We had an idea to go to the DevOps Days 2019 conference in Amsterdam and soon the tickets were bought and we were in the plane sipping wine, I mean blueberry juice. Amsterdam was awesome but unfortunately for some, this post is about important issues that we learned in the conference, in daytime. The conference had a warm, welcoming atmosphere and it was great getting to meet so many awesome like-minded people and seeing that we are dealing with the same kinds of issues all around the world.
On the technical side, much of the focus was on Kubernetes, which is understandable given its popularity. While the technical presentations were of course inspiring and at times eye-opening, the most important part for us were the magnificent presentations dealing with DevOps culture. Here are two examples that resonated with us the most.
Upskilling and uplifting women in tech
At the core of DevOps is empathy and empowering people, and Tarah Cleveland gave a great presentation about upskilling and uplifting women in tech. She explained how the male-centered culture in engineering causes women to lose interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers, and how according to American studies only 18% of computer science Bachelor’s degrees are earned by women. The most startling thing was that women aren’t as confident when applying for tech jobs – men apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, whereas for women it’s 100%. Women are also leaving engineering careers more often. Tarah also recounted her experiences on how they have managed to upskill women in tech using workshops and peer groups.
DevOps isn’t about setting up Jenkins pipelines but something much more, it’s about soft values and a cultural transformation.
The way we see it, as work transforms and IT becomes more and more important, it cannot remain a bastion of white males. Diversity is beneficial as people from different backgrounds will bring different thinking to the table due to their different experiences in life. We hope that more companies will begin to realize this and bring more diversity into their teams and decision-making. Overall the presentation was really inspiring. Moreover, back home we’ve already started thinking about how we could focus even more on making VALA inclusive. We’ve always tried our best to hire more women but we need to dig deeper. One eye opening example for VALA recruitment team was how we should avoid masculine wording in our job applications. More precisely, how we should avoid phrases like “we’re looking for the best people” and replace them with “we’re looking for people who are talented and eager to learn from others and teach others”.
Another great topic at the conference was the imposter syndrome, which basically means constantly doubting your accomplishments and being afraid of being found out as a fraud. Most of us have it, and Joep Piscaer gave a talk about how he has felt like a fraud most of his career despite his great accomplishments. Imposter syndrome exists everywhere but is made worse in IT because there are so many ways to do things and it might be impossible to know if the way you are doing things is correct. Paying compliments to others will help them recalibrate their “internal measuring stick” and help them with their imposter syndrome.
Joep’s tips for overcoming imposter syndrome yourself were: listing your accomplishments and looking at them when you are drunk, learning how others are doing the same things as you are (by for example pair programming or pair reviews), celebrating your failures, and talking about your imposter syndrome to others. And most importantly – daring to be vulnerable.
Imposter syndrome is bothering us as well from time to time, and it was great listening to such a sincere talk about it. With Joep’s presentation, we now have the tools to do something about it ourselves, and by starting to praise our co-workers more out loud and encouraging it in others, we can perhaps also help people across the company
The way we see it, as work transforms and IT becomes more and more important, it cannot remain a bastion of white males.
DevOps Days was an inspiring experience and we will definitely be attending again, either in Amsterdam or someplace else. We have learned again that DevOps isn’t about setting up Jenkins pipelines but something much more, it’s about soft values and a cultural transformation. Also, the beer they had was great.