Women in Software Engineering at Unit21: DevOps

November 1, 2022
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There’s no doubt that software engineering has become an extremely popular career path for many reasons.

It is predicted that the number of jobs in the computer science field will increase steadily at a rate of 22% per year through 2030, which makes this field desirable as the pay is typically higher than average and the job outlook is stable. 

However, software engineering is one of those career paths that is still heavily dominated by men. Even though the tides are shifting as more and more women are choosing jobs in computer science, it can seem like a boys club to many of the women who decide to follow this career journey. 

Despite facing these challenges at previous companies, several of the female engineers here at Unit21 found themselves on a team where being a woman wasn’t out of the norm, and they are excited to share their experiences and insights as DevOps trailblazers.

Here, we’ll provide female perspectives from Unit21’s DevOps team on the topics of:

  • Why they chose careers in software engineering
  • What it is like to work on the engineering team at Unit21
  • What young women considering careers in engineering should consider
  • And more!  

Let’s get to it.

What is DevOps and How is it Different?

As mentioned, all of the women who participated in this interview are on Unit21’s DevOps team. If you aren’t familiar with the term, “DevOps” stands for “developer operations” and is a core function of Unit21’s engineering department.

To better understand the differences between DevOps and traditional software engineering, each contributor weighed in with their thoughts.

One team member, Celine Lim, said, "In Unit21, our DevOps team focuses on these aspects: AWS, deployments, database control, monitoring, automation, and scalability. It is different from general software engineering, where software engineers mainly build features that are shipped to customers using the product. Whereas in DevOps, we build automation and tools to streamline our processes, and our stakeholders are the internal developers."

Another team member, Anami Lopez, noted that “the DevOps team is responsible for the infrastructure of our application. It’s high stakes because when we make a mistake, this is more likely to take the entire app down.”

And the final participant, Yijia Khoo, commented, “DevOps engineers influence every part of the software development cycle through automation and optimizing processes. It involves work in a diverse range of areas such as release engineering, systems design, infrastructure provisioning, system administration, dev productivity tooling, observability, etc.” 

This team is extremely critical for the success of our software and the company as a whole. However, before they found themselves managing Unit21’s infrastructure, each contributor decided to follow a career path in engineering.

Next, we’ll uncover what drove them to make this choice.

Choosing a Career in Engineering 

To reiterate, engineering is an up-and-coming career path for women looking to make a good salary while maintaining a high level of job stability. But those are not the only reasons to explore a career in engineering.

Each woman we talked to for this piece expressed a shared love of coding and building in a collaborative team environment.

When asked why she chose her career path, Celine responded, "I really enjoy problem-solving. Every problem in engineering is different in terms of complexity, challenges, requirements and goals. And that's what excites me because each problem is so different and unique, yet exciting. It's like building a new puzzle each time."

Echoing similar sentiments, Yijia said, “I like to build things and be able to work on different challenges every day.”

3 Considerations for Women Looking to Build Careers in Engineering

There is obviously a common thread tying each team member together in what excites them regarding their jobs. Still, it can be challenging to know whether a career in software engineering is the right choice.

Here are a few things to consider if you want to build a successful career in engineering.

1. Be Accepting of a Challenge

It can be difficult to be confident in your abilities, especially when something is new to you.

Celine reminisced that it was difficult at the beginning of her career as Unit21 was her first job out of college, and she didn’t have much experience to rely on.

However, after a couple of months, she felt much more at ease and implores other women who are interested in exploring careers in software development to rise to the challenge.

“The beginning was the hardest because I was picking up everything from scratch and learning as I go. But once I got the hang of things, everything made sense, and I was able to use my knowledge to guide and help people along the way. Persevere, practice and never give up. Set tangible and ambitious goals and plan for your growth” - Celine Lim

Anami, on the other hand, started at Unit21 in a different engineering role and found her way into a role in DevOps after being inspired by the other women on the team.

“My two other female teammates in devops Celine and Yijia opened a path for me to make it easier. Seeing other females represented in this field gave more confidence that I could so this too.” - Anami Lopez 

Ultimately, all of these women fought back against fear or doubt and willingly accepted the challenges in front of them, and that is part of the reason why they have all been so successful in their careers to date. 

  

2. Be Passionate

Understanding the challenges that might lay before you is one thing, but it is critical to demonstrate your passion for the work, even if it might be difficult at first.

The job market is competitive; only those who can showcase their skills and enthusiasm will stand out from the crowd, no matter the industry or position. 

Anami recommends focusing on soft skills as well as technical ones.

“To be successful in engineering you need well-rounded skills. You need a lot of collaboration, drive and organizational skills. They are just as important as your technical skills. Also, show your enthusiasm.” - Anami Lopez

And Yijia notes that taking on special projects is a great way to demonstrate your drive and build out a range of knowledge. 

“Show your passion by working on small projects - think of ways of how you can use technology to solve your everyday problems. And don’t be afraid to speak up and be confident. Research has shown that more women suffer from imposter syndrome. Speak to someone if you feel you are being held back by it.” - Yijia Khoo

3. Get to Know People in the Field

Surrounding yourself with peers who are working on similar challenges is a great way to accelerate your learnings and develop relationships within a community. Yijia recommends joining networking groups to foster a sense of community and growth.

“There are many women in engineering groups that organize events or meetups. You can go for those sessions in your area and connect with engineers there.”

And when actively interviewing for a role, ensure you get to know the people who work at the company. Anami explains the importance of understanding how people interact while working on projects.

“Ask to meet the team during the interview process. Meet as many people as possible. You can connect via Linkedin and ask lots of questions. Have an on-site or lunch with the team in person or over zoom.” - Anami Lopez

Building out a robust network is critical for your professional success because it not only allows you to discover opportunities more easily but also helps you learn from others who have already been there and done that.

What Makes Unit21 a Great Place to Work as a Female Software Developer?

When asked what sets Unit21 apart from some of the other tech companies out there, the team shared their insights based on their unique and varied experiences as professionals in this space. 

Celine noted that she took an internship with Unit21 directly out of college and is going on three years with the company. She believes that Unit21 has offered her a chance to learn and grow.

“I really like the mentorship culture in Unit21 - it allows me to experiment and pave the way for my learning and growth the way that I want.” - Celine Lim 

Yijia, on the other hand, appreciates Unit21’s transparency and focus on diversity and inclusion.

 

“Management at Unit21 tries to make everything as transparent as they can to their employees. I appreciate that the company makes it a priority to build a respectful workplace for everyone.” - Yijia Khoo

Finally, Anami shared her thoughts about Unit21’s transparent career ladder and how everyone has equal opportunities for advancement.

“Unit21 has been a great place to work even when this field is still male dominated because in our team I always feel supported and respected. We have a strong culture of mentorship and collaboration and a transparent career ladder so promotions follow a logical timeline.” - Anami Lopez 

A big thank you to Celine Lim, Anami Lopez, and Yijia Khoo for sharing their stories and making Unit21 an amazing workplace.

Unit21 is proud to offer a highly collaborative environment that allows people of all different backgrounds the ability to work alongside many talented and smart people, regardless of gender. If you are interested in joining our team, check out the careers page to browse open positions. 

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