and Argentina.
“I love being a part of the learning culture and I love that I have the freedom to learn, admit what I don’t know, and dig into what I want to know. Valence is a great place for that,” says Renee Christenson, senior project manager at Valence. Renee also leads up the Valence Lunch and Learn program!
Learning happens formally and informally here, whether it comes through moments in spontaneous conversations, as part of a scheduled deep dive with a colleague, at one of our monthly lunch and learn meetings, at a conference, or through collaboration with clients and partners.
Senior Content Writer, Malia Jacobson says, “I have a quote by author Annie Dillard framed in my office. The final lines are ‘Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.’ It reminds me that it’s not enough to continually develop new knowledge in our fields—we also need to share what we’re learning. I’ve learned so much from my Valence team members and colleagues, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share, engage, and pay it forward.”
Here are three tips to bring a learning culture into your company:
A flat structure will encourage people to ask questions and show their curiosity.
We need each other’s knowledge, and with a flat organizational structure, anyone can share what they’ve learned and what they are passionate about with confidence.
Lunch and learn sessions offer a formalized process with an informal interaction, which helps people to feel comfortable presenting and attending. People respect each other and lead with kindness and respect, so whether you are a presenter with a bit of stage fright, or an attendee nervous to ask a question, everyone is welcome and respected.
2. Invest resources into your Learning Culture and put someone in charge of it.
Valence runs a monthly Lunch and Learn program, which is managed a senior project manager who collaborates with our People team. The Lunch and Learn program typically requires about 4 hours of management time each month.
When a team member delivers a Lunch and Learn presentation, they typically spend up to 40 hours putting the content together, rehearsing, and preparing to present it over several weeks.
The ad hoc requests for education and cross-team sharing are harder to measure, but it’s safe to say that subject matter experts share and seek expertise as part of their work.
We should mention a secondary culture benefit when your company prioritizes learning and teaching, which is that it creates new avenues for employees to know each other and build meaningful relationships, which are crucial for mental health and workplace satisfaction (and harder to come by in remote work situations.)
3. Teach and learn about more than technical topics.
Naturally our monthly Lunch and Learn program covers topics like Artificial Intelligence, 5G, and data governance; but it has also covers topics like Crossfit, perfecting your LinkedIn profile, and making the most of video conferencing. Our upcoming lunch and learn schedule covers topics as varying as DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and the evolution of digital content?
Showcase your Learning Culture by creating a platform for employees to share their passions.
By operating like a campus-less campus, everyone is a student, and everyone is a teacher so we can all come together around learning.
“People are encouraged to share their knowledge and be an educator for the company, which is why you never know what you can learn here,” said Valence President, Jim Darrin.
If you are a knowledge seeker, you’ve got a growth mindset, and you love a learning culture, check out our careers page! At Valence, you might find a career where you can tackle challenges, learn, grow, and develop professionally!
We’re talking about user-centered design because ideas succeed when they translate to products, services, and experiences that users love.
So what does “user-centered design” really mean, and why is it so important right now?
To understand user-centered design, look back to the time when digital products didn’t focus on the user experience like they do today. Just 10 years ago, digital products like websites, apps, and software didn’t need to perform on multiple screen sizes or resolutions because devices were mostly standardized. Companies could create a version of their digital product for desktop devices, a distinct version for phones, and possibly another version for tablets. Many companies didn’t address accessibility and they primarily designed digital products for a single operating system. As a result, many users found technology frustrating, hindering, and downright irritating, which hindered adoption.
Kelly La Belle, Designer
A great product is a product people want to use.
Thankfully, companies addressed the user frustration, and the design process for digital products has been evolving to prioritize users ever since.
People value products that are easy to use, simple to set up, and have a logical progression. User-centered design isolates the users’ specific needs down to granular steps, then we design to be aesthetically pleasing and intuitive. To really understand the users, the design process requires user research, which can include user surveys, brainstorming, testing, and more.
There is no single approach to user-centered design. Most digital products have unique experiences that require unique solutions. An investment in a great user experience and user interface design can make the difference between success and failure.
Products that incorporate user-centered design have been proven to:
Cut down on customer service costs. More intuitive workflows result in less customer frustration and fewer service calls.
Increase sales. Customers conduct research before committing to a new product or service so first impressions online are key. A few bad online reviews about your product will result in lost sales. Rather than hire a PR firm to fix your product’s reputation, invest in a great user experience upfront to reduce the cost of sale.
Reduce lawsuits. Companies can be held legally responsible if their digital products aren’t usable for people with disabilities. Having an inaccessible digital product is in the same vein as having an inaccessible storefront. User-centered design will address accessibility as a top priority.
User-centered design is popular because it works. The digital landscape is constantly changing, so keep the user at the center of the change to ensure a great product and strong business.
Want to know more about our user-focused design capabilities?