Developer Support is Valuable

A part of my work is in a supporting capacity for the rest of our tech department. My team helps out with access to and configuration of cloud resources. When the company was smaller developers did a lot of this themselves, and that kind of empowerment allows for very fast development and deployment. It's not feasible in an organisation of hundreds that rents cloud resources for thousands of dollars monthly and has personal information of millions of users. Giving that sort of access to so many would possibly lead to rampant costs and an increased risk of personal data leaking or being abused (just look at the numerous scandals at Google and Meta/Facebook where admins have stalked ex partners or others).

In such a big organisation where competence is often specialised and applied to smaller domains one can't expect every developer to know or understand the setups and inter-connectivity of all these resources either.

Hence we now lock things down a lot more tightly and the need for a gatekeeper has grown. This slows down development, when developers have to wait for someone else to handle certain configurations and resources for them. My team handles this platform and supporting others is only a part of our work. There's a whole lot of modernisation work going on as well, and a lot of those tasks are large and strategic. Typically one needs days to focus on a task to solve it effectively; the attention fragmentation of being interrupted is a real thing in a team like this.

Previously we solved a lot of support requests in an ad hoc manner: whenever we had time we'd look through the requests and handle them one by one. Eventually we decided that we should assign a person to focus on the support tickets, and we asked around in the team every day about who would do it that day. It was suggested that we assign this person on a weekly basis instead, but right around then I started saying that I could take it pretty much every day every week.

I've discovered over the past year that feedback is a major driver in job satisfaction for me, and solving support tickets provides instant gratification. It also allows me to dig deeper into our infrastructure and learn more about it on a daily basis as I solve intricate cases and find typical bottlenecks; something that is easily missed when the role is rotated within the team.

So I take this task on, and all other tasks I work on are of a bit lower priority or with a longer deadline. Thus the fragmented attention problem has a lower impact, and as I enjoy the interruptions given by support tickets I don't mind at all.

The biggest gain however is not for me personally but for the tech department as a whole. Whereas a typical request could previously take a day or two and common requests sometimes required research because documentation and automation was lacking, these are now often solved in minutes or hours. Sometimes, when I've happened to have the support channel tab focused as a request comes in, I've solved a very common request type within 30-45 seconds of it being submitted. Imagine the impact on developer velocity when response times have decreased by this magnitude!

And the amount of positive feedback I receive is proportional. I love this part of my job.

-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal