Introducing Tom Anderson – Head of GCP Practice at Netpremacy

13 June 2022

As Netpremacy continues to grow within the GCP space, we are delighted to announce our new Head of GCP practice, Tom Anderson. Our customers may be familiar with Tom as CloudCare Manager and general all-around Google technologies expert. Tom is no stranger to leading a webinar, acting as the go-to guy for customer queries and being an expert in the GCP field, making him the perfect fit to take on this new role. If you are yet to have the pleasure of working with Tom, here’s a bit more about him!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience at Netpremacy so far.

I’ve been a consultant working with cloud technologies for most of my professional career, despite graduating with a physics degree! Most of my early experience was in the delivery space where I wore several hats – from infrastructure engineer to solution architect, to cloud specialist. When I joined Netpremacy, I initially helped our commercial team with technical pre-sales across Google Workspace and GCP, before narrowing my focus to what I really enjoy – GCP! Since then, as an organisation, we then spent some time exploring an expansion of our Customer Success offering into GCP (something I spearheaded alongside my role). This led me to realise that my true home was back in Delivery – building products and executing amazing projects in the Google Cloud space.

What are you looking to bring to the role?

We have a brilliant team, there’s no doubt about that! I want to make sure we’re translating that passion and expertise into the projects that we deliver, by strengthening our governance, our methodologies and of course, our alignment with Google! We are already making headway in that space, but with a bit of refinement and moonshot thinking, we’ll set ourselves and our customers up for real success.

What are you most looking forward to about the role?

Working with some really cool technologies! Google is doubling down on innovative technology right now, with some really interesting products and feature announcements (including my favourites – serverless products!). We’ve got such an exciting opportunity to explore how to translate these technologies into solutions that help solve problems in the real world for our customers.

What can people expect working with you/Netpremacy?

The same things I’ve always been known for – honest opinions, constant attempts at humour and a tendency to favour simplicity (KISS principle anyone?).

When you’re not at work, what are your hobbies?

if(!raining) {

    Hiking()

} else {

    Lego()

}

Finally, what’s your favourite thing about working at Netpremacy?

In order: the people, our office and free food Fridays.

Tom has a wealth of experience and we’re very excited to see where he takes the role in the future, congratulations Tom!

14 April 2022

In a highly competitive job market and with employees increasingly wanting to work in a place that resonates with their values, we brought together two change-making technology leaders and two inspiring Googlers to discover how IT leaders can impact company culture in their businesses. 

Netpremacy’s Director of Customer Success, Martin Russell, spoke to John Thompson, Group IT Director at Cazoo, Shaun Le Geyt, CIO at Parkinson’s UK, Alfred Biehler, Head of Innovation and Hannah Cassidy, Account Director at Google Cloud. Here are their key points from this thought-provoking panel session:

Continue to build on positive changes from the last two years.

Across the world, the IT team came to the forefront during the pandemic, facing a whole new raft of problems to solve and for many, a newly elevated position within the business. “Technology leaders now firmly have a seat at the table”, said Shaun Le Geyt, CIO at Parkinson’s UK. “We built a positive reputation for ourselves during the pandemic and we’ve established a great deal of trust and confidence. It’s up to us to keep maintaining these relationships and ensuring we get continued investment to support and level up our organisations”.

Nurture the potential in our teams.

All our panel agreed on the importance of seeing people as individuals with different skill sets and ways of communicating. Alfred Biehler discussed the possibility of missing potential if we overlook those that aren’t exactly like us. Leaders may inadvertently push our colleagues in the wrong direction if we don’t take the time to understand them, and their skills and goals. Diversity matters, and those businesses that don’t prioritise it will fall behind, according to research by Mckinsey. John Thompson added to this, emploring, “we need to bring humanity back into leadership model. If there was one piece of advice I would give tech leaders it would be to engage with their teams regularly. Make sure you’re speaking with them one-on-one- be that leader that makes time for people, understands their unique problems and raises them”.

Don’t underestimate early experiences for new starters.

John and Shaun discussed that the IT team often offers the first interaction a new employee has with the business when they start a role. Get it wrong, and a colleague might feel confused and isolated. Get it right, and you can showcase your business values and warmly welcome your new teammate. Both John and Shaun recommend having new starter equipment in stock in advance of people needing it if you know there will be a hardware delay, so they have everything they need to hit the ground running. Shaun added, “it might sound small, but even putting something like sweets into your new starter pack shows that there is a person that cares about their experience in the company and wants to welcome them.” Googler Hannah Cassidy explained the buddy system for new starters at Google. “Years on, buddies and their new starters stay in touch and have a great relationship.” In a highly competitive job market and increasing numbers of burnt-out staff, IT leaders thinking about how they can look after their new employees are those making a real business impact. 

Embody company values through technology.

Our panel discussed two values they found important: equity and trust. When it comes to hybrid working, it’s important to remember that not everyone can be based from home, explained John from Cazoo. “We need to make sure everyone is treated fairly and recognise the great employees that make up the company (for example, Cazoo’s car mechanics). Everyone needs to be supported in the most relevant way for them.” When it comes to hybrid working, Shaun and John discussed various ways they are trying to make the experience as positive as possible no matter where colleagues are based. From ensuring meeting room cameras are at eye level to avoid people physically looking up or down at one another to using Google Companion Mode to interact in meetings, it’s about making sure people are interacting through a place of equality. As for trust, the panel discussed the possibility of giving employees a budget for their tech equipment rather than dictating what makes and models people will get. “A budget like this means people feel trusted and more personally responsible for maintaining their equipment,” explained Alfred from Google. “It shows that you as leaders trust your people to make good decisions.” However, like any important decision, it’s critical to consider the context of your team and how you will set boundaries for what you can support before considering a budget like this. 

Understand that culture changes and requires ongoing care.

“We cannot predict what is around the corner,” said Alfred from Google. “We have to acknowledge the impact that a change in work location has on the culture we cultivated when before the pandemic”. Alfred explained that as leaders, we need to be ready to adapt and do what we can to nurture culture and appreciate its ever-evolving nature. Shaun added that “everything is about our people at the end of the day.” The more that leaders can put people at the heart of everything and understand their unique circumstances, the better chance we have to support and adapt processes and build a company culture that thrives.

Key takeaways

  • Appreciate individuality and nurture it.
  • Don’t underestimate the impact the IT team has on company culture.
  • Understand people first, then build your processes around them.

 

Interested in company culture and hybrid working? Join Martin Russell, Netpremacy’s Director of Customer Success at this year’s CIO Cloud Transformation Summit, where he’ll be discussing both. View the agenda and sign up here or view all our events

09 March 2022

Whatever working model your organisation decides to adopt in 2022, it’s highly likely that it will include an element of hybrid working and continue to elevate the importance of the IT team. Here, we’ll explore three key areas hybrid working will impact in 2022 – colleagues, customers and collaboration – and what to incorporate into a strategy for maximum impact in these areas.

Colleagues

It is undeniable that flexibility is on most employees’ priority lists when considering where they want to work in 2022. However, flexibility isn’t limited to allowing people to work from home now and again. “Companies have been engaged in an arms race to offer the best perks,” says Carolina Valencia, a vice president in Gartner’s HR practice who has conducted a recent global study into post-pandemic working. “But once basic needs are met, people are more powerfully motivated by feelings than by material features. Employees today want to be treated as people, not just workers.” That includes creating equal opportunities for training, mentoring and development regardless of where people are based, and ensuring high-quality interactions with colleagues even if you’re the only one not in the office. 

How to tailor your hybrid strategy

✔ Make flexible working your unique selling point to maintain and attract talent. How can you go the extra mile to ensure true flexibility in your organisation? Get to know your teams on an individual basis, and take time to understand what is important to them. Then, tailor solutions accordingly – from making sure everyone has access to the same quality equipment to exploring compressed hours.

✔ Welcome new employees with a hybrid-friendly onboarding process. Solutions like Google Chromebooks allow remote device management and create a unified experience for everyone.

✔ Consider training programmes to encourage a continuous learning culture. There’s no question that the natural learning and mentoring opportunities happening in person are invaluable, but to create parity and long term success for hybrid models we also need to consider manufacturing these moments virtually. 

Customers

Regardless of industry, the way customers behave and our interactions with them has changed forever. Expectations to be increasingly available, offer flexible communication channels and create personalised experiences are becoming ever more vital. As more happens virtually, organisations have increasing amounts of data to gain valuable insights into customer behaviour, but may not have the tools or knowledge to do so. On top of this, customer service agents are increasingly burnt out and dissatisfied, with less than 30% feeling empowered to do their jobs well. 

How to tailor your hybrid strategy

✔ Look for ways to offer flexibility and find new ways to connect with your customers. Whether that’s sharing your calendar and physical location or starting a regular Meet to get together (like Netpremacy did for our community of CSS customers), the key to interaction in 2022 will be to understand individual contact preferences.

✔ Empower your teams with reliable tools. With collaboration tools like Google Workspace, customer service agents can work from wherever they are, and you can enhance the experience for your customers with high-quality hardware for crystal-clear conversation.

✔ Capitalise on the influx of customer data that hybrid interactions have generated with a data strategy to understand your customers better.

Collaboration

Three areas that come up frequently in the conversation around why employers are keen to encourage the return-to-office are creativity, culture and collaboration. However, in a flexible workplace, how do we ensure employees only come together in person for the moments that matter? How do we value our own and our colleague’s time and the right to a work/life balance? How can we encourage our colleagues to come together when it’s more convenient for them to be elsewhere? Hybrid working offers us a new, improved model to create more meaningful, productive collaboration – but it requires a careful plan. 

How to tailor your hybrid strategy

✔ Categorise your work to choose the best way to collaborate. McKinsey has observed three broad categories of collaborative interactions: decision making, creative solutions and coordination, and information sharing. Depending on the category of collaboration and what you’re trying to achieve, they suggest which tasks require face to face time, and which don’t. 

✔ Create meaning for in-person meetings. “People need to understand why they should come into the office. By using the office for specific purposes, such as face-to-face meetings, we can make sure people are getting the most out of their time there”, said Gareth Thomas, Ocado Group’s Digital Workplace Manager, when we spoke to him at the end of last year. 

✔ Ensure the office is still fit for purpose. Consider more multi-purpose open spaces or meeting rooms. Review your hardware and ensure teams have access to high-quality equipment to offer the same experience whether customers and colleagues join meetings on-premises or remotely.

To summarise, hybrid working opens up a whole range of opportunities and a better future for many employees, but it isn’t without its challenges. Some ways of optimising your hybrid strategy – data strategies, learning platforms – are complex, but others – reviewing office hardware, virtual onboarding – are comparatively straightforward. Here at Netpremacy, we work with some of the most innovative companies in the UK to shape their hybrid strategies and help them to build creative, collaborative teams. To arrange an informal conversation, get in touch today. 

27 January 2022

In recent years the topic of sustainability has begun to dominate headlines, social media and the world of business. Consumers are demanding change and businesses are now responding. At the most recent COP26 summit, it was announced that financial organisations of a certain size, from 2022, will have to declare how they are going to reduce their carbon emissions, a concept we expect to trickle down to other sectors and scale organisations. Many companies are committing to reduce their carbon footprint, from developing a circular lifestyle of products to running more energy-efficient office spaces.

But what are the top IT and business leaders doing to reduce emissions for a greener future?

How could a cloud infrastructure reduce your company’s carbon footprint?

When people think about sustainability, cloud computing might not be the first thing that springs to mind. However, cloud infrastructure offers significant benefits on the topic of environmental impact. Essentially it all boils down to efficiency. Migrating to a cloud-based model opens up the opportunity to only use resources when you need them, this means less wasted energy when applications/resources are not in use. Then comes the advantage of scale. Cloud providers such as Google, run extremely efficient data centres designed with high tech heating & cooling systems, systems that would be near impossible to replicate for smaller on-premise infrastructures. These systems have been developed with sustainability in mind and are constantly evolving to progress even further, something many in-house teams would simply not have the capacity for. A study undertaken by Accenture in 2020 suggests that migrating IT functions to the public cloud could help reduce global carbon emissions by 59 million tonnes of co2 per year! To put that into perspective, that is the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road; a pretty impressive statistic!

So, why choose Google?

Whilst other cloud providers are at the early stages of their sustainability journey, Google embarked on their mission almost two decades ago, announcing they had achieved a carbon-neutral status in 2007. Just a decade later in 2017, they became the first company to match 100% of their electricity usage with renewable energy purchases. Google, however, knows this is not enough. Planning to lead by example, the company has pledged to run completely carbon-free, 24 hours a day, in all regions and data centres by 2030. This aside, Google’s mission does not stop at internal changes, they are committed to developing accessible tools that allow businesses and organisations to decarbonize their digital applications and infrastructures.

What makes GCP different?

Cloud computing requires huge data centres that burn through energy, so there is no way it can be more sustainable than on-premise infrastructures right? Wrong! Even from the early days, Google built their data centres from the ground up, allowing them to control and develop new cooling technologies and operational strategies. Nowadays, Google’s renewable energy portfolio is one of the largest in the world. However, this is only the beginning, Google has recently adopted the concept of ‘carbon intelligent computing.’ This allows workloads to be dynamically moved to run in the most efficient data centre, at a time when the most carbon-free energy is available. Google’s commitment to efficiency within its own data centres alongside their tools for external cloud users has put GCP at the top spot as the greenest public cloud.

How could GCP help reduce your carbon footprint?

So we know what Google does and their plans for the future, but what does this mean for you and your carbon footprint? As mentioned, there are several ways in which Google is helping organisations reduce their carbon footprint through GCP, here are just a few to get you started.

1. Moving to the cloud

Let’s start from scratch! Moving from on-premise infrastructure to Google Cloud Platform already kick starts your journey to reducing your carbon footprint. As mentioned, by working within Google Cloud your cloud usage is already carbon neutral. So your first step is complete.

2. Use the Carbon Footprint tool

Late last year Google launched carbon footprint, a new tool that gives all GCP users the ability to see their gross carbon emissions associated with their Google Cloud platform usage. Integrated into cloud console, this tool enables users to measure, track and report on their emissions relating to the electricity usage of the cloud. Whilst net emissions will of course be zero on GCP, the cleanest energy is the energy you don’t use in the first place. With this in mind, having visual transparency into emissions allows companies to analyse their footprint by project, product or region to make improvements and changes going forward. And of course, for even deeper analysis you can export the data to BigQuery!

Google Carbon Footprint Tool

3. Google Region Picker tool

Back in 2020, Google published a CFE% (carbon-free emission) score for most of its regions, showing customers which areas were using the highest percentage of carbon-free energy so they could make an educated decision on where to run their applications from. In 2021, a pair of Googlers went one step further with the (open-sourced) release of ‘Google Cloud Region picker’; a tool that identifies the best Google Cloud region for an organisations applications based on carbon footprint, price and latency; empowering users to make informed decisions based on their business needs whilst considering the environmental impact. To make it even more accessible, Google added a ‘low CO2’ indicator to easily highlight regions with the lowest carbon impact inside cloud console location selectors.

Google Cloud Region Picker

4. Go serverless with products like Cloud Run

Google has a huge portfolio of serverless products, where infrastructure and scaling are all taken care of for you. Cloud Run is just one of those products designed to give you the flexibility and portability of containers without the headache of provisioning and managing the compute environment or clusters. But how does this impact sustainability? Aside from the obvious removal of provisioning machines, Cloud Run’s ability to auto-scale based on the number of incoming requests means if there are no requests, Cloud Run scales to zero and no resources are used! Another step to prevent unnecessary energy usage!

There you have it, just a few of the ways in which Google Cloud Platform can not only inform you of the carbon emissions but can help you make the next steps to minimising them. Unfortunately, climate change is no longer a distant threat. To find out more about how your business could benefit from cloud migration or take steps to reduce your emissions with GCP, don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts today.

Get in touch to learn more info@netpremacy.com.

 

24 November 2021

Here at Netpremacy, we help global companies such as Just Eat Takeaway, Monzo and Morrisons, transform and energise their business with Google products, and being a Google Cloud Premier Partner, we work alongside one of the most recognised tech companies in the world. However, we know that we wouldn’t be the company we are today without our talented people. From our Data Engineers to our Change Management & Training Consultants. We love that everyone brings different skills to the table. 

In this industry, there are always opportunities to learn. Whether you are just starting in tech, have a few years under your belt, or want more confidence talking with your peers, then here are some helpful things to consider.

You don’t have to be technical to work in tech.

Often one of the biggest barriers is thinking that you must already have experience in the industry before applying for a job. This is not always the case. A great example of this is Fraja’s journey at Netpremacy. Now a Product Manager, Fraja has been with us for over five years. Fresh out of university, she had no prior technical experience or qualifications – she even studied modern languages.

Starting in Change Management, Fraja’s first step into the industry wasn’t in a technical capacity. After getting an appetite to learn more, she progressed to Customer Success as a Programme Manager. Here she had lots more technical exposure working alongside Tech stakeholders, IT admins and CISOs. Wanting to further enhance her technical knowledge, with encouragement from her peers and support from Netpremacy, Fraja went on multiple courses and is now Google Cloud certified. This is a fantastic achievement coming from a non-technical background. Fraja’s top tip for those looking to start in tech is “don’t be put off going for roles, just because it’s in tech.” There are plenty of roles that don’t require you to be technical: Training, Change Management, Project Management, Marketing and Sales, to name a few. Take the first step and apply for a role in a tech company.

Tech can be taught.

Whilst experience is something to be admired, it’s not everything within the tech industry. If you have the passion and drive to learn, technical knowledge can most definitely be taught. There are so many free resources on the internet and events you can attend to unlock jargon and understand what everything means. Even if you already have basic technical knowledge, use what you have available to cement your knowledge and give you the confidence to get involved in more technical conversations. Daisie, our Google Cloud Infrastructure Engineer, constantly uses resources like this to help develop her skill set. She joined Netpremacy as a Support Engineer, and because of her commitment to learning, she has now progressed into a more technical role. 

Here are Daisie’s top resources:

 

Podcasts:

  • Cloud Security Podcast by Google (hosted by Anton Chuvakin, Head of Solutions Strategy, and Timothy Peacock, Product Manager, both at Google Cloud)
  • Google Cloud Platform podcast
  • Kubernetes podcast from Google

 

If you want to become technical, work for a tech company.

It may seem obvious, but in a tech company, you are surrounded by knowledge and expertise – it’s all at your fingertips. So if you want to become more technical or follow a technical career path, what better way than to immerse yourself in it, plus all the resources you could need are in your peers. As good as courses and events are, having people spend time explaining things to you in a way that you understand is invaluable. Get first-hand experience of working with tech stakeholders, IT admins, and CISOs. The more technical exposure you get, the easier it will be to follow and understand.

The tech industry is forever changing and evolving. Even the most experienced techies are still expanding their knowledge daily. If you are just starting you won’t be alone in learning, upskilling and putting yourself out of your comfort zone. 

Ready to take your first or next step in the industry? 

Check out the jobs available at Netpremacy right now.

08 October 2021

As it’s World Mental Health Day on Sunday 10th October, we thought it would be a good time to share some of the ways Netpremacy helps its team look after their mental health. The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilise efforts in support of mental health. Here at Netpremacy, we aim to create a safe environment to talk about mental health and encourage openness on the subject. 

Meet our Mental Health First Aiders

Jordan and Fraja took the MHFA England course to become fully certified mental health first aiders as they are both passionate about the subject. They support us at work when it comes to mental health by creating a safe space and just being there for those who need it.  

“Netpremacy recognises that the wellbeing of the team is so important. We make sure that everyone in the business knows where to turn to if they need help, whether it’s work-related or not. We run regular lunch & learn sessions to help raise awareness, remove stigmas and generally educate on mental health. We also have a community on our intranet where we post useful resources like supporting organisations, blog posts, and upcoming webinars.” says Fraja.

One of the main ways Netpremacy helps employees is by being open and transparent about mental health at work. In the UK, 828,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety last year alone. Whenever someone new joins the team, they are introduced to our mental health first aiders, so they know exactly where to go if they need help. Outside of MHFA, people are encouraged to talk to their line managers if workloads become too much. Employees are also offered free private healthcare as part of the benefits package at Netpremacy, which includes mental health treatment.

As well as providing support for those with mental health concerns in the workplace, Netpremacy tries to make work a fun and enjoyable place to be, from little perks like free Deliveroo on a Friday to the many social events we run throughout the year. We also understand that having a good work-life balance is important, so the flexible working model we offer is just another way to help team members stay happy and healthy. 

“It’s wonderful to work for a company that truly puts the wellbeing of the team at the heart of everything.” – Jordan Brown, Netpremacy


 

If you want to learn more about how to introduce mental health care into your organisation, we recommend the following resources:

 

21 June 2021

ChristosChristos Amyrotos – Change Management and Training Consultant, Netpremacy

Christos has previously worked as a Sexual and Gender Identity Trainer at Barnado’s, helping staff to become more inclusive of LGBTQ+ staff, students and their families. To celebrate Pride Month 2021, he’s put together some key things to understand about Pride and how we can all take steps to show our support for the LGBTQ+ community.

What is Pride?

Pride events are known around the world to be colourful, loud, fun and quite frankly a good day out! However, it is important to remember that Pride was not always about dancing and singing whilst wearing a rainbow top. Pride started as a riot in New York City in 1969. In the 1960s, homosexuality was still illegal in most of the United States of America and many LGBTQ+ people were arrested or brutally beaten when police officers would carry out raids in known gay bars. On 28th June 1969, however, outside the famous gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, in Greenwich Village, New York, for the first time, people said enough is enough and fought back against a police raid.

In the early hours of the 28th of June, the gay community of the Greenwich neighbourhood started a riot that lasted for five days and led to the creation of the gay liberation movement, which eventually helped to form laws to protect LGBTQ+ people. Stormé DeLarverie, a self-proclaimed ‘butch lesbian’ is known as the person who started the riots by resisting an arrest. Marsha P. Johnson was also one of the first people to throw rocks at the police officers during the riots. Marsha, a queer black person, unfortunately, had to identify as a drag queen even though she was a trans woman due to the stigma around trans people at the time. She was an activist, fighting for the rights of the community and today she is classed as a pioneer who helped the uprising of the gay liberation movement.

The following year, on June 28th, people returned to the place where the riots took place and proudly marched down the streets of New York. This was considered the first Gay Pride Parade. Today, June is considered Pride month to honour the Stonewall riots of 1969 with people celebrating the progress made for LGBTQ+ people around the world. It reminds the world that the fight is not over until everyone feels safe to express themselves freely. Pride events and parades are held annually all around the world with some of them such as NYC Pride and London Pride lasting a whole weekend.

Pride and Businesses in the 21st Century

Over the years, we have seen a lot of corporations getting involved with Pride, showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community. In the last decade or so, companies have celebrated Pride in numerous ways. By releasing special edition Pride collections with some of the profits going to LGBTQ+ organisations, getting involved with Pride events and making sure that they celebrate their LGBTQ+ staff. However, it is important that companies ensure that LGBTQ+ staff feel safe and valued all the time and not only during Pride month.

Here are some of the ways companies can help:

Encourage the use of preferred pronouns. In the last few years, we have seen local authorities and private companies beginning to add preferred pronouns to ID badges as well as staff email signatures. This is a big step towards making everyone feel included.

Pronouns, for many people, are assumed based on stereotypes such as someone’s name, the clothes they wear and the way they present themselves. However, for people who might be going through transition or those who do not identify with the pronouns they were assigned at birth, using the wrong pronouns can be a triggering point and very painful for them. Many people do not identify as male or female and they prefer gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them. Allowing people to use their preferred pronouns will help not only to raise awareness but making society more inclusive and accepting of non-binary and gender-fluid folk. Only in the last few weeks have we seen social media companies such as LinkedIn adding pronouns on people’s profiles. Although not mandatory, having the option to add your preferred pronouns on a social media platform like LinkedIn is a great step towards becoming a more inclusive society. Companies wanting to make their LGBTQ+ colleagues feel more welcome could definitely encourage the use of this on LinkedIn, in email signatures etc.

Take a clear, positive stance on equality and diversity. In addition to encouraging the use of pronouns, many organisations are taking a clearer stance on Equality and Diversity. Examples include using new application forms which allow candidates or existing members of staff more sexual and gender identity terms, so people can freely express the one they identify with. Giving people the chance to openly state their sexual and gender identity will lead to this becoming the norm where people can freely express themselves without fearing that they will be ridiculed or worrying about how to bring the topic up.

Across the globe, it is slowly becoming more acceptable to identify as LGBTQ+. However, there is still a long way to go to ensure that everyone feels safe and comfortable to just be themselves. Until then, it is important to remember that although Pride events are more colourful and peaceful in recent years, Pride started as a riot for a reason and we should try to support our LGBTQ+ colleagues however we can.

 

Flag photo by Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash

27 April 2021

Ian Meikle – Senior Google Cloud Platform Engineer, Netpremacy

Google Cloud resources are easy to use and readily available, but to protect confidential data and limit costs, you should regulate who can access them. Google recommends applying the ‘Principle of Least Privilege’ – only grant the minimum permissions required for a particular account on a particular resource and no more. Within GCP this is controlled using Identity and Access Management (IAM). More specifically, by the setting and application of IAM Policy.

As a Senior GCP Engineer at Netpremacy, I regularly advise our customers on how to get more from their existing GCP setup by following Google best practices and applying what we’ve learnt first-hand over the years. Here I’ll explain how IAM works, how you can use IAM Policies effectively, and the best practices to follow. This blog is for anyone starting with GCP who wants to ensure they are granting the right permissions to their staff. Alternatively, if you already have existing GCP infrastructure, this article will guide you through making it more secure.

Identity and Access Management

Resources and Permissions

IAM is concerned with identity and access. It defines who can do what within your GCP setup. The ‘who’ can relate to a real person through a Google Account or a Google Group. However, permissions may also be granted to Service Accounts associated with apps or other compute resources. This is often done to allow automation. The ‘what’ is a resource in GCP. This can be one of many things, such as a GCE VM or a BigQuery DataSet. Every resource has a defined set of permissions that allow creation, administration, deletion or passive access. These permissions are then grouped into Roles, and a Role is assigned to an identity through an IAM Policy. Policies are then applied to resources within a project.

GCP infrastructure is organised as a hierarchy (see image below). At the top sits the Organisation. Below that there are (optional) Folders that are used to group Projects. Resources are collected within a Project. Permissions are inherited as you move downwards so that an identity with privileged access at the Organisation level will have the same access to all resources within the hierarchy. Privileged access granted to a Folder will similarly filter downwards to the folders and projects that it contains.

 

cloud-folders-hierarchy

Roles

Permissions are closely related to API calls within GCP. As there are thousands of calls that can be made on nearly 200 different GCP services, permissions are grouped into Roles.

There are three types of Roles:

  • Basic Roles These are Legacy roles that grant you Owner, Editor or Viewer control over a resource. Basic Roles are quite broad and should be used sparingly.
  • Predefined Roles These are the most common type of IAM role and are usually associated with a specific service. For example, the roles/bigquery.dataViewer role grants 15 different permissions on a Dataset, Table or View within BigQuery that allow read-only access. Above this, there is the roles/bigquery.dataEditor, which includes permissions to create, update and delete Tables. Moving even higher is the roles/bigquery.dataOwner, which can create, update and delete Datasets.
  • Custom Roles If there are no Predefined Roles that match your needs then new, Custom Roles can be created. These can be useful if you have specific compliance needs, for example. Be aware that GCP Service updates may change the set of permissions required for resource operations. Whilst Predefined Roles will be reconfigured automatically to match any change, the management of Custom Roles is your responsibility.

 

Best Practices

Assign roles to Google Groups, not users. Whilst it is easy to grant an IAM role to an individual user, this is not something we recommend. Consider what happens when someone leaves the company or transfers to another business unit. If their user identity is tied to a resource through an IAM policy then that resource can be left orphaned, with potentially harmful effects. Google’s recommendation (that we would endorse) is to assign roles to Google Groups and then manage group membership via the Workspace Admin Console. This makes the transfer of ownership much easier and dissociates service operations from user management.

Align permissions to job responsibilities. Projects are the ‘base’ unit within the GCP hierarchy. IAM Policies should be developed so that projects sit entirely within the remit of a team or business unit. In this way, permissions are aligned with job responsibilities. Cross-project working can be permitted through VPC networking, though that is not discussed here.

Use IAM Recommender to stay on top of resource access management. Access requirements change over time, so permission management is an ongoing process. Google has provided an IAM Recommender service that monitors how a resource is being used over time and suggests how to enforce the Principle of Least Privilege. Recommendations are based on recent service access and a Machine Learning analysis of how the role may need to access the service in the future. The Recommender can be used interactively as part of an IAM review, or automated. Whilst every effort is made to prevent unexpected service disruptions, automation carries the expected caveats.

Conclusion

Resource access has to be managed, and IAM provides the tools and processes you need to do just that. For optimum security and to enforce best practices, you should protect your GCP environment against accidental modification by users with elevated access permissions. A way to safeguard against this is to apply the principle of least privilege so that only the appropriate group of people make changes. 

Google Groups helps you to create a clear distinction between user management and service operations. That means resource management happens in the right place without blurring the distinction between people and services.

Following the principle of least privilege is an ongoing process. Use IAM Recommender to help you stay on top of access rights and update permissions when needed.

For advice on using Cloud IAM or to book a GCP Health Check, contact us on info@netpremacy.com 

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25 February 2021

#WeAreNetpremacy

Netpremacy prides itself on being a friendly, fun, and exciting place to work, we like to think that our working style is dynamic and modern. Our normal office environment is lively, usually with people competing on table football, or collaborating on projects in our open plan, Google-themed spaces. 

On 16th March 2020, one-week before the national lockdown was announced, Netpremacy made the decision to close the office and send everyone home to work. Fortunately, it was easy for us to transition into remote work because of the technology we have available.

However, something we did find difficult, like many other businesses, was keeping up the team morale, and making sure we were keeping the Netpremacy community spirit alive.

In the beginning, we ran a themed quiz every couple of weeks. These were fun, and it was a great way to allow conversations between groups of people who wouldn’t necessarily speak during work. 

After seeing a demand for people to socialise outside of work (but inside their living rooms) we decided to take it to the next level, so we formed our social committee: NetSocial. 

 

Meet the team

Our amazing Netsocial Team was formed to keep up communication across the company, to provide support in unprecedented times, and to organise social activities to suit everyone’s taste.

The logistics were easy. Google Meet’s new features and updates over the last year have made it effortless to host a video call and organise a social online. You can now play good quality sound using the “share Chrome tab”, organise break-out rooms, and even use the raise-hand feature to get noticed on calls with a high number of participants.

The fun, but difficult part, was thinking outside the box. How can we cater for everybody? How do we make it exciting? How do we make sure that people are having fun? 

Below are some of the events our NetSocial team has run:

  • Bingo – We had a £20 Amazon voucher up for grabs, and we used https://myfreebingocards.com/ to make sure there was no cheating! We played Bingo near Valentine’s Day, so we used the website to generate Bingo cards with Valentine’s themed words – it was a great success!
  • Online Escape Game – This event was highly anticipated, we had to split up into teams of 6 to be able to play – this is where the breakout rooms feature came in really useful! Each team had a virtual room they had to escape from, this was a Sherlock Holmes escape room edition, the goal of the virtual escape room was to communicate virtually with the teams to solve a murder and escape the room the quickest! The highly competitive were exposed as we were up against each other, with the winning team escaping in 01:02:00. We used this great virtual escape room tool. 
  • Pilates & Yoga – In normal times, the company benefits from a bi-weekly Ryde session at L1 Performance, right next to our offices. We have a few fitness enthusiasts that are really missing the group classes, so we have set up virtual pilates and yoga to look after our mind and body. These are run by local independent Leeds-based instructors over lunchtime and focus on alignment and posture to help with lots of sitting down and tight hips caused by working from home.

 

We have some exciting things to come and we can’t wait to share our ideas with you. For now, have a look at our upcoming events to see if you can take any inspiration:

  • Pictionary with drawasaurus
  • Jackbox
  • KwizzBit themed quiz
  • Retro Bowl League
  • Online Book Club 
  • Creative Corner
  • GeoGuessr
  • AmongUs (App Game)

 

Keep an eye out for future #NetSocial posts for inspiration and ideas on how to stay connected with your colleagues. Now more than ever, it’s important to keep up morale and continue socialising, albeit virtually!

Want to join our team? Visit our careers page to see what vacancies are currently available. Can’t see a job description to suit you? Email careers@netpremacy.com and tell us why you would like to join our team.

11 January 2021

Kevin Jordan, Head of Technical Operations

As I approach my 10 year anniversary at Netpremacy, I wanted to share some of the key values I’ve followed in my time, from my first role in the business as a Support Engineer to my present role in becoming Head of Technical Operations.

I’m very much a self-professed geek and I have a passion for tech in general, which is a big bonus for the industry I work in. I’d also consider myself an advocate for the Google tools that Netpremacy specialises in; however, I actually want the focus of this blog to be on another space I advocate for, and that’s self innovation.

Innovation means introducing something new, whether that be a complete change or improving on something that’s already established. 

Typically when people talk about innovation it’s in relation to a product or process. Innovation is a really positive ideal because it’s a sign of continuous growth, adapting to change, and not being stagnant. It’s the same concept for self innovation, but instead, you are applying this to yourself. This can be in multiple forms, both personal and professional, but ultimately it refers to the development of new skills and the broadening of knowledge with the purpose of opening yourself up to new opportunities.

So how do you innovate yourself?

To be honest, it’s not always easy, especially to begin with, but I have found that following these key principles, whilst avoiding some potential pitfalls along the way, can help you on the path to self innovation.

1. Acceptance of criticism

Receiving and providing open feedback is really important because it keeps us honest. Here I’m specifically talking about being on the receiving end, which can be a little tough but you can’t improve if you dismiss feedback. I say it’s tough because it is hard to hear that something you’re doing and that you’re passionate about isn’t quite right or could be done better. 

Your initial reaction is probably to be slightly defensive, which isn’t necessarily a negative because it shows you care. However, try not to let this cloud your judgement and influence your response to the criticism. A technique that I have used is to alter my point of view, by changing my perspective to that of a neutral party, so I can listen to the reasons behind the criticism taking emotion out of it. If you’re truly passionate about something, you’ll want to strive to make it the best it can be, and this can only be done when accepting criticism.

2. Step out of your comfort zone

Again, this is not a simple thing to do as it can be scary embarking on something new that you’re not comfortable with. However, if you become open to this and try to see it as an exciting process instead, it will reap rewards in the end by giving you the opportunity for both; experiencing or learning something new, and broader career paths. Whether this is learning a new product, public speaking or building upon soft skills such as attending a managerial course, stepping out of your comfort zone can be incredibly enriching. I’ve found that it has been the main element to have boosted my confidence, which has played a key role in advancing to each of my new positions at Netpremacy.

3. Embrace failure

I’m sure everyone experiences failure on some scale in their career, and let’s be honest it never feels good. Just remember that nobody is perfect, mistakes happen and although it’s easier said than done, try not to be too hard on yourself. It should be an opportunity to learn, own your failures, and use them to help you grow.

As a side note to this point as well, I’ve often found that some of the best business relationships come from failures. That’s because it’s your reaction to failure that’s really going to be recognised and what will be remembered – so I’d encourage when this does happen to avoid placing blame and focus on why it went wrong, how to fix it, and what can be done to avoid it in the future. 

4. Imparting knowledge

I find this a key element, not only in growing yourself but the team around you. It’s difficult to continue expanding your knowledge when you are always known as the “go to” person on a particular topic. I understand that it can have the allure of giving you a sense of security, however, you create a funnel and you’re ultimately isolating yourself. By imparting this knowledge it means you can share the burden but more importantly, it gives you more flexibility to build expertise in a different area. It’s a great opportunity to inspire others to take on those responsibilities, which can also help them start their own journey of self innovation.

A watchpoint…. 

Here I’d like to flag something to avoid which is comparing yourself to others as it can be quite detrimental to this process. I’m not saying don’t do it at all, just don’t have it as an ideal. Everyone is different, just like every product is different and once you start to put all the focus on comparing yourself to another, you’ve already lost as you’ve immediately put a ceiling on yourself. People also learn at different paces so others may advance quicker in some subjects, which can be discouraging. It’s helpful to learn from others, understand their progression paths and the journey they’ve taken, but don’t make this the reason for what you’re doing.

I’ve lived by this mantra of self innovation in my time at Netpremacy, which has led me on an incredible journey. From joining Netpremacy with very little experience to be a Support Engineer, growing my knowledge by working on break-fix issues. Moving onto configuring Google Workspace environments and migrating data as a Technical Deployment Specialist. Then onto becoming a Customer Success Manager, where I had the opportunity of understanding customer requirements and consulting on strategies, giving me great insight to how businesses operate. Finally now, as Head of Technical Operations, where I can use all the knowledge I’ve absorbed over the years and apply them to the company I owe much of that opportunity and experience to. But it doesn’t stop here, I continue to live by this mantra as I hope to inspire and coach others on the path of self innovation. 

If you are looking for a wide array of opportunities in a thriving business, or are simply looking for a change in career. Visit our careers page to see what positions we are currently recruiting for.