New Age of DevOps - An interview with Gabrielle Anderson from Google and Susie Coleman from the BBC

By:Lucy Neal

 New Age of DevOps - An interview with Gabrielle Anderson from Google and Susie Coleman from the BBC

Gabrielle Anderson a Site Reliability Engineer from Google. Gabrielle has been working as an SRE at Google for two years, on the Play Store and Android (the largest cloud in the world!), and on Serverless for Google Cloud. Susie Coleman is a Senior Software Developer at the BBC. She is part of the GoURMET Project at the BBC News Labs team. Her goal is to produce high-quality tools to allow editorial teams to report the news as it happens, using the power of the web to find new ways to tell a story.

We had the pleasure of having both Gabrielle and Susie on our most recent London-based Women in DevOps panel titled ‘The New Age of DevOps’. We sat down with Susie and Gabrielle to continue the conversation and discuss all things DevOps related.

 

Would you rather fire fight 100 duck-sized outages lasting 1 minute each or one horse-sized mega outage lasting 100 minutes?

Susie:  A horse-sized mega outage, I tend to find that lots of mini outages are so much harder to get to the bottom of. Also, it’s really disappointing when you think it’s gone then it comes back."

Gabrielle: “1 horse-sized mega outage. We probably have more to learn from the big problem!”

 

Advice for women working in male-dominated/nondiverse team with a “bro-gramming” culture?

Gabrielle: “Decide how much of yourself you want to spend on this. It's easier for the culture around you to change you than you are to change it. Find a place that allows you to spend the amount of energy that you want on changing the space around you. I was a miserable academic, because my skills and values didn't line up. I am much happier as an engineer, but not in places I have to fight gender and communication related issues every day. Some people are willing to spend significant amounts of time and energy on workplace organising or diversity initiatives. There's not a ‘right’ answer. Change comes from people on the front lines and people supporting and people just demonstrating competency quietly.”

Susie:Find a different team? I’m sure you are very talented and work hard and you deserve a better team. I do appreciate that is not always possible to move and there can be many reasons why you would stay. At this point I would read Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett, as she is much better at answering this question than me. I would also suggest growing a network on non-bro-grammer tech people as it’s important to have someone to vent to who understands.”

 

Advice for becoming an ‘E shaped’ developer if you work in a place with silos?

Gabrielle: “Relationships. People will often share informally over coffee what they can never write in an email or say in a meeting.”

Susie:Move around a lot, find different teams to join and take on tasks that are outside of your comfort zone. Also, ask people questions from other teams on how to do things rather than passing work on to other people when your part is completed.”

 

What can organisations do to attract more women in the tech space that they aren’t doing today?

Susie: “Look critically at your culture and think about what is and isn’t appealing about it. For example, when you have a social event is it always the same type of activity? Where are the important decisions made? Did you decide on the name of your latest app at the pub on a Friday night, or at a meeting during office hours that the whole team was invited to?

Attracting women to your organisation isn’t about there being one quick fix, because women are not one homogenous group. What is important for an organisation to do is to make sure their company doesn’t just appeal to one kind of person. For example, if your working hours are 9-5 Monday to Friday and everyone must be in the office you will attract people who are willing to do that working pattern. If you tell everyone they must take some of the annual leave over the Christmas period, you will not attract people who celebrate other religious holidays. You should think about changing the culture so that not everyone has to work in the same way or like the same things rather than thinking about what should I do to attract more women to the tech space.

Also, close your gender pay gap and then go beyond this and close any of the pay gaps you have across underrepresented groups. One thing that is universal is everyone wants to be treated fairly.”

Gabrielle: “Move away from the "traditional coding interview":

https://firstround.com/review/How-Etsy-Grew-their-Number-of-Female-Engineers-by-500-in-One-Year/

Ensure that you always have at least one woman asked to interview for any position.”

 

Is there room for UX in DevOps?

Gabrielle: “Definitely! One of the things I've worked on is how to make SLOs of the user experience, not just for servers. So, instead of measuring 200’s vs 500’s on an API, understand what are your critical user journeys, and measure when users start and succeed or fail at that. This can only be done at the UX level. It will require insight on instrumenting UIs with monitoring, and figuring out how to extract user journeys from the UX. Lots of challenging work here!”

Susie: Yes, definitely. I think it can sometimes be the case when building something internal or just for devs generally to not invest in design. However, making sure that interfaces are intuitive and user flows are sensible is really important in DevOps. You’re generally making changes that can have a huge impact if you get them wrong and good UX can play an important role in reducing mistakes.”

 

Who are your biggest role models in the tech world?

Susie: Sally Goble, she’s awesome. She’s also swum the English Channel (I think more than once..?)”

Gabrielle: “Liz Fong-Jones, Meri Williams, Meredith Whittaker.”

 

Feeling inspired to tackle the gender DevOps gap? Join our movement today to get involved, engaged and empowered – www.womenindevops.com.