Welcome to Women of DevOps, part seven!
Today, we’re speaking with Ana Margarita Medina, Senior Chaos Engineer at Gremlin. Chaos engineering is a super cool topic by itself – who doesn’t like a bit of chaos? But we also go over her time at Uber – including the resulting lawsuit (which, holy crap).
So glad I got to meet Ana and talk – she’s awesome, and you won’t want to miss this episode.
‘Til next time,
The Women of DevOps, Ep. 7
Can’t listen to the audio? Read on below for a transcript of our conversation.
Rox: Hey, everyone. Thank you all so much for joining us for another episode of Women of DevOps. Today, we’re joined by Ana Medina, and she is a Senior Chaos Engineer at Gremlin. So hello, Ana, could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Ana: Yeah, I’m super excited to be here. A little bit about myself. I currently reside in San Francisco, CA, have been in CA for six years now – go west coast! I am originally from Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I got my upbringing there and my parents are from Nicaragua. And then we transitioned to Miami, FL. And in Miami, FL, it was all sorts of things that you can think of with Miami. But for me, Miami was a really big stepping stone, because that is where I got a chance to fall in love with technology. I got a chance to learn how to code in middle school, took a class for introduction to computers and got started with Microsoft Publisher. I got to see the ‘Insert HTML’ button here, and then I went on AltaVista – that was a search engine at the time – I was like, “What is HTML? Hypertext Markup Language? Ooh, what does this do?” That was my first ‘diving into what code could be.’
Around that time, there were also sites like MySpace so I could go and play with Cascading Style Sheets (known as CSS). Now all of a sudden, I’m taking a deep dive in these two things to make websites. I hadn’t made the connection that if you put those two together, an HTML and CSS file, you’ve got a website. So a year into this, I started realizing that you can put things on the web and make things pretty and get paid for it. My family was going through some financial hardships and that kind of drew me to launch a business. I got a chance to launch a freelance business where I offered web design services, digital design, motion graphics, and filming and photography. I got a chance to package up some of my hobbies and things that were going to make money during that time without knowing where that path was going to lead. That got the ball rolling.
I then got a chance to continue these passions. I went to a high school focused on information technology, got a chance to go to college and study computer science, and get a few internships that later led to me being like, “Alright, I like coding, let’s make this a career.” I came out to California for University of California, Santa Cruz to finish my bachelor’s degree in computer science. And in that process, I was like, “Nope, I hate college, I’m going to become a college dropout.”
I just don’t do traditional school, because I am a self-taught learner. I had learned how to code on my own. When I was in college in those classes, the way the professors were teaching data structures and algorithms in Java, it just didn’t click for me. I also had a hard time where I look around the room and not only am I starting again from the beginning (a lot of these courses for computer science – credits didn’t transfer), but it’s a white male group. And yeah, there are a few females – I will say they did have some – but I never got a chance to find a community. That allowed me to continue not being able to ask questions, ask for help. So in moments where I was struggling with these classes, I had no one to go to. It made it really hard to be a woman in the tech space and continue learning in it. So I was like, “Well, I can do this on my own. In online communities, I can find help.” So everything kind of worked out. I left school and I then continued on with my internships. That led to me being out here in California for the last six years.
Rox: Very nice. How old were you when you started your business?
Ana: I was 15 years old when I launched my freelance business. It feels surreal. I had no idea what I was doing – I didn’t have a formal LLC. My dad was an entrepreneur and somehow he didn’t guide me through all those steps. It was just very much like, “Yep, Ana’s doing web design, photography, have her contact info, here’s a check. Alright cool, let’s get this going.” Yeah, I didn’t really have those business steps to be able to get guided on how to do freelance properly. I was a student, so it wasn’t a full-time career, but it was taking up around 20-30 hours of my week. So I did have a big chunk of time missing where I was doing a lot of work in high school – those first two years of high school. That’s mostly when I did my work. I was also wild enough to graduate high school early. My senior year and my junior year, I did them together. That meant that my freelance business didn’t have as much action – but I think I did one project for a company out here in California and it was a lot. I had a lot on my plate, a small social life, somehow still had a relationship around that time. But yes, really young.
Rox: That is awesome. To go back to your career a little bit – for those who are unfamiliar with chaos engineering, can you give us the 10,000 foot overview of what that entails?
Ana: Yes. I’ve been working in the field of chaos engineering for the last five years. It’s been a space that has been growing over time. The topic around chaos engineering is that you’re injecting failure into your system, your application, your code, and you’re trying to find out what those breaking points are. You’re hoping to learn from these failures, in order for you to take those learnings and make your systems and applications more reliable. How can I find those breaking points before they break in front of customers, they break in production, they break when we’re launching something new? That is the big overview.
When I was working at Uber, that was a project that I got hired on to do. Uber was very much like, “We need to be reliable at all times. We’re a global company.” Their big goal was, they were going to run with five nines [Editor’s note: 99.999%] of reliability. They’re reaching for one of those hard-to-reach reliability goals, and that means that they’re growing their Site Reliability Engineering team. At that time, there were around 150 SREs. They were starting to bring in the model from a lot of the folks that were joining Uber from Google. We start coming in as Site Reliability Engineers embedded in critical services. These Site Reliability Engineers would fit with what’s considered that marketplace-type of critical services that Uber was having; those services that were tying in a user to a driver, a driver to a user, the routes, the payments, all of the services that need to happen on the back end.
Video: Ana Medina in a TECNOLOchica Commercial
As my team is doing a lot of stuff on that, there were other teams that had to work on making monitoring better, making a failure injection happen for all the services, load generators, making sure that we’re ready for those really big traffic dates. For Uber, they’re considered Halloween and New Year’s day – days that, in the United States, are known as days that you go out drinking with your family, your friends, you don’t want to be on the road. Those years, they had had a lot of failures leading up to them – so when I was there, it was big one of those big goals – how can we make sure we don’t relive the failures that we have had in the past where there was surge pricing, or we didn’t have enough capacity, our site was having a lot of latency, etc.
The engineers that were working on these critical services were empowered to run chaos engineering experiments of what happens if we lose one of the servers within our infrastructure, if we lose access to one of the ports, there’s latency calling into the database. At the same time, how do you prepare for that three or four months ahead of time? Within the Site Reliability Engineer capacity, they were running experiments on failure, and at the same time, replicating how many users were on the application the prior Halloween. Let’s go ahead and put all that load, inject failure, and have these engineers also try to fail over to another data center – literally replicating everything that could go wrong, so that if things went wrong, someone was ready to take action and Uber wasn’t going to be down for this length of time.
It was really, really amazing to see all this stuff and be able to participate in helping grow that type of practice within the organization, and later transition to working at a company, a small startup that was getting started in building a chaos engineering platform. How is it that we can help organizations be better about reliability without having to spend six engineers to build their own internal tooling?
So the last three years I’ve been at Gremlin. We’ve been growing the community around chaos engineering, a lot of education, a lot of helping our customers define Site Reliability Engineering Fundamentals within an organization, change the culture around failure, and then sit down with them. It’s like, “Let’s look at those incidents. What can you actually take from those learnings that you already paid a lot of money for and make sure that you are reliable if these failures happen again?” A lot of the work with our customers looks very different. Some of it is really like, “Let’s get started on doing our first experiment. How can I break that failure into a hypothesis into a failure that I can inject? What do I observe? What are the conditions that would say, no, I need to stop this experiment, it’s not going well?”
Some of the work with other customers is more advanced: “How can I bring my chaos engineering experiments to my CI/CD pipeline to make sure I’m not regressing into past failures?” It goes back into the shift left mindset – let’s bring failure injection closer to the developer. So as a developer is checking in their code to the repos – that they’re checking into development – you can run a chaos engineering test, then that can get promoted to staging accordingly. You can do blue-green deployments, or you can roll out to production – like as you roll out to production, do more chaos engineering experiments. A lot of this work is really cool because it takes very different implementations, so you do kind of become a consultant and embedded in various organizations. All of a sudden, you get all these little learnings and tidbits from so many big organizations that are running at scale right now.
Video: Finding the Joy in Chaos Engineering
Rox: That’s really cool. I’m going to come back to Gremlin, but you brought up Uber. I really want to talk about Uber. [laughs]
Ana: Yeah, I’m giving you all sorts of tidbits around Uber.
Rox: Well, okay, so let’s talk candidly about your time at Uber. We had talked briefly about a lawsuit. So I’d like to hear about that.
Ana: I joined Uber as Uber’s first Site Reliability Engineering intern. This was part of their organization within infrastructure that they’re trying to grow. As I mentioned, I was the first SRE intern within chaos engineering and it was all sorts of interesting. I was on-call my third week with the organization, which seems really wild for an intern – and this is the critical services on-call kind of team. I got put as secondary for the chaos engineering platform. I’m secondary also for the infrastructure rotation, which is the largest rotation with 40 services for Uber’s critical services. But that was the type of ability that you had joining a team like this, and it was a really interesting experience for me because prior to that, I had been a developer. I had been the developer that said, “It works on my machine, throw it over the wall, it’s ops’ problem now.
So now all of a sudden, I am a software engineer working on ops that has to understand systems and reliability. I had to take a deep dive in all of that, sit down with a lot of senior engineers, look at architecture diagrams, understand Linux, take a deep dive on all these commands for debugging, and get more information about hosts. It was a really fun time, and I had to learn a lot really, really quickly. But that was a lot going on where when you look back, it’s like… putting in a young intern coming into an organization through a lot of that learning doesn’t seem healthy. So that was already really hard, and as all of this was going on, there were a lot of hiccups going on within the organization where you heard a lot about sexual harassment, you saw it, and things were getting reported.
I started losing sight of a lot of the people that I worked with that were close to me. They were reporting things to management – things weren’t going well. All of a sudden, they weren’t working at the office, or they were taking time off. Some of them were leaving for family reasons. Things got harder for me where I was one of the only females within the organization. I would try to bring my whole self to work prior to them coming in from Miami. I would show up to work dressed in professional clothes with my makeup on, and that would lead to a lot more sexual harassment. Things kind of started changing where I was like, “Alright, I gotta be one of the guys – wear hoodies, wear jeans.” We’re just gonna grow out. Things got easier for me where I would get to hang out with a lot more of those senior engineers and continue learning a lot – and at the same time, that meant that I was exposed to a different type of culture where it was more of a drinking culture, more of a party culture.
That was part of the culture you had to be in to get along with these types of guys that were running their organization, and the leaders of the organization. There was no other way if you wanted to be successful, you wanted to continue going up within your career there.
I had gotten converted from intern to full-time within my first two months at the organization. I had done a lot of work within on-call, helping other services, and just holding the fort as a lot of my team was not around. That was really amazing to see because it meant, “Okay, they care about my career growth. This is really hard for me, yes, I wish I could easily quit.” But it was a high-paying job. Getting another high-paying job in Silicon Valley for a Miami girl – Latina girl – was hard to even think about, as much as I knew I could rely on all the people in the valley – Silicon Valley.
I just kind of sucked it up. I was like, “This is Uber, this is going to be a billion dollar company. You show up, you do your work, you continue growing as an engineer, you’re going to make it.” I kept my head down, but things kept on happening within HR.
I had become close friends with Susan Fowler at that time, so I was aware of what was going on with the type of stuff that happened to her and her management chain. So a lot of stuff I kept reiterating to leadership, and at the same time, shared where I was like, “Oh, I’m getting these messages, or these types of people are positioning themselves as senior leaders in my organizations, but they’re being bad actors.” And then they sexually harass me. How can I report them to HR when they’re a portion of my performance review?
And then a lot happened. I changed teams, had a sexist manager, had a lot of stuff reported to HR that just wasn’t taken a look at or things were ‘handled’ – and you kind of knew what it meant when things were ‘handled.’ All of this just kept bubbling up.
And then February 2017 happened, which was just rough. I still remember when Susan Fowler’s blog post came up. All of a sudden, things just light up on extra fire. I was completely supportive of this blog post coming out, because it’s transparency. It’s a thought where people need to speak their truth and culture was really, really bad – to finally someone shining a light and being the whistleblower – it needed to be said. And it’s sad, because there were a lot of other stories that happened within the organization, and those didn’t matter at this point. They stopped mattering after that. It became hard for a lot of folks after that moment – it’s a turning point for a lot of Uber engineers. And that is where things got wild.
I ended up contacting lawyers that week, where I was like, “Oh, reporters, recruiters, and a lot of people are coming into my messages.” There are private investigators snooping around, whether it was specifically on Susan Fowler’s life or around what was going on within Uber engineering culture. Uber hires Eric Holder. You know things are gonna go down. Wild things started happening. Those that were close to the stuff that was going on legally started getting weird creepy things happening around them where you’re like, there’s a chance there are private investigators, there’s a chance that people are following us, there’s a chance that things are missing from our computer. So things start just going downhill. [laughs]
So I stayed working within the organization, I changed teams once again, and as all of this was going on, I sent a letter to over 600 people within the organization where it was my time to share my story: I am also another engineer within Site Reliability Engineering who’s going through a tough time. I am a Hispanic female. You’re about to see me walk away from this company, from this organization. I’ve tried fighting, I’ve tried asking for change, it’s not happening.
Part of those 600 people included the CEO, the CTO, the Board of Directors. We didn’t care, we wanted to hold the company accountable. We wanted to shine light. There are more stories like Susan Fowler’s blog post out here, and it’s time to do the right thing. It’s time to not quiet down. Let’s use this moment to create a better culture, to let people speak up about what happened, and make things better.
Within that were a lot of requests to leadership. There was a lot of, “We have said publicly that we are going to make this better.” But I am here internally, and we’re not doing this work. There’s a disconnect. So all this keeps happening. All those months continue just being really, really hard, where I keep asking leadership, “What’s going on here? Why are we lying about this? How is it that you can say this?”
All of these are emails that are going in. Some of them, I’m telling my new manager, “Hey, I’m sending an email to the CEO or the CTO, and I’m taking off early. Thank you, goodbye.” And then he’s like, “No, you can’t just do that.” He tried to be as supportive as he could, he just was in a rough situation.
It got to a point where the project that I was now on was a big launch that was coming into the overall application, working with a few partners like partner engineering, developer advocacy, QA testing in a way, as well with our mobile engineers. Really cool project. But all of a sudden, I’m working 60 hours, leaving the office at 11 or 1 in the morning to have things ready for the next day.
This whole time, I am 100% still here for this organization. I want to make things better. I love the work that I’m doing and I want to stay here. So the press is on here, the investigators, the reporters, the recruiters – all of these are blowing up, but I’m still trying to be like, “No, I’m staying at this organization. Don’t tell me anything.”
I continue asking things from leadership. I kept asking what – there are so many people here who are devoting their life to being engineers to be employees here, and you’re not caring about us? This hurts. We’re constantly in your face, in your listening sessions, and you can sit next to us and make a joke out of it, say that things are getting handled within HR, but you’re not seeing what the damage is.
I completely burned out. I lost 35 pounds within six months. I was completely unhappy. I was not talking to family or friends. There was a lot of substance abuse going on. I couldn’t keep food down – I just kept throwing up. I had these headaches. I kept going to the doctor and couldn’t figure out what was going on.
I tried going on medical leave and things did not get approved. So I just continued showing up to work. Things got worse, where HR wasn’t doing the right things and the emails they were sending out were a lot more triggering. I ended up in a really bad depressed state, walking into the emergency room of a hospital, checking myself in for suicide prevention. That was my first hospital stay where it was like, “I’m completely burnt out. This is going on. I need help.” And yeah, I went on medical leave. When I was on medical leave is when everything kind of settled in: You’re not supposed to be a martyr, you have a lot more to give to this world. What can you do in this moment where you’re trying to make things better?
But you can’t, you don’t have the power. You don’t have the political capital, you don’t have a C-level type of job. So that’s when it was like, “Alright, hey friends, we’ve all gone through the wringer in this organization. What can we do?” By that moment, there were a lot of friendships that were getting formed within the friends that were within Site Reliability Engineering and infrastructure. It was sharing about pay: How much did we come in at? How much were friends making? How much equity do we have? Who has reported things to HR?
All of a sudden, we have three Latina engineers that are willing to sign on with lawyers and bring a class action lawsuit together. Those three Latina engineers – it was myself, Roxana Del Toro Lopez, and Ingrid Avendano, where we’re like, “No, this ends here. This company needs to be held accountable.”
We ended up talking to lawyers and we went through this entire process of doing a lawsuit against them for gender and racial discrimination on equal pay. This lawsuit took a long while to get through the end of the cycle, but we ended up settling for $10 million for a class of 488 engineers. Those engineers identify as women engineers or people of color engineers. That class would include Latinx, Hispanic, Black, Native American, or mixed race. Those people were going to get a subset of the lawsuit money. Then from that same class, they were allowed to submit more paperwork to get access to some of the money from another bucket of the lawsuit that was around sexual harassment, around a toxic work culture. If you’re able to prove your claims within our class, you are going to get allocated more money than just your equal pay portion of it.
Even putting together my own set of documentation for my portion of the lawsuit, as I had already done all this work, was really hard – really triggering. And the thing that was harder was that throughout all this, I was still going through a mental health journey where I ended up hospitalized two times, and I did a partial hospitalization program. On top of that, I went to a rehab residential center for a full month, but had no access to my laptop or cell phone. It was really, really hard to try to keep my best foot forward, knowing that I was doing the right thing and I was gonna be proud of myself later on. You’re going with your gut, you’re standing for your values, and it doesn’t matter what everyone else is saying.
I filled out some of the paperwork for our lawyers within my stay at the residential center. It’s like, “Hey program, I’m supposed to be here for three months, I need my laptop, because my lawyers need me to sign some documents.” So they would be willing to make some concessions. My therapist would sit next to me as I worked on my phone to talk to my lawyers. It all feels like a soap opera type of TV show when I look back at it, but I was discharged from my stay at the program because of the lawsuit. I needed to be in San Francisco to meet with Uber’s lawyers to go over paperwork and do closed door mediation, with the plan that I was going to go back to my program to finish off everything. But things got complicated there, too.
Came up to San Francisco, did that in January 2018, and more paperwork got signed. I believe the judge in Oakland got to sign the paperwork in November 2018 to approve everything with the lawsuit, so checks went out December 2018. It was very much like a big chapter ended at that moment. We were finishing the lawsuit with just Roxana and I being the named plaintiffs of the lawsuit.
I still remember being in that room for eight hours over there and trying to use coloring books to distract ourselves. [laughs] The last few years just felt so surreal at that moment – but looking back at it, I still stand by my choice. I still feel really proud that I was able to hold such a large corporation accountable for something that they did that was so wrong to so many minority engineers. And at the same time, one of the things Roxana and I really wanted was – we made a statement to technology companies: You’re not allowed to underpay us, no matter what type of organization you are. We’re here, we might not look like the majority of your organization, but it’s not fair to get just the percentage of our equity or just a percentage of our pay because we didn’t go to MIT or Stanford or we’re not white and male. It’s just not okay.
Link: Ana’s entire catalogue of speaking engagements.
Rox: Absolutely. Holy crap. You are brave.
Ana: Yeah, I told you I was like – I am candid as hell and a lot has happened.
Rox: How long did it all take in total, from the publishing of the blog post? You said it ended in December 2018, but when did it start?
Ana: Almost two years. It was February 17, 2017 that Susan’s blog post came out. We got the checks for the lawsuit in December 2018. I think the judge signed in November.
Rox: Wow. That is a long time to feel like crap.
Ana: And I mean, though – it actually is short because we went through closed door mediation. We could have not done that and tried to wait for the arbitration clause to try to break it. There’s a Supreme Court portion of law that was trying to get passed, but it didn’t get passed so that also complicated things. There is a similar current lawsuit case of Kelly Ellis vs. Google right now where the judge just approved the class action to move forward. That class is 10,000 engineers.
Rox: Oh my god. [laughs]
Ana: That’s been going on since 2017. Early 2017 I believe the lawsuit got kicked off.
Rox: It’s amazing how long these things can take.
Rox: Okay, well, on a lighter note, back to Gremlin. What’s your favorite part about working there?
So as being able to constantly learn, I think that really goes back to my roots. I like tinkering. I like learning by myself. If a job allows for me to continue being myself and do the type of hobbies that I would have done, 9 to 10pm? Yeah, no, this is great! At the same time, I am a Developer Advocate so I’m constantly working with the community, listening to other people share about failures and incidents and making systems better.
But then we also get a chance to sit in with our customers where we get to really be like, “Alright, what’s your technology stack? What are the issues that you constantly have?” I think one of the nicest things is that we’ve seen a change within a lot of our customers where they’re actually being proactive about reliability. They weren’t tracking a lot of things prior, but as they’ve gotten the chance to see, “Oh no, every single day is a high traffic event in the pandemic, how is it that we can make sure that we’re staying above that?” And then making sure that they’re bringing in something like chaos engineering to then be like, “Alright, how can we be proactive every single month for the next year, so that we don’t relive that past outage we had when we launched that last product that cost us a lot of thousands of dollars, possibly millions?” They didn’t share it – they don’t always share the cost of downtime, but sometimes you just know it was really expensive, and they really don’t want to do that again.
Rox: Yeah. Can you imagine going down on Black Friday or something? Bye revenue. So what’s one piece of advice you can give to men to help women feel welcome and comfortable going into tech?
Ana: I think there are two pieces of advice.
1- Always be willing to share your network, as you might have gone through the technology industry a lot earlier, or you have been in the industry for a longer time. Being able to share your network and give referrals out or introduce minorities to other big players in the technology industry is going to help.
2- Always be ready to share candidly about your salary and your compensation around how you have transitioned within your industry. It’s really hard to be able to know what your worth is within the industry unless you’re talking to other people, and having that conversation is hard. With people you feel comfortable, you should be able to share, “Hey, I started out as a Software Engineer making $90,000/yr in 2010. Now, I’m a Staff Software Engineer, and I’m making 250k.” Being able to share those little details really helps people understand, “Oh, I’m actually currently a Staff Software Engineer at another organization and they’re paying me 120k and we’re in the same type of region. What’s going on? How is it that I can start advocating for myself as a minority engineer in this space and get that mentorship of, how do you have that conversation?” I know for me, being able to negotiate is one of my biggest weaknesses. How is it that I can advocate for myself, have that confidence, and be able to say, “I know my worth. If you don’t know my worth, I’m walking away”?
Rox: Yeah, it’s always been kind of mindblowing to me how – context, I was born in Canada, so a lot of my career was there – there’s not that secrecy over there about salary as much as there is here. It’s always been a little bit weird, coming from a place that’s so free, talks about money okay, and then you come here and there’s all these – I don’t know, you’re discouraged from talking about your pay here. It’s just so odd to me. It is really helpful when you have that baseline of knowing. It seems unfair. It’s designed to make people…
Ana: …not make it?
Rox: Pretty much. [laughs]
Ana: When it comes down to it, if you don’t have the privilege, you’re not gonna be able to live in this capitalistic type of environment. It’s hard. Having that network, that back channel, to be able to say, “Oh, can you tell me if this company is going to be healthy? What’s the on-call culture like? How is the leadership team? Is it common for females to leave your organization? Are there ERGs that are going to help me? Are there career ladders that I can easily access within the first few months of my time at this organization?” So really being able to be the ear on the ground, and also be able to uplift and mentor those underrepresented folks coming into your organization is completely key.
Rox: Yeah, actually, I want to ask about this. I didn’t plan for this, but you brought up mentorship just now. What do you think is a good way to reach out to people to try and get those mentorships?
Ana: I think the most genuine way for me is being able to have met you before and have a form of connection. So of course – if we’re talking about a pre-pandemic world – if you are running in the same circles as me, coming up to a speaker, coming up to someone after a networking event and saying, “Hey, your job title sounds really cool. Can you tell me a little bit more about it? It’s intriguing. I am an undergrad, going into my first year of professional life.” That kind of helps break the ice.
When we’re talking about a virtual world, it’s completely harder to make that first introduction. But I would actually say that you have a lot more ways to stand out. I talked about it in other forums where Twitter has been one of the best ways for me to grow my career. Coming from Miami, this is where I found my space. I was able to find internships via Twitter search, I was able to ask where the Latina engineers were within the Bay Area and try to find my bubbles.
The same way as the way that I look at mentorship, if you find someone you admire within a social network like LinkedIn and Twitter that’s in a professional setting, find ways that you can read things that they’re doing. Find talks. Really be able to say, what is the thought leadership that they’re pushing? What are some of the things they’re sharing or that they care about? So when you do that cold reach email, you’re able to say, “Hey, I read your tutorial on chaos engineering on Kubernetes. I really love the way you explain this concept.” Or, “I saw in your bio that you’re Latina. I am also a Latina, I come from Mexico. What advice do you have for Latinas breaking into technology?” Telling the person that you’re asking to be your mentor, “Hey, I read about you, I have an interest in your life. And by the way, it would be nice if you could talk to me for 15 minutes.”
So I think it’s being able to be genuine about it and say, “I just spend time and I admire your work. Is there any way that I can buy you a coffee or you chat with me for 15 minutes? That’s going to make my career trajectory a lot easier.” Those are the things that we couldn’t necessarily do in in-person events or in an in-person type of world where we always resorted to, “I only mentor people in the Bay Area, I only mentor Latinas, they’re running this certain type of group.” Those barriers are currently not existing in this virtual online world. So how is it that you can kind of stand out?
And of course, if you can get a warm introduction, that usually helps. “Hey, I see you’re connected to so-and-so on your LinkedIn. I am just getting started. Would you mind helping foster an introduction so I can understand what their career trajectory was and how I can get there, too?”
Rox: That’s perfect. Let’s see here: Is there anything exciting coming down the pipeline for you?
Ana: There’s always something exciting going on. As part of the type of job that I do, I get to always be breaking your stuff and learning about it. But nothing too big going on. Within my organizational work that I do, we are going to be launching a chaos engineering certification program [Editor’s note: IT CAME OUT!]. If you keep an eye out on the Gremlin Twitter account, some new stuff is going to be coming very soon.
There are also new episodes of the podcast I help co-host, Break Things On Purpose. We have some cool new speakers coming up. And I get the chance to create content a lot, so there’ll be a few new talks coming out in the next few months around testing, around continuous reliability, and really getting a chance to push forward a little bit of your chaos engineering practice. And yeah, that will be some new talks and new tutorials or possibly videos! We shall see what creativity inspires Ana in the next few months.
Rox: Last question – is there anything else you would like to share? Perhaps a word of encouragement to women that are looking to start their career in tech?
Ana: I think the first advice that I got when I was coming into the technology industry was: Fake it til you make it. I definitely did a portion of that, and it definitely helped with my imposter syndrome. But by doing that, I wasn’t being genuine and bringing my whole self to work, and that later led to some form of burnout. So continue to stay true to yourself and bring your whole self wherever you are, because that leads to my next advice, where it’s very much about you belong here. You’re going to get pushed out, you’re going to be told that you don’t look like the normal type of person in this type of group that you’re part of, because technology is currently not really representative of us. But you belong there. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are going to make it. You’re going to see that a lot of folks have done a lot of work in order for you to be able to be in that room.
And with that, is also being able to find a group that you feel comfortable with and find your community. For me, I was going to find communities of Latinx and Black folks in technology, places like Code2040 and Techqueria, where they understood what it was like to be one of the only Black or Latinx engineers in an organization of 500 engineers and what that actually entails. How do you bring up concerns to leadership? How do you form an employee resource group? How do you report something to HR? How do you tell your manager, “You’re being racist?” All those conversations are really hard to have and being able to rely on other people that look like you, that come from a similar upbringing, that’s really going to empower you to be able to stay in technology for a career vs. this just being a hobby or this just being a stint you do for one or two years.
Rox: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time today. This is a really great conversation.
Ana: Yeah, thanks for having me. I hope I gave you enough to be able to put this together, and that is not just me rambling about Uber being a terrible workplace and a lawsuit that came out of it. [laughs]
Rox: No, this was perfect. [laughs] Thank you.
Join us next time, where we’ll be talking to Stefania Chaplin about DevSecOps!