The Washington Post chief information officer Shailesh Prakash talked with Business Insider’s Joe Williams about the Post’s investment in engineering and building a 300-person staff that helps drive innovation and experimentation across departments.
With the upcoming election, Prakash shares how his team is supporting the newsroom and keeping the Post updated and running for its readers.
Now, the cohort is doing significantly more work on the back-end to make sure the website is fool-proof on a night when millions of Americans will be constantly refreshing websites like the Post’s to get second-by-second updates on the results. And it’s not just the homepage: It’s also the systems that support the mobile applications, video streams, social feeds, and more. The resiliency efforts are one area that Prakash draws from his experience helping Bezos with Blue Origin, namely creating an “escape pod” of sorts for when things go haywire.
“There’s so much riding at stake for us to get our story right,” he said. “What happens if all that wizardry, all that system technology runs into trouble? What is the bare minimum that we can still have analogous to that escape module that can still be able to produce the news and have our readers use it?”
To mitigate a catastrophe, the Post has a resiliency plan that “essentially bypasses the technical infrastructure” and allows employees to do everything manually. “You can still get your content out. We bypass all the fancy editing tools that we have. You do it by hand,” said Prakash. In that world, “your internal networks are gone, your servers are gone, your infrastructure is toast, but you still have the site serving essential information.”