Incident Commanders: where are they now? 

5 min read
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BigPanda gives the Incident Commander award to IT Ops superstars—people who go above and beyond in this high-pressure, critical line of work. 

In 2021, Ben Narramore, Director of Operations/Service Management at PlayStation was a recipient for his ability to handle high-impact global incidents with exemplary professionalism and skill. Let’s find out what he’s been up to…

We catch up with Incident Commander Ben Narramore from Sony Playstation

A year after becoming an Incident Commander, Ben is still leading the charge at Sony Playstation. We wanted to catch up with him to see what’s changed in the last year, ask how IT Ops is evolving for him, and to learn a bit more about what he thinks is ahead for the IT Ops industry.

What does it take to top the IT Operations charts?

Ben acknowledged that it takes a certain type of person to excel in IT Ops. “I’ll be the first to admit, it takes a weird breed for this type of role,” he said. “There was a time in my career where I stopped doing operations, and I managed a group of project managers instead. I went crazy because I wasn’t getting those calls, those texts, in the middle of the night. I missed that drive of being able to problem-solve and fix things.”

Ben has a degree in criminal law, and his professional background includes a stint working for the NFL. He was going to the police academy when he made a life-changing decision to leave the academy and join Boeing at the bottom rung of the ladder. That move eventually led to his work in IT Operations where he has watched the industry evolve rapidly.

Any advice for IT professionals on the rise?

Ben emphasized three major tenets IT Operations people should embrace as they embark on exciting careers in a fast-changing industry.

Be open to change
“If I look back five years ago and think about how we handled things compared to today. It’s totally different. You have to be open to change and to try new things. COVID-19 in many ways forced IT Operations to do this. We had to go out of our comfort zones. We found we were able to shift and do things differently,” Ben said.

Embrace teamwork
“You need to be a team player in this line of work. IT Ops has evolved from being pretty separate from the rest of an organization—”a bunch of nerdy guys in a dark room” as Ben put it—to being integrated members of a business. IT professionals need to keep in mind that they need to be able to work cross-department and emerge from their bubbles to be successful.”

Consider the importance of customer service
On a related note, IT Ops also needs to remember that they work for a business with customers. “IT may not be the person buying what we’re selling, but we have customers, and our work does impact the person buying what our company offers,” he said. A business can only provide excellent service if its IT Ops is all in.

How has your role evolved over the last year?

Where Ben’s role used to be specific to Playstation Network, he now works cross-departmentally in Playstation as a whole. The rise in visibility of IT Ops since the outset of COVID-19 has spurred this expansion in his work. “I’m expanding into different groups because people are seeing the work I do and saying, ‘you’re best in class at what you do—we want your services in our group.’” He has taken his best practices and brought them to other parts of Playstation and expanded his role as a result.

He’s also evolved how he brings on new talent. By taking a non-traditional approach to hiring and considering candidates with little-to-no experience, Ben has been able to cultivate a powerful team. “I don’t see it as one size fits all,” he said. “I’ve hired people with master’s degrees and people with no degrees. It’s just about finding the right person. It takes all sorts, and it takes people with multiple skill sets. My biggest thing is if you’re willing to come in here and work your butt off, there will be an opportunity for you.”

Why is this an exciting time for IT Ops?

In Ben’s view, IT Operations is constantly evolving and changing. (BigPanda agrees!) And as a leader in IT Ops, he is helping to define what the next chapter of IT Ops looks like.

He sees AIOps as an increasingly valuable tool for IT Ops and AI in general as a more important piece of the puzzle. He sees the future for his team as an exciting opportunity to find incidents before they happen. As tools change and technology evolves, so will the ability to get in front of problems.

Ben’s charity of choice is the Navy SEAL Foundation. Born and raised in San Diego, Ben grew up with family friends who were navy SEALs, and their work remains important to him. Giving to the Navy SEAL Foundation enables him to help the lives of these outstanding people to sacrifice themselves for American safety. If you’re interested in learning more about the Navy Seal Foundation, visit https://www.navysealfoundation.org/