Catching the Daily Vibe at the Bluemix Garage

8 min read

Catching the Daily Vibe at the Bluemix Garage

I’d like to provide you with a glimpse into what we do at the IBM Bluemix Garages based on my typical day at the San Francisco Garage. For context, I am the co-founder of the Bluemix Garages and the overall CTO –- so my day tends to be quite varied. I’m invigorated by the wide variety of work I get to do and the great people I work with in the Garages, across IBM, and with our clients. I learn new things every day and I enjoy the challenge and opportunity to take ideas and turn them into running systems that deliver value… and at the same time, improve IBM’s cloud products through what we learn on client engagements.

So, this was basically my day, yesterday, October 15, 2015.

7:30am After my quick morning routine and some time with my daughter, I started my day talking with John Phelan, Manager of the SF Garage; Savanna Worth, SF Garage Developer; and IBM Bluemix Technical Sales about recommending a set of Bluemix Services and specific service plan (Bluemix is IBM’s Platform-as-a-Service – check out the free trial at The client is an Innovation Center at a large financial services company that has been using Bluemix to develop sophisticated demos and is now looking to expand their use of Bluemix. Our technical sales team knows what’s needed, so onto the next task.

Now to fight traffic into SF – the least fun part of my day.

8:00am I join the kickoff of an internal workgroup to plan 2016 enablement for our technical leaders, designers, and business leaders. We are developing “just in time” education materials and have designated a few consultants to be experts in each core technology area such as Cloud Data Services. With our team’s aptitude to learn new technologies, we are in good shape to learn and start using the many new IBM Cloud features and services coming soon.

8:30am Next up is a weekly Garage operations call –- they’ve got me for 20 minutes and I give recommendations on reaching into our extended team for specific talent. Yippee! We have a terrific developer starting in London this week. I get to interview Holly Cummins and I am delighted to have her joining the Garage.

9:00am Phew – managed to find my Galvanize fob, making it in to the Garage in time for the daily standup. Savannah tells the team to check out the new Bluemix Active Deploy service for blue-green deployments. Chinh Vo, Bluemix Ninja leader (Ninja naming is a story in itself), chimes in that he’s setting up a lunch & learn with the development lead for Active Deploy.

Savannah leads a Bluemix certification study session with Alex, Andy, and Julio

Savannah leads a Bluemix certification study session with Alex, Andy, and Julio

The team is going to hold a ‘Jeopardy’ session for new developers studying for the Bluemix Certification test – I offer up a Coffee Gift Card for the winner and say “Starbuck or Peet’s?” Julio Cabrero, one of the junior developers at the garage, misunderstands. Looks at his coffee and says, “I already have Starbucks.” I say, “No, I mean for a gift certificate.” Everyone laughs. We agree on Peet’s.9:30am

Ilene (right), visiting the SF Garage from Toronto, collaborates with Sarah.

Ilene (right), visiting the SF Garage from Toronto, collaborates with Sarah.

I lead a call with a Canadian client and our Toronto Garage lead developer, Ilene Seelemann to provide advice on moving from one database plan to another to achieve a higher level of availability. The Cloud Data Services (CDS) team provides recommendations on the best approach for migrating their data. An added plus is that the CDS team hears requirements for the SQLDB service straight from users.


10am While it’s all exciting, the highlight of my day is a meeting with executives from a major financial services company, who are exploring options for digital and cultural transformation to become more innovative and agile. It is great having both business and technical leaders visiting together. Tricia O’Keefe, Bluemix Senior UX leader; and John “Boosey” Boudreaux, Garage Sales; join me for the meeting. After about two charts, the presentation gets left behind, resulting in a lively discussion lasting about 90 minutes. We wind up with a heavy focus on IBM Design Thinking —- of great interest to the client, both as to how we apply it at the Garage in our two-day workshops to develop hypotheses and MVP definitions, and in IBM’s own transformation in becoming design-led and DevOps-focused. I give them a preview of the new Bluemix Garage Method site we are about to launch.

Onto a tour of Galvanize and the Garage. The client asks me how accessible I am. I put Savannah on the spot. She’s busy intensely pairing with Marlena Compton and doesn’t hear our discussion. Looking up, she realizes we’re asking her a question. “What?” she says with a smile. All eyes are on her. Someone jokes, “Say yes.” We all laugh. I repeat, “We’re just asking if you feel I’m accessible?” She says, “Definitely,” Flashes a big smile and is back to work with Marlena.

In our earlier discussion, I had told our clients how intense our environment is and that, particularly in pairing, there isn’t a lot of texting or social media check-in going on, or even checking email. Slack is the tool preferred by the team for communication beyond the room. Sure enough, the team is heads down coding, designing, and planning client visits. I trust my team.

Rounding out the meeting, I do a quick demo of our Bluemix platform explaining different deployment options and showing wide range of services and runtimes we offer. The account team will follow up with a deeper demo.

12:30pm My reheated burrito is not so great – so I augment my lunch with some snacks at the Garage. Amdee Vongthongsri, our Garage Client Experience Leader, points out I need to order more snacks as we are running low for client visits. Me, being in charge of ordering snacks, is a running joke and is an explicit example that, in our culture, everyone chips in to help where needed. We regularly ask the “new guy” to restock the fridge.

1:00pm Taking care of my most urgent email and reviewing content for the IBM Bluemix Garage Method site.

1:30pm Time for fun, technical review work. One of the project teams has been developing an app for managing client visits to the Garage. We start with a walk through of the design. As usual, I’m amazed at the creative, engaging experience our designers have come up with. An aside: in the earlier client meeting they asked me what to do about developer teams who say they can do their own design. My response was to set up a challenge for the developer team versus a couple of designers. Have them work separately on the same project with the product manager for a few days, and then compare results. The competition always inspires innovation, and our designers have an excellent record to defend. Designers tell me they really enjoy working at the Garage because design is so strongly integrated and respected in everything we do.

The developers on the project walked me through the testing and continuous integration toolchain. I provide guidance on how to overcome a connectivity issue as we need to integrate from the Bluemix public cloud to one of IBM’s own backend systems. We talk about whether to move to IBM’s own Bluemix dedicated instance – more assessment is needed.

2:15pm Time for a coffee break at Peet’s and picking up that gift card. In case anyone would like to buy me a coffee I drink “mocha lite Javiva” – Sarah Plantenberg, our WW UX Leader, is on vacation this week, so I have to buy my own coffee (we take turns).

2:30pm  Our team working on a new phase of the project for GameStop, re-arranged their planning meeting so that I can join. There’s some lively discussion about implementing one of the stories in Node-RED or node.js – they decide on Node-RED with input from Chinh, lead architect for that project. As usual the developers remind me that I’m not allowed to give my estimate since I’m not the one writing the code – which is only fair, but not as much fun for me.


A glimpse into the playback for a financial services company.

A glimpse into the playback for a financial services company.

After a quick break, Tricia and Boosey do a playback to me of a two-day Garage Design Thinking workshop focusing on an app to expand a network of advisors for a financial services company. As it often happens, new insights were uncovered in the workshop and instead of building an app to bring new analytics to advisors, the MVP is going to be about how to get better data to the existing advisors. The next step is a proposal for our three-week ‘Test Drive Offering’ where we build a rapid prototype and run a set of user testing to get feedback on what should be built for an initial pilot app.

4:15pm  Time to go home – I leave, grabbing some dried mango for driving energy, and a piece of candy to indulge my daughter.

During the drive home, I speak to Chris Sansoucie, WW Garage Delivery Leader. He loves talking to me on my drive home. We talk about engaging some subject matter experts on our Business Rules Service and arranging knowledge transfer on a new feature of API Manager. I give Matt Waldbusser, Director of Cloud Lab Services, input on a proposal for how to modernize, i.e. rewrite in parts, and service-enable a Mainframe program for Bluemix.

I’d like to say my day is done, but given I was busy with the team and clients at the Garage all day, I do some urgent email in the evening after some time with my family and doing dishes, etc.

My next day is different since I am working at home – writing this blog, catching up on email, talking with the team, and checking in frequently with Chris Lazzaro, IBM’s lead for the method content), as I review and revise content for the IBM Bluemix Garage Method launch. It is exciting to see all the work that we have done in the Garage being codified in the method – many of our team members are contributing content. At the Garage, we have been learning not only from our client work but also from IBM’s open source work (we collaborate particularly closely with the Cloud Foundry and Docker teams) and from IBM’s transformation to DevOps. The work we are doing to capture our best practices across our teams will accelerate communicating and leading our clients to scale innovation and DevOps transformation.

Come and hear about the IBM Bluemix Garage Method in person, if you are in SF, or virtually thru YouTube at our Monday evening "Night at the Garage”, or our talk at DevOps Enterprise Summit, Tues at 2:15 pm.

One final note – the IBM Bluemix Garages are expanding in SF, London, Toronto, Nice, Melbourne (in the works) – we are hiring more talented designers, developers, and architects in these locations and also traveling consultants across North America, Europe, and Asia

There’s never a dull moment at the Garage. Why not stop by and find out for yourself? To arrange a visit to one of our Garages in San Francisco, London, Toronto, and Nice, submit a request at

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