My kind of Environment Management has no Trees

Its a fairly standard question – so whats do you do as a job?

Outside of very specific circles, the answer I give usually has one of two responses.

          “Oh what – like trees and climate change?” (resigned sigh)

or if I am lucky,

          “Oh that’s something to do with IT right?” (brief start of surprise from me).

Yes that right! I manage test environments for a major retailer… oh you’ve gone.

For those that stick around long enough my favourite analogy is ‘an Air Traffic Controller for IT environments.’ It was a term I first saw mentioned over on the Plutora blog:  The Definitive Hiring Guide for Test Environment Managers 

Think of a test environment manager as an “air traffic controller” for environments and databases required to test and qualify software for release to production. This job is one focused primarily on tracking and scheduling, but it also involves integrating a number of conflicting inputs to support testing across multiple generations of interconnected systems. A test environment manager balances budgets with timelines and other constraints to give developers the systems they need to ensure that software works as designed in production.

NB: This analogy is not intended to belittle actual Air Traffic Controllers (they stop planes crashing into each other and killing a lot of people after all). There are just certain similarities when it comes to the complex interdependencies that both roles have to juggle.

The thing that draws me to the job is the thing that makes it very niche – the sheer breadth of the role. It the ideal job for a candidate that thrives on doing a bit of everything. Project, Release, Change, Configuration, Strategy, Access, Quality and Data Management are all elements of my role. You need to be able to talk to stakeholders at the right levels – enough technical knowledge to talk to an engineer and business savvy enough to be able de-jargonise for business leaders. It’s a role that requires both reductionist (going down to the details) and holistic (the big picture) thought processes. You need to be able to replan on the fly and also plan far into the future – often in the same conversation.

3 thoughts on “My kind of Environment Management has no Trees

  1. Hello. Thank you for following. I am slightly bemused after your explanation, but yes it sounds like it could be a fascinating job. “Environment management” would have had me thinking of trees, too, and decision trees don’t really count…

    You are making the tests work while limiting costs. I know a bit about Department of Work and Pensions computer systems fouling up, so wish you well.

    Please pop over and comment. I get followed all the time. I wonder how many of my 1376 followers actually read anything I write.


  2. Hi. Thanks for reading! Environments Management is a (relatively) niche discipline – in my experience every company takes a different approach so you can find yourself dragged into a very wide variety of work!

    Having worked both private and public sector I have seen plenty of ‘foul ups’ that could have been prevented by someone taking a more holistic ‘whole IT system’ approach in testing – the mess ups usually occur when the business does not realise the complexity of their own systems. Their ‘tiny change’ can turn into a complete disaster if it has a number of other applications depending on it. A good analogy is the Butterfly Effect in Chaos Theory; a butterfly flaps its wings in New York and causes a Hurricane in China. Its part of my job to prevent that happening (the release disaster – not the Hurricane…)


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