International Women’s Day: A Conversation with DevOps Expert Ebru Cucen
The tech sector has earned a reputation around the world for being ahead of the game and innovative but it has a long way to go as far as diversity is concerned. With women making up just 17% of IT specialists in the UK, according to the Diversity in IT Report by BCS, the conversation has turned to what can be done to improve gender balance in the industry.
On International Women’s Day, we join the rest of the world in promoting a gender-balanced workplace. In honour of this year’s theme of #BalanceForBetter, we caught up with one of our engineers, Ebru Cucen, to discuss her journey into tech and to get her thoughts on the issue of gender balance in the industry.
Tell us a bit about your career journey
I started out as a .NET developer 16 years ago after graduating with a BSc in Mathematics. I later completed a MSc in Engineering and Technology Management. I particularly loved coding and automation, which eventually led me to a career in DevOps. Now I enjoy helping companies to improve the collaboration of ideas and enabling new technology.
What was it that attracted you to engineering?
Growing up, I always wanted to be part of the future and was fascinated by robots and technology. I have always enjoyed solving puzzles and would spend time as a child opening up radios to see how they work.
At Uni, I had the opportunity to take a variety of programming courses and realised that I have a talent for programming as well as a real curiosity for anything related to computers. At the time, I lacked self-confidence in my career choice and remember asking one of my professors if I had what it took to be a software developer!
What is your favourite part of the job?
Every day presents a new challenge and a puzzle to be solved. It’s a lot like exercise – I’m training my brain muscles every day! And just like exercise, the more you do, the better you get.
One of my favourite jobs was working for a banking software company, run by two inspiring women. It was a unique atmosphere where women made up 80% of the workforce. Of course, the ideal situation would be to have a truly gender-balanced workplace but these are hard to come by!
There are very few female engineers. What do you think can be done to change this?
In my opinion, we need to break this prejudice from an early age. Both inside and outside of school, children should be given the freedom and opportunities to learn about technology, starting with the kind of toys they play with.
I also think it’s important to improve the typical working environment in the tech sector in order to attract more women to these jobs. I know quite a few women who left careers in tech after having children because their work environments were not set up to support them. More should be done in the industry to promote a better work-life balance, perhaps by opening up more part-time job opportunities for new parents, for example.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing women in tech?
I think that a lot of it comes down to self-belief. As a woman in tech, there is definitely a pressure to prove that you are as good as your peers. In my first job, I was one of two women amongst twenty men. After one year, my manager actually wanted to promote me to Project Manager and I had to defend my choice to progress in tech. To have your voice heard in this industry, you need to be prepared to lean in and to be assertive, which isn’t always easy.
Another challenge that a lot of women face comes with having children. I gave an Ignite talk at DevOpsDays 2017 on the topic of ‘Surviving in DevOps as a mum’. It can be challenging to balance everything, from staying on top of my tech stack to making sure my son has studied for his spelling test, to ensuring the fridge has enough food for the week! Having a supportive and understanding company culture is really important.
What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about working in tech?
I think it’s funny how people assume that to work in tech, you must have a really high IQ. You don’t have to be Einstein! Just like any other job, you learn and grow every day. The only difference is that in tech, the pace can be a bit faster so you have to really have an appetite for learning. All it takes is dedication!
Which companies/initiatives do you think are doing a great job at promoting women in tech?
I recommend signing up to Women Who Code, which offers a fantastic global network for connecting and empowering women in the industry, as well as regular events at WomenIn DevOps, WomenInTech, BScWomen. Also there is an annual event, Tech(K)now, which is happening on Saturday 9th March.
What advice would you give to women looking to enter tech?
If you have a passion for the industry and are dedicated to learning, then you already have what it takes! I would also recommend seeking out mentors. I have found it really valuable to surround myself with a support network of friends and mentors who encourage and inspire me.