October 2017 | Q&A Spotlight

Diving into DevOps: Talking with Julie Wesche of BECU

Diving into DevOps: Talking with Julie Wesche of BECU

Julie Wesche is vice president of technology operations for BECU, the largest community-based credit union in the United States. A member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative with more than 1 million members, BECU offers services designed to improve the economic and social well-being of all its members. Julie joined BECU in 2015 and previously held senior technology roles with JPMorgan Chase and WaMu. She is responsible for the credit union’s IT operations, including areas such as network engineering, telecommunications, infrastructure, systems engineering, database engineering, IT tools, data centers, cloud solutions, production support, and service desk and desktop support.

What do you see as the biggest challenge in your industry today?

No question, the biggest challenge is the ever-increasing pace of change. I don’t know who said this first, but it seems to ring true regardless of the year, decade or era:  “Today is the slowest rate of change we will ever experience”.  For the financial sector, including credit unions, our members want and need new features to help meet their every day to long-term financial needs. We need to be able to move apps and enhancements into production more frequently than ever before. For BECU, increasing our IT delivery velocity means transforming how we work – moving from a traditional IT delivery model with separate functional teams (Development, QA, Operations, etc.) with many hand-offs among teams to deliver a release; to a DevOps model where developers and operations participate together in the entire lifecycle, from design, through development and into production support with minimal hand-offs.

What trends are you most excited about?

I am most excited to see how far machine learning continues to advance over the next few years and decade, and what it will bring to the home, our schools, healthcare, the workplace, our environment, entertainment, transportation and more.

More immediately though, methodologies on how IT work is performed can have dramatic improvements in getting software into production much earlier and with higher quality. Organizations need to find what methodologies work for them. For BECU, the principles and approaches of Scrum, Kanban and DevOps are key.

How are you using technology to improve the way your business runs?

Technology is integral to how we serve our members, from back-end systems that they never see, to member-facing applications that they log into to check balances, check their credit score, transfer funds, pay bills, or apply for a loan. This also includes phone calls they make to the Contact Center and routing them to the right agent who has the right knowledge and data to help. In this age, a “Technology Revolution” means a “Business Revolution” and vice versa. As one advances, so must the other.

Technology is an ever-evolving subject. Which local business organizations or local events do you use to stay connected to the community?

The list is very long. I rely on the usual research and analyst channels such as Gartner. I also attend several local technology forums, as well as a variety of conferences. Looking ahead to the rest of this year, I am most looking forward to attending the DevOps Enterprise Summit.

BECU also has an affinity relationship with the University of Washington. I am on the advisory board for the iSchool Informatics Program, which specializes in areas such as data science, human-computer interaction, and information security. We are looking forward to sponsoring a capstone program in 2018 and are looking for other ways to partner with the various technology programs at the university.

Finally, we have space at Galvanize’s Seattle campus, which acts as a type of incubator for tech startups, innovators and organizations of all shapes and sizes. BECU teams are doing some impressive work here.

You recently participated in a panel with the Ellevate Seattle chapter on women in technology. What is one piece of advice you have for women who are interested in pursuing technology as a career?

I encourage women at all career stages to seek a diverse mix of mentors, both internal and external to their organization, with both formal and informal mentorships. Also, ideally the mentor and mentee will learn from each other so the learning isn’t a “one-way street”. For instance, when I mentor millennials, I learn as much from them as they do from me. Don’t hesitate to ask for mentorship or advice, even if it is just a phone call or a quick lunch meeting.

One of West Monroe’s core values is social responsibility, and we know BECU also has a strong commitment to giving back. What’s one community activity your company is doing that you’re most excited about? 

Social responsibility matters very much to me. I am particularly excited about our People Helping People Awards. We ask members to nominate their favorite not-for-profit organizations to receive a monetary award from BECU. There is a rigorous vetting process, and from it the company selects organizations that will receive grant awards. In 2016, BECU honored 13 non-profit organizations with $170,000. In 2017, we will see even more organizations receiving grants ranging from $15,000 to $50,000. One of my favorite things about these awards is that they are member-nominated, reflecting our commitment to being a member-first organization.

What’s your favorite thing about living and working in the Northwest?  

I was raised here, so I’m quite partial. We are gifted from a natural beauty perspective, with the mountains, water, and islands to enjoy year-round. I also love the people and culture of the Northwest. Every time I’ve been offered a relocation opportunity, it just couldn’t measure up to living and working in the Seattle area.

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