Understanding the absence of women as DevOps and cloud engineers

By October 28, 2019 No Comments

Understanding the Absence of Women as DevOps and Cloud Engineers

By Zoe Higgins

Before I start – yes, I know. We all know that there are not very many women in tech. In fact, only one in five IT graduates are women, which means that we are already playing with a rather unfortunate ratio. I am very aware of the fact that when I walk into any workplace, tech conference or techcentric Meetup that I will likely be one of a handful of women present. It isn’t great, but it is certainly something that any woman in tech is used to. 

Which is why when I started as a Cloud Engineer for Kasna, by no means was I expecting to be surrounded by women. I was surprised, however, to learn how few female DevOps and Cloud Engineers there were across the company. Confused, I asked across a few companies and discovered that there exists a very apparent trend. I found that this was not a fault of Kasna as a company, who are actively searching for women who are interested in Cloud Engineering across Melbourne and Sydney. As little as 6% of DevOps and Cloud Engineers are women, 14% less than those coming out of university with tech degrees.

To be clear, around 13% of software engineers are women, which means that there is more of a market to tap into and move across to DevOps or Cloud Engineering. The female techs are around, they just haven’t taken the plunge. Which is a shame, because Cloud-First strategy is a massive market in Australia, and it’s growing. We need more Cloud and DevOps Engineers, and it would be excellent if more of them were women.

So back to the original question, why aren’t women moving into Cloud and DevOps Engineering, anyway? I have a couple of ideas.

Because they have no idea what the role is/that the role exists

It sounds a bit ridiculous, but this was definitely me not even a year ago. Unfortunately, it was never outlined to me all the different types of roles that my Computer Science degree could take me, and so I just assumed I would start my career as a Software Engineer. It was only by fluke that I stumbled into Architecture and then Cloud Engineering. 

Now, I have the opportunity to be creative with designing modern infrastructure using the Google Cloud Platform while also partaking in software development, and so far it is great. You can read more about Cloud Engineering and how it emcompasses software engineering, solution architecture and systems engineering here.

Because they don’t know how to break into the field

There is no single pathway or degree to move into Cloud or DevOps Engineering. The Cloud Engineers at Kasna come from a variety of different backgrounds and, at least at Kasna, while your skills are definitely considered, a lot of what makes a strong Cloud Engineer in the team is a willingness and track record of learning along with a love for all things Google. Certainly, you can take some steps to prove your interest:

  • Take some time to get relatively acquainted with GCP, and even consider applying for certification
  • If you are working in the tech industry now, don’t be afraid to ask to be more involved with work to do with infrastructure, whether that be GCP or another cloud service. Particularly if you are new to the workforce, most companies will want to facilitate your growth in an area that interests you. 
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to other companies that you think are offering what you are looking for. At the end of the day, the reason I am where I am today is because I asked the question. Many companies would love to hear from women who are looking to break into the cloud space.

Because it’s daunting to be one of the first women in a team, industry or specialisation

I totally hear you. It can be a little exhausting to feel like your very presence is a statement in itself, and it’s nicer for everyone to be surrounded by diversity in all forms to avoid that dreaded echo chamber or groupthink. But someone does have to be first, and it should be you, because if you are excited enough by the idea of Cloud or DevOps Engineering, you shouldn’t let the lack of representation hold you back. 

First of all, don’t forget women have been imperative in evolving technology to its current state. See Ada Lovelace, who published the first algorithm to be executed by a computer, or Grace Hopper, who designed the first compiler of a programming language. I like to keep this in mind when I’m feeling like technology is a “boys’ club”.

It may also be worth finding yourself a company that understands and supports your position such as Kasna or its parent company, Mantel Group. There are plenty of them, and culture is so incredibly important when it comes to loving your job and projecting your career.

You can also join different groups and organisations that support and empower women in IT. Try Code Like a Girl, an Australian company that we at Mantel Group are proud to partner with. 

My list above is non-exhaustive, and I’m sure there are many more things we can do to encourage women to move towards Cloud and DevOps Engineering. If you feel I have missed anything glaring or have any questions, thoughts or ideas, don’t hesitate to contact me: Let’s work together to raise that bar from 6%!

Zoe Higgins
Cloud Engineer at Kasna