From Desktop Computers to Applications: How Jeff Ramnani Continues to Learn Software

More than 20 years since his first job supporting desktop computers at a bank (“basically the digital equivalent of the mail room”), Jeff describes his career as evolving “essentially from the bottom of the ladder and working my way up.”

Now a principal crafter and one of 8th Light’s most experienced leaders and consultants, Jeff has led teams and projects for some of 8th Light’s largest and most novel clients, including Bank of Montreal, Hearken, Axus, and Verifi.

Name: Jeff Ramnani
Location: Los Angeles
Time at 8th Light: 4 years
Time in the industry: 23 years

As a technical expert in DevOps, he has helped multiple client teams bring stability, maintainability, and predictability to their systems and processes. He’s also helped teams onboard new developers with automated local development environments, developed internal tools and infrastructure to allow massive financial institutions to innovate more rapidly, and worked as an agile and continuous delivery coach for a global bank. In between, he’s delivered innovative greenfield applications that drive engagement and improve users’ lives.

Jeff is now in his second stint with 8th Light, after taking a break to work for Apple for two years. That experience has only added to his wealth of knowledge, and has helped him develop a deep empathy for everyone involved in a software project — from the operations team to the end users. “I came to 8th Light for its values of improving software quality in the world, and because of the way they invest in people via the apprenticeship program,” he says. “I wish more companies would take ownership of training their employees the way 8th Light does.”

Growing with the Industry

Jeff’s unique career path gave him insights into the breadth and history of modern software applications, and it unfolded in gradual steps. “Over the course of my career, I worked on building out and fixing desktop computers, then servers, then building out a data center, then doing system administration of the fleets of servers in the data center, then learning build engineering and release management of the applications that ran on those servers, then finally becoming an application developer,” Jeff says.

This career path could be described as circuitous in hindsight, but it also emphasizes the aspects of software delivery that are often hidden by abstraction. “I learned how servers and hardware worked; someone coming in now can learn the cloud and maybe never touch a server,” Jeff says. “Some of that stuff is harder to learn because it’s built on top of an abstraction you’ll never be exposed to. We don’t need to be an auto mechanic to drive our cars, but it means it’s harder to be an auto mechanic because of how complex cars have become now.”

This presents a paradox. “The industry’s grown and there’s way more software now than when I started,” Jeff says when thinking about all of the new languages, frameworks, and tools that comprise the modern internet. “That means there’s a lot more to learn from, but it’s also a lot more to learn.”

In either scenario, developers cannot be expected to learn these disciplines and guide their careers on their own. Each career is a collaborative enterprise, with mentors and advocates at each step offering a boost onto the next rung. “I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had multiple mentors in my career,” Jeff says, sharing advice with an earnest humility. “You can’t know everything, and also nobody out there knows it all either (even if they pretend that they do). Just keep making progress and keep learning every day. It will add up over time, I promise!”

Going Forward With Empathy

Jeff’s experience also underscores his values, and gives him empathy for other developers on his teams. “I came to 8th Light for its values of improving software quality in the world, and because of the way they invest in people via the apprenticeship program,” Jeff says. “I wish more companies would take ownership of training their employees the way 8th Light does.”

For Jeff, this commitment goes deeper than an apprenticeship program, and should be embedded in daily work. “People talk about a culture of learning, but the rubber meets the road when somebody actually doesn’t know something, or makes a mistake because they don’t know something,” Jeff says. “Are you casting blame? Or are you using that as an opportunity to teach and help the other person learn.”

Going forward, these values continue to animate Jeff and guide his career trajectory. His goals for the future are understated but speak to his humility and his values: “I’m looking forward to continuing to become a better developer,” Jeff says. “To share my knowledge and experience with others, and to hopefully help people make new and interesting mistakes instead of the ones I’ve already made.”

Check out our other Employee Spotlights or learn more about careers at 8th Light.

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