Lessons learned from starting a community

Back Lessons learned from starting a community

We’ve come a long way in the way we work.

Before DevOps was so pivotal in our industry, on release weekends, dev teams stayed overnight, on site. I knew of one company who dedicated rooms labeled “bunk rooms.” These were fully equipped with a kitchen and showers so that teams could stay, watch out for breaks and bugs in the release, and never miss a beat. The entire system was built to have a babysitter coddle the release, barring them from a personal life.

It wasn’t a surprise to see the lack of diversity among teams. Women and working mothers were hardly spotted in these roles.

I particularly remember a time when I travelled with one release manager; the two of us were the only two women on the project. Each evening, I’d wrap up my workday, respond to emails missed during the day’s typical wall of meetings, and I’d watch my colleague’s nightly routine unfold.

The same FaceTime ringtone would fill the room, followed by a “Hi mom!” She managed to “see” her family during releases, and she was excellent at her job. This was the grind for her and many working women – but was that how we wanted to work?

DevOps tools in my industry helped alleviate this perpetual personal problem. Across tech and many other industries, the pandemic pushed the world to really understand and implement remote work. This opened up more opportunities so that we can pursue and grow our careers, and be with our families.

To build a solid foundation of supporting women in any segment of tech, incorporate these three factors in your blueprint and design.

Community

My job is to connect women with other women in DevOps.

In any sector of tech that you are in, find and join a community that supports professionals in their career paths. If there isn’t one that is a great fit, start one or talk to your employer about getting one off the ground. A great community involves easy ways to network. In our community, members enjoy what we call a “free table,” which is a forum that gives anyone a chance to ask questions and ask for help. This is a great first step for women in tech to start carving out their career path. It’s also a great resource for those who may be unsure of the exact path they’d like to make, or who may be considering a different sector in tech, or a new role at a different organization. The possibilities with a well-connected community are plentiful.

Mentorship

Representation is everything when we have goals for our career and strive for progress. I learned three valuable insights when I kickstarted a mentorship program. First, mentorship needs to be a deliberate initiative and prioritized from the top. Without executive buy-in, you may find difficulty in finding members to join and support your program.

My next learning, while not a big surprise, is that women feel stretched thin with their time. Even though much of the workforce is now in a hybrid environment, women still feel the burden in other ways. Many still may be dealing with childcare or family care. Perhaps it’s providing more flexible work hours or better benefits and stipends for care. Again, these options are only applicable with buy-in from management and are critical to allow women to join and participate in such programs.

The third insight is an issue of mindset.

I was surprised to find out that many women I had admired and reached out to didn’t feel like they were in a position to guide and mentor. I believe a solid community will solve this issue by revealing the strengths of people’s skills and traits. We all have something to offer and sometimes we need a nudge from the outside to tell us that we’re worthy of being a mentor.

Upskilling

Consider a learning or education centre that provides easily accessible tools. These can include how-to videos, modules that are easy to view and learn from, and resources to obtain more certifications. Women should be earning credentialed experience, furthering their careers as experts in their respective fields. Bulking up the resume is a great step in impressive hiring managers and tech team leaders. Opportunities as consultants or in-house roles are plenty nowadays and proper upskilling opportunities paves the path to these positions. Women have come a long way in tech and there’s so much more room for improvement to immerse women in the industry. Let’s take the time to support them with a strong community, offer supportive mentorship and the ability to continue to learn and grow in their skills and talent.