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Innovate 11 min

The Snowflake of Cloud Guild with NAB’s Paul Silver


Meet Paul Silver, NAB’s resident Cloud Warrior. Paul has championed the creation of the NAB Cloud Guild, a training program which has up-skilled over 2,000 employees in new cloud technologies. He is an avid developer actively driving innovation across the bank.

Proud to be just one of just 20 Cloud Warriors across Australia and New Zealand (the highest accreditation possible in Cloud technology) – Paul sits down with ADAPT’s Partner Matthew Hanley to discuss how the influence of cloud is driving change culturally across NAB.

Matthew Hanley:

You’ve got quite a unique role, I’d say, within NAB. You’re the founder of the Cloud Guild. Can you explain what the Cloud Guild is, why it was brought into NAB and its purpose?

Paul Silver:

NAB is going on a cloud-first journey. What that means is we’re going towards cloud rather than the old data centres. A lot of the new technology we’re building, we’re putting into the cloud first. In 2017 we announced we needed to get a whole lot of new cloud engineers into the organisation. We couldn’t find them in Melbourne or Sydney so we branched out internationally as well, but we were looking for 2,000 and we just couldn’t find them.

So I came up with the idea of the Cloud Guild. NAB’s Chief Technology Officer Patrick Wright backed me and we started working on training our staff in the technology. We already had great staff, we just need to enable them in that skill set. It’s an academy style approach. The idea is that we get people to go through a series of courses with the outcome that they can cut code in the new technology and be able to deliver assets into the cloud and enable the bank to move forward with the cloud.

Matthew Hanley:

Okay, so NAB is funding all of this to happen, they’re putting them on these courses, they’re learning and studying?

Paul Silver:

Yes, we’re driving technology change. We will be reaching into the rest of the business to explain what we’re doing there as well very shortly. But the idea is, at the moment, we need to bring up our skill set in our technology areas first.

Matthew Hanley:

There’s a massive shift in banking in the last five years. Public cloud five years ago in banking was unheard of. Now it’s a reality, now it’s happening, with a lot of the business is going there. Is that the kind of mandate from the organisation?

Paul Silver:

We need to follow our guidelines from both our governance and APRA as well, so there’s a whole conversation around assets that move across. We have all of our guidelines that we’re moving with the blessings of APRA to make sure that we’re doing it correctly. But yes, with most assets we’re either doing a pick and shift or we’re actually looking at re-platforming them to use native cloud technology.

Matthew Hanley:

Awesome. A couple of weeks ago ADAPT released our Top Ten Technology Challenges report. Number one was actually cloud is not an option anymore. Does that sentiment sit with you guys?

Paul Silver:

Absolutely. It’s the ability to be agile. You need to use cloud technology to drive what we call, MVPs, Minimum Viable Products. Ten years ago, it wasn’t even a consideration that we could get something up and running and tested in a couple of weeks. We’ve now got the ability to move incredibly quickly. With the data centre model, to get a new asset out there, was a big upfront cost, engaging multiple parties to actually get something and then at the end of the day we didn’t know if it would work or not. Now, we’ve shifted to the other side where we can get our product up and running, and see if it will work very, very quickly. We need to enable our business to understand that as well. So, hopefully, we’ll get them to come on the journey shortly.

Matthew Hanley:

Awesome. NAB’s had quite a transformation itself. You’ve got some great technology leaders, Patrick Wright and Yuri Misnik, your CTO and CIO. What’s it like working with leaders who are so detailed in what they do and are very technically minded as well?

Paul Silver

Yuri’s my AGM. He’s fantastic. Having a leader who’s so technical and understands the technology is fantastic. I’ve never experienced that in all of my career and I love it. He has a sniff test so he can tell if something’s right or wrong or if we’re going in the wrong direction. It’s really great to have a leader who can actually push us in the right direction. It’s really quite exciting times for us.

Matthew Hanley:

You have to have the right talent around you to run forward at a good speed and still be agile. Coming back to the talent piece, Australia’s lagging behind other countries in terms of its tech talent and what’s available. Obviously, the Cloud Guild is upskilling your own staff. Are there other projects that you guys are involved in or other bits and pieces with university or STEM that kind of feeds into this as well?

Paul Silver:

We have a department inside of NAB which talks to the universities and we have an internship program with the idea that they come to NAB to have a year to actually learn what they need to do in the industry. In my group, I’ve got ten interns who we’re trying to get trained up. Two of them were certified within four weeks, which is fantastic. But what we do need to do is feedback to the universities to say, it’s now a requirement to actually understand this technology, so we don’t have to train them. The expectation should be when they leave university they’re already trained. I think that’s something that we need to push a little bit more because, as you say, the cloud is no longer an option.

Matthew Hanley:

The second greatest challenge which came up for executives in ADAPT’s report was security, that it needs to be instrumental in every decision that you’re making within the business. How do you guys go about those security decisions when you’re partnering with other strategic partners or just some of your day to day strategic planning?

Paul Silver:

Security is paramount in everything we do. Cloud technology can solve a lot of those problems. The idea of having everything encrypted at rest, encrypted in transit, we can uplift our game. We can actually get to a much more granular level on what can talk to each other. There’s a thing called JWT tokens, where we can actually enable those components so that communications are short lived. As we go towards cloud technology we are lifting our game from a security component.

We also heavily engage with APRA in everything that we do. As we move assets we need to make sure we’re following all of those guidelines. And the great thing about cloud technology is that we can actually do it as code. So all of the security mechanisms and everything, we can put it for CI/CD pipeline now to make sure we adhere to it. For example, if we want to do some penetration testing, rather than leaving it until the last minute, which we’ve done in the past in our on-premise assets, we’re can share it up front as soon as someone cuts the line of code. It’s enabled us to find the problems a lot earlier and shift to the left.

Matthew Hanley:

So, there’s been a big increase in speed and capacity there?

Paul Silver:

Absolutely. We can flow a lot faster by shifting everything to the left and enabling our teams to drive security as a first requirement.

Matthew Hanley:

One last global question. The evolution of your role, how does that go within NAB? And do you see that kind of start happening in other businesses now? Do you think it will happen in other large organizations?

Paul Silver:

I call this idea a snowflake because it is quite unique, but I think it’s a necessity now. This all an idea. Like entrepreneurship, it came from an idea that was needed at the point in time that had someone who was really passionate about driving it. That’s how this all came about. It’s an absolute necessity now for all enterprises to change the culture and change the way you train your people. Because they need to understand. It becomes clarity and a competency component. So the clarity is, we’ve got have those two components you can enable your people.

Matthew Hanley:

A business changes, and as technology or automation come in, which we’ve been talking about the last couple of days, roles are going to move. People need to be equipped before they move on to another business. It’s part of the duty of the organisation to give that skill set back as well so they can move on.

Paul Silver:

Yes, we’ve actually done that. In our organisation, we call it a bridge. The bridge is that gap between when you move on from NAB to what you want to do next. We’ve had a lot of people go through the Guild who want to learn this technology as well. For us to move forward as a country, we need to actually adapt and change. My goal in life would be for Melbourne to become the area of expertise for all IT. I don’t know if I’ll get there but it’s certainly a nice try.

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