Gender Equality in Science (SCGES) brings together scientists from all disciplines for gender equality
The Standing Committee for Gender Equality in Science (SCGES) is an independent committee formed in 2020 by nine international scientific organizations, most of which are full members of the International Science Council (ISC). These founding partners had worked together on the ISC-supported project “A Global Approach to the Gender Gap in Mathematical, Computing, and Natural Sciences: How to Measure It, How to Reduce It?,” which became known as the “Gender Gap in Science Project”.
The nine founding partners of SCGES were ACM, IAU, ICIAM, IMU, IUBS, IUHPST, IUPAC, IUPAP, and the project GenderInSITE (2016-2021). Over the three years since the first meeting of SCGES in September 2020, these partners have been joined by fifteen international scientific unions that are all members of ISC: IFSM, IGU, INQUA, IPSA, IUBMB, IUCr, IUGS, IUIS, IUMRS, IUPESM, IUPsyS, IUSS, SCAR, UIS and WAU.
- The Global Survey of Scientists addresses issues related to missing role models, feelings of critical exclusion, harassment, or low participation and retention rates.
- The Study of Publication Patterns provides insights into the proportion of women as research authors or the presence of women publishing in renowned journals. See the Interactive tool on publication patterns for visualizations of publication data from STEM disciplines in relation to the gender of the publishing authors.
- The Database of Good Practices introduces a conceptual framework to analyze them and provide evidence of effectiveness and impact.
Based on the findings of the project and from discussions held within the network created around the project, SGCES makes several recommendations, starting with instructors and parents, scientific or educational organizations of all kinds, and Scientific Unions and other worldwide organizations, in particular the union members of SGCES.
The full report, “A Global Approach to the Gender Gap in Mathematical, Computing, and Natural Sciences: How to Measure It, How to Reduce It?” can be found in this link.
The SCGES Webinar Series
The webinar series, which started in 2022, is also continuing. The five webinars organized in 2022-2023 with topics cover the situation of women in various scientific disciplines around the world, the work towards gender equality, the results of research on women and gender, and more broadly, on intersectionality in disciplines where such research is carried out. Examples include:
- (In-)visibility of women in science: historical perspectives, organized by the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science (IUHPST). The moderator was Catherine Jami (CNRS). Presentations included:
- “Tomorrow Began Yesterday: Why History Matters,” Patricia Fara (University of Cambridge)
- “Navigating Gendered Barriers to Scientific Knowledge Through Spousal Cooperation: Mrs and Mr Mary Somerville,” Brigitte Stenhouse (University of Toronto & The Open University)
- “Visibility of Women in Science, for an Anti-oppressive World,” Indianara Lima Silva (State University of Feira de Santana)
- How to Evaluate and Reduce the Gender Gap in Science? The webinar was moderated by Mei-Hung Chiu (National Taiwan Normal University), and presentations included:
- “The Gender Gap in Science Project and its Outcomes,” Marie-Françoise Roy (Université Rennes)”
- “What interventions for more women in science? Tools, knowledge, and know-how for the creation and evaluation of public policies,” Guillaume Hollard (Ecole Polytechnique)
- “The global survey of scientists: focus on Africa, Latin-America, Mathematics and Physics,” Sophie Dabo (Université de Lille), Rachel Ivie (American Institute of Physics)
- “New results for the gender gap in publication patterns,” Helena Mihaljevic (HTW Berlin)
All webinars can be viewed on SCGES’s YouTube channel.
SCGES looks forward to bringing together scientists from all disciplines to cooperate on fostering gender equality in their communities at the local, national, regional, and international levels. For further information, please see this year’s report.
The 12th International Conference on Software Engineering (CIMPS)
The 12th International Conference on Software Engineering (CIMPS) was held at CENIDET, Cuernavaca, Mexico, from October 18th to 20th. This international conference has been held since 2012, and this year, ACM-W NA sponsored the participation of two speakers who promoted ACM-W.
CIMPS welcomed 40 women from different international universities studying computing-related fields such as software engineering and computer science for undergraduates and Masters or PhD programs. The event was made possible due to the support of academic and industry sponsors.
The first ACM-W sponsored speaker was Dr. Rocio Aldeco, a research associate professor of Computer Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Mexico). She participated in the conference as Vice Chair and chair of nominations at ACM-W NA. She actively promotes the participation of women in ACM. She talked about the challenges of software engineering in developing distributed applications, highlighting the need to improve and develop new protocols that support trust through cryptographic evidence and provenance (i.e., blockchain and digital audits).
The second speaker, sponsored by ACM-W NA Dr. Mirna Muñoz, communications co-chair, talked about Standardization and Quality: A bridge between Industry and Academia., and presented the experience of boosting the competitiveness of Very Small Entities. Software development microenterprises and software development centers established within Higher Education Institutions participated in the project, highlighting the benefits of using Software Engineering standards.
11th International Conference in Software Engineering Research and Innovation (CONISOFT 2023)
The 11th International Conference in Software Engineering Research and Innovation (CONISOFT 2023) was held at Universidad de Guanajuato, León, Mexico. ACM-W NA sponsored a speaker and coffee breaks.
CONISOFT welcomed 175 women from different international universities studying computing-related fields such as software engineering and computer science for undergraduates and Masters or PhD programs.
At the conference, Dr. Mirna Muñoz talked about Raising Efficiency in Agile Development: ISO/IEC 29110 Standard, which addresses a proposal to reinforce agile development approaches, especially SCRUM and XP, with the implementation of proven practices that provide an international standard for EMPs, allowing for a more robust development environment, without ceasing to use its agile approach for the development of its non-critical software products.
Author: Lindsay Jamieson, ACM-W NA chair
We are soliciting volunteers to assist with the ACM-W mission in North America (Canada, the US, Mexico, and the Caribbean). From positions on standing committees to memberships in the Executive Committee, we have openings at all-time commitment levels.
The committee supervises the activities and initiatives supporting all North American ACM-W chapters. There are many opportunities to help others while also building your own network and leadership experience.
The committee seeks professional (two-year terms) and student (one-/two-year terms) volunteers from across North America interested in serving as subcommittee chairs or members. To ensure we fully represent North America, we especially encourage volunteers outside of the U.S. (Mexico, Canada, and other countries in North America).
We would love to have volunteers join us in working groups, subcommittees, and other roles as they arise.
|Professionals||At-Large Members of our subcommittees|
|Students||Celebrations Chair(s) Communications Chair(s) Student Chapters Chair(s) Empowerment of Marginalized Communities Chair(s) Nominations Chair(s) At-Large Members|
Current open positions
ACM-W Europe continues with the collaboration of its chapters as the buddy system campaign started by ACM-W. The second chapter buddies of ACM-W Europe happened between two professional chapters which are Trondheim ACM-W and The Greek ACM-W.
The Greek ACM-W Professional Chapter has been established in 2018 with the same vision of fostering gender mainstreaming, as well as enhancing and advocating gender balance in computer-related scientific fields and professional sectors in Greece.
The Trondheim Chapter of the ACM-W was established in 2020 with the same vision of The Greek ACM-W Professional Chapter. The chapter runs by Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Trondheim.
Two chapters had their first physical meeting at Trondheim during the 10th ACM Celebration of Women in Computing womENcourageTM . Maria Roussou and Anna Szlavi, the representatives of ACM-W Greece and ACM-W Trondheim (respectively) met to exchange ideas and discuss further collaboration. The womENcourage conference in Norway marks the first instance of collaboration as buddies, as Athena Vakali from ACM-W Greece was one of the invited keynote speakers of the event hosted by ACM-W Trondheim. For 2024 the buddies are planning to make further steps to strengthen their connection, possibly through a workshop at the 6th Summit on Gender Equality in Computing to take place in Cyprus.
Are you an ACM-W Chapter in collaboration with another ACM/ACM-W chapter? We love to hear from you! And if you don’t have a collaborator, partner, or a buddy, it’s time to find one! ACM-W has started a new campaign in December 2022 and is encouraging all ACM-W chapters to partner with other ACM-W chapters from the same/different state, country, or region to become a Buddy. Your partnerships can be created to achieve some common goal, be it Academic, Social, Professional or Service. We invite you to tell us how, as ACM-W chapter buddies, you work towards a common goal and provide a shared experience for your diverse community members. To be part of this campaign, you can work with local, country, regional or global buddies. See our December 2022 post for more information.
- Bushra Anjum (Doximity, California, US; ACM-W Standing committee chair)
- Viviana Bono (University of Torino, Italy; ACM-W Scholarship chair Aug 2018-Feb 2023)
- Sharon Kang (Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, US; ACM intern, Spring-Summer 2022)
- Yelena Mejova (ISI Foundation, Torino, Italy; member of the ACM-W Scholarships committee)
- Elaine Weyuker (University of Central Florida, US; founder of the ACM-W Scholarships program)
ACM-W scholarships have been instrumental in providing crucial support for women in computer science and related fields, enabling them to attend pivotal computing research conferences. These scholarships have not only paved the way for educational growth but also fostered diverse and impactful careers. Join us as we explore in this article the history, impact, and future of the ACM-W Scholarship program.
The Scholarships History project team followed up on the historical scholarship data since its inception in 2006 to do a longitudinal assessment of the impact of the scholarship on the educational trajectory and career path of our scholars. The immense work of retrieving scholars, contacting them for their availability for a small survey on their participation in the ACM-W Scholarship program, and experimental data visualization was done by our ACM intern, Sharon Kang. Over the past year, we have been publishing the profiles of selected scholars as part of the “Above and Beyond Scholarship” blog series. In this post, we highlight the learnings from the project.
How was the ACM-W Scholarship program born?
Elaine Weyuker, the founder of the Program, saw an urgent need for the program when she was the chair of ACM-W in 2004: “I felt we really needed something that could serve as a recruitment and retention program for young women, particularly something that would encourage them to go on to graduate school. Having taught at NYU, a major research institution, for almost 20 years, I saw how very few of our undergraduate women students went on to get PhDs, and I was certain that that was even more true for students coming from non-research (teaching) colleges.”
The initial program started with a modest budget of $5,000 from ACM-W, and Elaine embarked on an ambitious campaign, reaching out to the chairs of every Computer Science department that is an ACM institutional member, with a request to identify and nominate their top women students and match funding.
“The first year, we selected 10 students giving each $500 and wrote to their department chair and dean asking them to at least match our scholarship. I also wrote to the chair of each selected conference and asked them to waive the registration fee for our scholars and provide a mentor to help them navigate the conference so that they really benefit from the experience. The vision was to particularly target undergraduate women students who came from non-top tier schools or students who were pursuing a terminal Master’s degree to encourage them to continue,” Elaine explained.
Over nearly two decades, the program expanded by engaging industry partners and has now helped hundreds of young women worldwide seize the opportunity it offers.
The research paints a compelling picture of demographic diversity, successful advancement in studies, and diverse career paths.
Demographic diversity of our scholars?
While the USA and India have the highest number of scholars, the scholarships were awarded to scholars coming from 44 different countries.
How did our scholars advance in our studies?
We observe a high completion rate of degrees at all levels and Undergraduate and Master’s students embarking on Master’s and PhD degrees. Essentially, 68% of the undergraduate scholars proceeded to complete a graduate degree, either a Master’s or a Ph.D. in computing. 30% of the scholars who were Masters students at the time of scholarship went ahead and completed a Ph.D. degree.
What do our scholars do now?
A large percentage of our scholars continued their journey as researchers in academia, followed by practitioners in software, systems, and hardware and researchers in industry. They make up 62% of the respondents; we do also see a diversity of roles ranging from consultants to entrepreneurs.
What has been a highlight of attending their conference?
Scholars who received ACM-W scholarships share their experiences through three overarching themes:
1. Validation and Self-confidence
“Receiving the ACM-W scholarship gave me validation of my abilities at a time when I was not receiving very much from my graduate program. Although the scholarship provided much-needed financial support for attending a valuable conference, simply receiving the award itself was extremely helpful for my overall confidence and helping me finish my Ph.D.,” expressed a scholar from 2010.
“It helped me to realize that women can be very successful in both academia and industry. I become more proud of my professional experience,” noted another scholar from 2011.
“I started to take pride in the fact that I’m in the Computing field as a woman,” concluded another 2015 scholar.
2. Inspiration to continue with graduate studies
“Had I not attended, I would likely not have applied to the PhD program at Stanford; attending graduate school was a pivotal choice in shaping my career,” said a scholar from 2007.
“The conference exposed me to research and helped me decide to go to grad school for a PhD. The conference was held at CMU, and attending the conference helped me meet my future PhD advisor at CMU”, noted another scholar from 2007.
“Attending the conference helped me realize that I wanted to proceed with a career in research, and it is one of the main reasons I applied for a PhD,” shared a scholar from 2019.
3. Building a lasting network of opportunities
“Being able to attend the ICPC conference thanks to the ACM-W scholarship helped me feel part of a research community and feel like I have found my place in the field. I have been involved with that conference (ICPC) ever since, acting as Steering Committee Member, Steering Committee Chair, Program Chair, Track Chair, and Publicity Chair over the years since the first conference I attended. It has remained the conference and the community where I feel most comfortable and welcome, all thanks to that first conference I was able to attend,” recounted a scholar from 2008.
“The networking at that conference helped me make connections that led to my first job after my master’s,” noted a scholar from 2011.
“I could attend the conference thanks to the scholarship and was offered a postdoctoral fellowship during this conference,” explained another scholar from 2013.
As we reflect on the journey from 2006 to 2021, connecting with past scholars has been both insightful and rewarding. Several key conclusions have emerged:
- The opportunity to attend a Computer Science research conference when one is a student is invaluable with respect to future professional choices.
- There is a good diversity among the scholars’ countries of origin, but we acknowledge we have more work to do.
- Our scholars predominantly shared feelings of gratitude towards ACM-W and shared eagerness to give back.
As we expand the scholarship criteria to non-CS and interdisciplinary students engaging in computing research, we believe we are moving in a step in the right direction. Since May 2020, we have considered applications from Mathematics, Statistics, Media studies, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Design, Transport Studies, Life Sciences and Health, Medicine, Learning Technologies, Neuroscience, Veterinary Sciences, and Mechanical engineering. In the span of August 2020 to February 2023, 27 applicants from non-CS departments have applied for the scholarship, and 12 were awarded; that is, on average, 3 out of 4 cycles see a non-CS applicant awarded a scholarship. We look forward to supporting even more women as they pursue their dreams in computing.
Current Scholarship Offerings and Application Procedure
The current ACM-W scholarship program for women students—both undergraduate and graduate—in computer science and correlated disciplines is categorized into two types based on the geographical proximity of the computing research conference:
- up to $600 for intra-continental and
- up to $1200 for intercontinental conference travel.
To apply, candidates are required to create an ACM web account and fill out the scholarship application form. The form encapsulates personal details, specifics about the conference they wish to attend, a statement articulating the motivation behind attending the conference, and a support letter from their academic advisor. We at ACM-W ardently encourage the home departments of our scholarship recipients to match the scholarship award, thus locally acknowledging and celebrating the students’ achievements. This initiative not only provides financial support but also cultivates a community of women scholars, where we together foster a culture of inclusivity and academic excellence in the field of computing.
The application timelines are meticulously structured with six distinct deadlines throughout the year, catering to different conference dates. For instance, for conferences occurring between December 1, 2023, and January 30, 2024, the application deadline is set for October 15, 2023. All dates can be found on the ACM-W scholarships page. We are looking forward to receiving your applications.
Please join us in welcoming Adriana Wilde as the new communications co-chair. Adriana is a Lecturer in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, where she has recently returned to, now as a member of the new Digital Health and Biomedical Engineering research group. She has been a dedicated technology educator for over 30 years, charting a very unconventional path in her discipline. Her professional journey began in 1991 as a teaching assistant in the school where she was pursuing her “Licenciatura” in Computer Science (a 5-year honors degree) at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Ever since, she has continued to pursue her passion for technology and education. Adriana went on to gain several postgraduate qualifications, including an MSc in Computer Science (a joint master from the universities of Bern, Fribourg, and Neuchatel in Switzerland), a Postgraduate Certificate in Education for Post-Compulsory Education and Training (from the University of Southampton) and, more recently, a PhD in Computer Science, also from Southampton. Her expertise lies in diverse areas such as computer science education, digital health, and human-computer interaction.
A long-standing member of the ACM (from 2014, having won an ACM-W scholarship to attend the ICST 2013 in New Zealand), Adriana has actively participated in the organization since. She was the treasurer of the former UK and Ireland Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education chapter (UKI SIGCSE) in 2018. She has also been part of the year-on-year success of one of the most important of ACM-W Europe’s initiatives, the celebration of women in computing, womENcourageTM, where she served as poster chair and member of the steering committee for several years, liaising with hosts, supporters, reviewers, and applicants throughout Europe and beyond.
Over the years, Adriana’s dedication to promoting diversity in technology has shone brightly. She is deeply committed to fostering inclusivity and equality in the discipline. In addition to her roles with ACM, she has actively championed diversity initiatives at both the University of St Andrews and the University of Southampton.
With her experience and unwavering dedication to promoting women in computing, Adriana is eager to assume the role of Communications Co-Chair at ACM-W. She is looking forward to collaborating with Dr. Cigdem Sengul, her fellow Co-Chair, and the rest of the wider team in ACM-W to undertake projects that will amplify the voices of the global computing community.
Through working together, she believes that we all can achieve a more diverse and inclusive future in the world of computing and technology.
ACM-W has started a new campaign. The aim of this campaign is to encourage all ACM-W chapters to partner with other ACM-W chapters to become a Buddy for collaborative works. As ACM-W Europe, we announced the new campaign of ACM-W with our chapters, and we are so proud to share that we have one student chapter buddy and one professional chapter buddy already. This month we would like to share with your our student chapter buddies. ATU ACM-W Student Chapter which is at Atlantic Technological University, Ireland, and ACM Bilkent, which is at Bilkent University, Turkey became our first student chapter buddies!
The ATU ACM-W Student Chapter is a chapter run by students at Atlantic Technological University, Letterkenny, Ireland. The chapter fulfills the ACM-W mission in supporting, celebrating, and advocating for Women in Computing. We do this by running events or supporting our members to apply for scholarships, grants and attending events. The ATU ACM-W Student Chapter was founded in 2014 and has gone from strength to strength as we look forward to their 10th anniversary.
ACM Bilkent started its journey as an ACM-W Student chapter called BILWIC (Bilkent University Women in Computing)in 2004. BILWIC, “Bilkent University ACM-W Student Chapter,” has the first international ACM-W identity. BILWIC, which has both national and international identity, is the first ACM-W Student Chapter in Turkey, with 181 and more other students. To reach out to more students, the chapter switched to ACM Student Chapter in 2019. ACM Bilkent is organizing talks, workshops, and social activities to bring together various intellectuals while easing access to a wide variety of resources and ultimately acting as a collective voice for its members and chapters.
Our first students’ buddies will collaborate on ACM Celebration of Women in Computing: Bean Feasa (wise woman), which will be co-located with the Cyber Research Conference Ireland (Cyber-RCI), which will provide an opportunity to meet with researchers and industry alike. The bean feasa can choose a path in computing, engineering and related fields with the support of the university. This event will include guest speakers and a panel on career pathways. The 1st celebration occurred in 2017 with Dr Toni Collis as our keynote speaking about high performance computing. In 2018 we were delighted to have a number of workshops from industry with representatives from Microsoft, Pramerica and Klarna. As ACM-W Europe, we are proud to sponsor two members from ACM-W Bilkent to join the ACM Celebration of Women in Computing: Bean Feasa event physically. We hope to see more collaboration soon!
Thank you to our ACM-W Europe Chair, Dr Rukiye Altin, for providing us with the information in this post!
The 10th ACM Celebration of Women in Computing: womENcourage™ 2023 will be hosted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway, 20-22 September 2023.
This year’s theme is Computing Connecting Everyone. Computing is a powerful way to connect people with diverse backgrounds, ambitions, passions, personalities, and cultures, from academia and industry, in a creative, re-connected world after the pandemic.
Open to all genders, womENcourage™ was initiated by ACM-W Europe and is aimed at connecting women from diverse technical disciplines and encouraging them to pursue their education and profession in computing. WomENcourage™ brings together women in the computing profession and related technical fields to exchange knowledge and experience and provide special support for women who are pursuing their academic degrees and starting their careers in computing. Through a program packed with insightful topics and engaging educational and networking activities, womENcourage™ provides a unique experience of the collective energy, drive, and excellence that professional women share to support each other.
Spotlight on Keynote Speakers:
The celebration will feature keynote addresses from notable speakers:
- Prof. Athena Vakali is from the School of Informatics at Aristotle University in Greece. With her insights into “Quantified Self and Sensing Data Analytics,” Prof. Vakali will unveil the untapped opportunities of quantified self and sensing data analytics, focusing on a human-centric positive behavior change technology.
- Prof. Alexander Serebrenik hails from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. His talk on “Gender and Software Development” will present an overview of his research on diversity and inclusion in software engineering, focusing on gender diversity.
- Mariel Evelyn Markussen Ellingsen is an exemplar of transforming passion into action. The founder and CEO of her startup, Woid, will share her journey from a Master’s in Computer Science to creating a technology that could be helpful to people using hearing aids.
A Glimpse into the Event:
Each year, the celebration runs a diverse array of activities: lively poster sessions, thought-provoking workshops and tutorials, and a hackathon. This year’s theme is Social sustainability through integration and inclusion – addressing future challenges in CS, following the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The hackathon will focus on societal problems and issues that are causes of inequality and discrepancies between different communities.
As we approach womENcourage™ 2023, the anticipation grows for the insightful discussions, knowledge sharing, and connections that will unfold during the event. Stay tuned for updates on the enriching experiences and valuable insights that will emerge.
In episode 13 of “ACM-W Celebrating Technology Leaders,” our host, Bushra Anjum, spoke with three technologists with successful DevOps careers to learn from their experiences, both as DevOps engineers and as women in the field.
- Dorothy Nordberg, Sr. DevOps Engineer, Pure Storage: Dotty is an engaging Team Lead who excels as an advocate and mentor. She is also an accomplished DevOps Engineer with over 10 years of experience in systems administration, maintenance, and automation. Through various speaking engagements, panel discussions, and individual sessions, she has enjoyed and been energized by many opportunities to mentor several hundred folks new to tech.
- Ayesha Noor, DevOps Manager, Yotascale: A QA turned DevOps Professional working for over a decade in the industry, currently on a mission to help large enterprises reduce their cloud spend.
- Keheira Henderson, DevOps Engineer, Freelance: Keheira is from Nashville, TN, and currently lives in Colorado, working as a DevOps Engineer. In her free time, she collects backpacks, builds mobile apps, plays video games, and naps.
Let’s get to know them!
Can you tell us about your educational background and career journey? How did you get into your current role?
Keheira: I got into computing from a weird path. I wanted to be a music producer but ended up attending an engineering school. At that time, I mainly focused on mobile security research. I’m an Android developer. I’ve been in DevOps for two years now. My major transition was through doing more automation – freelancing automation like managing back-ends. It worked out for me.
Ayesha: I did my Bachelors in computer engineering around 13 years ago. I started as a QA engineer, and for the first five years of my career, I worked as a QA engineer with some infrastructure management work. Eventually, I got bored with QA, so I shifted to infrastructure management and developing CI/CD pipelines for the small project that I was working on. I then got an opportunity to work with a Silicon Valley startup, and that’s when I completely switched to DevOps. So, everything that I have learned in DevOps is at that startup, and I have seen growth from zero to where we are today, which is working with big enterprise customers in the US. So, that’s how I got into DevOps, and I’ve been working as a DevOps engineer for around six to seven years.
Dotty: I have a non-traditional background. I do not have a computer science degree. I have a bachelor’s degree in maths. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I started working as an administrative assistant, which is a good job. I wanted to do something else, something more on the science end. So I worked to get some Microsoft certifications, which allowed me to get two job offers as a Microsoft systems administrator.
Interestingly, the company I worked for had no openings in its IT department. So I interviewed at these other places. So, when I got two job offers, I chose one and handed in my two-week notice to my manager. About an hour later, the director of IT came over to talk. When I had talked to him previously, he had told me there weren’t any roles. So, I thought he would just congratulate me on my new role at the other company. Instead, he offered me a job in the IT department. It was a better offer, so I wound up staying there and learning a lot. It was a great job. That was when I was living on the East Coast.
I grew up in New York, lived in Georgia for a while, and then moved to Silicon Valley, California. As a tech person, it’s interesting to see all the buildings with signs of Salesforce, LinkedIn, Meta/ Facebook. I started working as a contractor at one of the big companies that had just acquired a little startup that was building satellites. They had two launched into sub-orbit around the Earth, and that was just a dream job because I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut. So I got to do that, and that was a great experience.
I have learned more and more as I went along – the Linux operating system, different CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous deployment) tools, and platforms. I am constantly learning new things and am now learning Terraform to work on infrastructure as code as I get into the coding side. So, it’s been an interesting journey, and I’m still excited and happy to go to work.
What’s it like to be in DevOps?
Keheira: I work in the space industry. For me, it’s system admin and automation. So, a lot of Terraform. I am currently learning Ansible, but I had a background in AWS beforehand. So many times in my previous job, I was at the table when projects were built and looked into resources versus budget based on a particular stack. I was working with VMs, and servers using Docker and Kubernetes.
Dotty: I would agree with that. DevOps is development and operations – we manage, maintain, monitor, and scale the systems the engineering teams use to develop their code. So, that’s the operation side, and then wherever we can, we automate tasks. There’s a joke that DevOps and operations people are kind of lazy in that if something is repeatable or done constantly, you automate it so that you never have to do it again. Then you can work on something fun.
Ayesha: I would completely agree with all said. In addition, it’s a job where you have to have the mindset to make things work more efficiently to help everyone run their stuff more cohesively, in a more fail-safe way, and much faster than they would. In my experience – working in a startup – things are often chaotic. Initially, the developers did a lot of the setup, and it was complete chaos. So, automation and maintenance play a big part – we clean up, adhere to best practices, and remain true when faced with very fast bills or shipping out increments of the product repeatedly and frequently. You do the right thing, even if it takes time or more effort, instead of doing what works now.
How do you manage different teams that may have conflicting asks or preferences?
Dotty: That’s a big one. There’s the software development life cycle, where one of the first stages is planning, but that’s months before the actual product is shipped. You can’t always predict what you’ll need at what time. DevOps deals with the resources needed, sometimes at the last minute on the development side. Say, we will get requests for 100 new systems. That’s often not possible – there is a misconception that operations, DevOps, and sys admin teams have servers just sitting in the back waiting to be used. We do not. In this case, the general plan is to put the fire out -by asking the requesting team will 10 get things unstuck? Then we can see if anything can be reused or repurposed to get another 10 the next week. If you need 100 new systems, it can take three or four months from when it is ordered until it is delivered, racked, and stacked. That’s even pushing it. So the hope is that engineering and development teams will bring DevOps in as early as the planning phase and ask: “Do we have the resources to do that? Do we have the infrastructure to roll this out in a month or two?” I’ve been in a couple of planning meetings where they brought us in early, and everybody was much happier with the infrastructure they requested. I was hoping that teams would talk about it, and it would catch on with the other engineering teams. Managers may need to push a bit more to get the DevOps side of things into the planning stages.
Keheira: ln my previous job, I managed five teams. The cool part is getting people to understand what DevOps Engineers are there for. Over my time – the change from when I started to when I left was amazing. In the beginning, they were just talking about XYZ deadlines. Because of my security background and experience in the cloud, I could insist on compliance even though it makes people mad as it slows them down. So over time, it got to the point where we talked about upcoming deadlines, the pipeline compliance-wise, and how we can better position ourselves moving forward. In my first few months, I thought I would quit and return to being an Android developer, but in the end, we planned better with deadlines. I just felt really good.
Ayesha: When I joined my startup, the developers had already set up a lot of the production infrastructure, but they needed to go deeper into infrastructure. They created AWS lambdas which are your on-demand compute. So serverless. They had three different lambdas if they wanted to create one lambda in three different environments. So, therefore there was a very long list of – hundreds of – lambdas that I was supposed to manage. We had to rename them to be more legible because nobody followed the naming conventions. I remember looking at that mess and thinking there was no way I was spending the next four weeks renaming and structuring them. That’s where the automation mindset comes in. So, I made a whole pipeline that would create versions within the lambdas for different environments, so I shrunk that list of 400 lambdas to 100. That was one of the first opportunities I had for automation, streamlining things and making them neater and more manageable. I remember that very fondly. Overall, how you see tasks of weeks getting reduced to hours is a very nice feeling I chase personally in my career.
Is DevOps a promising career for women?
What are the unique challenges and opportunities for women who want to go to this career compared to a software development position?
Ayesha: I made the switch from QA to DevOps. Keheira would be more suited to speak about development versus DevOps. DevOps fuels learning because there is something new to handle each day, which I had started lacking in my career in QA after five or six years. Eventually, QA becomes repetitive. So, DevOps broke that monotony for me. The multitasking aspect of it and the breadth and depth of it were very gratifying for me. That’s something that many women can relate to because we’re juggling everything all the time. In the Pakistan Tech scene, many women are directed towards QA because that’s a ceiling on their technical talent, which I am very intent on breaking. After all, you can go for more challenging careers. You can go for things that you would eventually figure out are more suited to your natural temperament.
Dotty: DevOps is a good opportunity if you have that mindset. If you like to learn, if you like science and tech, go for it. When I first started, I was usually the only woman on the team, and that can be intimidating if you’re “the only,” whether you’re the only woman or you belong to any other underrepresented group – because of race, nationality, or LGBTQ. It can be intimidating. But the good news is that it’s getting better. At one point, I was in a team of 20 people, and I was the only woman. That’s 5% female. Now I’m on a team of eight people with two women. So, that’s 25%.
It’s taking a long time, and we have a long way to go, but companies are investing in DEI – diversity, equity, and inclusion – programs, which is great. Some companies have clubs for folks who have different identities. There’s one at my company for women in engineering, but anybody can join. So, allies are more than welcome. Also, benefits like maternity and spousal leave are very beneficial to women and their families.
So, it is a promising career for women, and it’s improving. I’ve seen it in my career and look forward to the next couple of years too. Progress is slow, but it’s there, and we’ll celebrate every little step as we go along the way, building up on that.
Keheira: It’s a good career. I’m a researcher. I researched mobile security for my Computer Engineering degree, tried grad school, and dropped out. I love research. I love learning. DevOps was a cool fit. My biggest challenge has been being the only black woman on my team. In my previous company, in the entire section of the organization, people liked to challenge you a lot more. But my parents raised me to challenge folks back. Often, people just say whatever and keep it moving and expect you to be okay with that as a woman. But if you sit down and lay your credentials out on the table, it makes it a lot easier for people not to see you as just a developer who happened to be in this.
This job allows me to code after work a lot more. I get to read many more things, and then I get to try a lot more. I can screw up a system that no one cares about because it’s on dev. But if you do that as a developer, the whole app crashes. It’s really fun for me to learn new and niche things and focus. I plan to go back to graduate school next year. I don’t know what I’m going for, maybe maths or network security, but it’ll be important for me to grow.
How can one be successful in this career?
What is the skill set required to be successful in this career?
Dotty: A coding language of some kind, familiarity with continuous integration and continuous deployment. Operating system knowledge helps. Nowadays, virtualization is big- AWS, Kubernetes, VM, server systems versus client systems. For non-technical skills, curiosity and problem-solving are really good skills to have. If you like to solve puzzles in your off time or have a learning mindset, you will do well in your DevOps career.
Keheira: I’d agree. From more of a developer perspective, I would learn the cloud, and I’d be good at my stack but be able to fully deploy to the cloud. So, as an Android developer, I can still do back-end development. I get excited about coding. It’s my hobby. I’m also a documentation snob – that helps me. In my jobs, I talk to design teams and back-end teams, and in startups, it’s unbelievable. There’s no documentation. So, I would force everyone to approve my documents beforehand, and then we’d go on to the next step. That helped me be known even in the startup I was working in. They knew if you talked to Keheira, you would have some documentation, and then she would automate things for the mobile devs. It’s probably not everyone’s best path, but that’s what worked for me.
Ayesha: I agree with what everyone said, but I would also like to add that you need very good people skills to get everyone on board with your proposals. I agree with Keheira that documentation helps a lot. I might be wrong, and it might be very gender specific, but I think women are more organized. This career path has a lot of breadth – you must know many things. You might not be going very deep into a technical stack, but you must know how a basic network works and OS. Women juggle that well because we are already used to multitasking and keeping many things under control. It became very apparent to me that this job was suited to how I operate.
Is DevOps a good career for a fresh graduate, considering requirements like breadth of experience, multitasking, and many skills in terms of hardware and software?
Keheira: So, I will be a little controversial. DevOps shouldn’t be a first job. I think it’s very hard to manage and see the big picture if you don’t have at least two to three years of experience in one of the other core things – if you haven’t been a system admin, you haven’t been a dev, you haven’t been on the operation side, it’s hard to see how the things connect. When I moved over two years ago, there were no Junior DevOps positions. And I understand why, but I don’t know how to change that. It’s very hard to say, “Let’s have a junior,” as we expect people to set up three load balancers using Terraform by the end of the week. That would be overwhelming. But if you already understand a bit of Terraform or AWS or know how to figure things out quickly, it’s a lot easier to connect the pieces, and you won’t feel beaten up within the first three to six months.
Dotty: I agree, it could be tough. I will take the opposite view – it could depend on the organization. Our DevOps team has an entry-level person who started from the software side. But they had that growth mindset; they were super enthusiastic during the interview process. They were passionate about what they did. They knew enough that the other team members could help them with what they didn’t know. And they had other skills that we needed. So, it could be a first career if it’s something that you’re excited to do. I have been on many interview panels, and your passion for what you do is just as important as your skills, and in some cases, when you’re starting, it’s more important. They need to see that you are interested in learning. New tech comes out every week, and suddenly, the DevOps team has to learn it. There’s so much to learn – even some seniors like me are learning Terraform now. Other people on the team, with fewer years, may have Terraform knowledge. So, there’s a balance. If you were to find a job that you were interested in but requires skills you aren’t sure about, and you got the job offer, go for it. They’re going only to hire you if they think you could do the work, and you’ll be interviewed by six to eight senior-level people who know what they’re talking about and what the job entails. So, go for it.
Ayesha: I agree partially with both panelists. It is a growing job, not an easy one, and sometimes that scares fresh grads. You have to have a passion for learning. You will have a steeper learning curve in the beginning. You will have to be more dedicated to your job. I agree with Keheira because I was already in my former career when I switched over. That helped me ease into a new career instead of being thrown into the midst of things and having to drown or swim. However, things are changing. I’ve hired a junior DevOps who has developed as his first job. I see myself helping him learn things in months that I learned in years. So, it’s easier with support. That’s why I like DevOps as a career option for women. Whatever background you’re coming from, you can ease into it, even if you’re starting as a fresh grad, as long as you are very committed to your job. You have to know that there will be a learning curve, but it will be very well worth it in terms of job satisfaction and career progress.
Which type of experience would help a person to ease into a DevOps career?
Ayesha: I would have adopted more easily if I had some admin experience before switching because it was a steeper learning curve. Any experience you have before switching to DevOps will not be wasted. Even today, my QA experience is very relevant because I have an eye for detail. I know how to spot things that could go wrong. Because I have had experience with security testing, for example, I can weigh in on security issues that come up, and I know how to resolve them now that I’m on the other side. Anything you know may help because DevOps requires a breadth of experience.
Keheira: For me, the system admin part was the biggest deal. You don’t have to do it as a developer, but I learned on my own because I was interested in how people were not using a mouse when they worked. Then probably QA – sometimes people say they had never written a test as a mobile developer. In the developer world, especially mobile, the testing is through QA. We don’t write tests. I wish I had done much more in college to focus on testing. A lot of the time, you’re looking at a pipeline of tests to see what broke and why it broke. I would understand more of the thought process if I wrote better tests.
Dotty: I’m coming from the other side. I was a Systems Admin, and now coming to the coding side. So, for me, it seemed like a pretty easy fit. When I first started many years ago, DevOps did not exist. Many of the senior folks I work with now are like me. They were sys admins, and they may have had a computer science degree. They also have home systems set up and their home networks. If you do stuff at home, that would be helpful to you to get experience to bring to the job.
Where can fresh graduates or people looking for their first job go to find entry-level DevOps positions?
Keheira: I found my first DevOps job on Reddit. I know that is unusual, but there’s a r/devopsjobs and r/devops. So I’m also a space nerd and work in the space industry through the government. So, at that time, they were talking about a satellite company that had an open house to hire folks. I was excited about working in space and getting out of my mobile struggle. I failed my first interview because they were looking for a more senior person, but they mentioned another opportunity. So look in unusual places. I’ve never got a job off of LinkedIn. Sometimes I lean heavily on social media – I didn’t know how to get into DevOps – so I asked anybody I could on these platforms what books I should read and study. I didn’t see any jobs at the time when I was looking for this. So, I was just throwing questions everywhere.
Dotty: if you’re looking for a new position, I would do a job search on LinkedIn or indeed.com, one of those places. Find jobs that look interesting to you. Then figure out which skills are needed for those jobs. Compile a list and find the top skills that all those jobs that you’re interested in are looking for. Then highlight them on your LinkedIn profile or wherever you’re looking for jobs. I have gotten jobs through LinkedIn. Recruiters have found me.
If you don’t have those skills, figure out a way to get them through online courses or certifications. Many places like LinkedIn Learning, AWS certifications, Coursera, udemy.com, and Khan Academy offer low-cost or even free resources. Then, network, like Keheira was saying.
Ayesha: From a transitioning perspective, it’s very important to keep an eye on what everyone else is doing in their job function because that helps you understand how things function overall. Then it makes it easier to switch. Before I switched from QA to DevOps completely, there was a time when I was doing both. I was managing IT departments and infrastructure in addition to doing QA. So, if you want to switch, it’s very important to network within your team and shadow someone senior doing something you are interested in. That’s always a good learning experience because you get insight into practice instead of theoretical knowledge.
Could certifications help improve your profile or make you an ideal candidate?
Keheira: So, speaking for government work, it’s a requirement to have a Security Plus. So, if you want to be in that realm, red tape like me, you need a Security Plus. Even if you don’t have it, it usually is a requirement that within three to six months, you get it. I do not have any Cloud certifications anymore; I’m so far into the work now a certification wouldn’t help me. It hasn’t been a requirement; no one has questioned me that way, but if you’re interested, maybe Terraform certification would be useful. I would advise you to learn the material; you don’t have to always sit for the test. I don’t have a networking certification, but I know the networking basics. That’s fine for work. I don’t feel pressured to spend money to get a certification.
Dotty: If you’re already employed, see if your company will pay for your certifications. I’ve done that, which is awesome because it can get very expensive quickly. I would highly recommend searching the internet using the resources I mentioned earlier.
Ayesha: Certifications sometimes increase your visibility for potential recruiters because they are stamps showing you are skilled in a particular area. If you are going for certifications, go for something specific to your job function instead of very generic ones. I completely agree with Keheira that you must learn the material, and it’s not always important to sit for the test if you cannot afford it. I recommend going through practice tests because they have actual scenarios on which you can test your knowledge. For me, certifications have always been a way to stamp out any imposter syndrome I have. So every couple of years, if I’m lagging with certifications, I sit for the exam and have a stamp on my resume that shows an external party has vetted the skill. But they’re not a mandatory requirement for progress in your career.
What is the next step for a person who is considering this career?
Ayesha: A comprehensive roadmap is shared on roadmap.sh for DevOps, which helps you get a grip on the breadth of things you should learn. So, you have a nice checklist to go through. I also recommend courses from Tech World with Nana. She has very nice courses for someone looking to switch to DevOps, even if they don’t come from a tech background. Those aren’t apprehensive, and they could help you bootstrap your career.
Keheira: I’m a person that makes up my mind and then just goes for it. So, I’ve got most of my advice from older people in SRE (Site Reliability Engineering). If you talk to people with that old-school system admin SRE background, they’ll tell you way more than I ever could because while this is such a new field, it has many old-school setups and structures. So, ask them questions. I would make a blog. I’m really big on that – I have my blog. Track your progress. That’s the easiest way. If you get a new certification, write about how you studied for it and the topics that interest you. You can repost that on Linkedin to attach your name to the things you’re learning. When it’s time to look for a job, and they look you up, you will have all these links, which will be your secondary resume.
Dotty: I will be the old-school person that you can all contact. You can find me on LinkedIn. I’m happy to talk to anybody if they have other questions or want one-on-one time. I can hook you up with resources. I do come from the old-school system admins, and SRE does overlap quite a bit with DevOps. So, if you can find an old DevOps/SRE person, they would be more than happy to help. I look up to my peers as my helpers; they’re always super helpful. That’s one of the best things about working in this career. I work with super smart people, and they are more than happy to help.
As we close this panel blog, feel free to reach out to any of the panelists! They all said they were happy to help.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt a touch of nervousness when it comes to contributing to an open-source project. Many of us have been there. Even though the community is incredibly friendly and encouraging, taking those first steps with your initial pull requests can be quite intimidating. Today, Rails Girls Summer of Code (RGSoC) Alumni and ACM-W Newsletter Editor Taneea shares the benefit of first-hand experience. Here, she provides encouraging nuggets of inspiration for anyone needing to put the doubts aside and explains her experience with open source!
If coding wasn’t your first choice, it’s okay to change
I first heard of RGSoC when a few of my college seniors participated in the program. I was a second-year Electronics and Communications engineering undergrad at the time, who was not very keen on designing circuit boards or wireless channels. However, some experimental dabbling in code for college assignments had sparked my interest in programming. So, when I heard about this program for open-source software, it piqued my interest.
I, along with my friend, applied for the program the next year (2016) and got selected! Needless to say, it has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life.
However, even today, when I interact with people, I realise that there is a lot of inertia when people are asked to contribute to open source. The following are some tips to help you get started!
Where to start?
Possibly, the hardest problem to overcome is finding a project to contribute to. A lot of people I’ve spoken to have told me that they’ve never really been able to find projects that interest them, and when they do it’s hard to pick an issue to work on.
Usually, GitHub and other Open Source programs (GSoC, GSSoC, Outreachy) have a plethora of projects in a variety of programming languages and frameworks; the project pool has something for everyone – from front-end heavy projects to data analytic projects to full stack projects.
This diverse mix of open source projects is a deliberate attempt by the organizers of open source programs so that the program can have maximum participation.
Identify what’s holding you back…
Just finding a project you like might not be enough. Many people reach this stage but still never contribute. But why?
Possible reasons include but are not limited to code complexity in the project; a lot of my friends gave up because they couldn’t understand the code and couldn’t figure out which issues to start with. Other reasons might be lack of support and mentorship – who to reach out to in case you had doubts.
… and start coding anyway!
The easiest way to pick an issue is to familiarize yourself with the software you’re interested in contributing to, if you aren’t already familiar with it. Use the app, play around with it, know your software. This will give you functional knowledge about the application, and provide you with a region of interest – a starting point to dive into.
You can even start looking for low-hanging fruit in terms of open issues in the repository. Even if you think a button should be repositioned, or a particular UI aspect isn’t intuitive, or if certain functionality can be made better – raise an issue, talk to the maintainers of the repository through the appropriate channels.
Your first contribution might not be big but it’s a start, which is all you need. This will prove a catalyst for all your further interactions with the open source community and will help you push through the I-can’t-do-it barrier.
My very first PR was adding a button to the web interface of my project and that made all the difference. It was like breaking through an invisible wall and I was a more confident programmer after that experience.
More ways to get coding (and never want to stop)
Summer open source internship programs like RGSoC provide an excellent opportunity for you to:
- code for three months
- contribute to open source
- be a part of a worldwide community
- meet a new diverse group of people who share the same liking for code in different parts of the world
- and get recognition for it
Some of them even allow you to blog about your experience.
No matter your background, tech or non-tech, everyone has something to offer to the OSS community. I’d like to conclude this article with a simple thought – Don’t hold back, and take the leap!
DevOps engineering is a relatively new career focused on building bridges between the developmental and operational sides of software development. An effective DevOps engineer possesses a diverse technical skill set, such as operating systems, programming languages, software development lifecycle, and cloud technology, to name a few. In addition, their communication and problem-solving skills (both technological and interpersonal) are expected to be top-notch.
So what does it take to become a DevOps engineer, and what does the career progression look like? What kind of work environment do they operate in, and what are their most significant challenges? And most importantly, is it a promising career for women in tech?
In this episode of “ACM-W Celebrating Technology Leaders,” Bushra Anjum, ACM-W Standing Committees Chair, invited women technologists with successful DevOps careers to learn from their experiences, both as DevOps engineers and as women in the field.
Our panelists were:
- Dorothy Nordberg | Sr. DevOps Engineer, Pure Storage – Dotty is an engaging Team Lead who excels as both an advocate and mentor. She is also an accomplished DevOps Engineer with over 10 years of experience in systems administration, maintenance, and automation. Through various speaking engagements, panel discussions, and individual sessions, she has enjoyed and been energized by many opportunities to mentor several hundred folks new to tech.
- Ayesha Noor | DevOps Manager, Yotascale – QA turned DevOps Professional working for over a decade in the industry, currently on a mission to help large enterprises reduce their cloud spend.
- Keheira Henderson | Devops Engineer, Freelance – Keheira is from Nashville, TN, and currently lives in Colorado, working as a DevOps Engineer. In her free time, she collects backpacks, builds mobile apps, plays video games, and naps.
(Unfortunately, our 4th panelist, Jessica Kalinowski, couldn’t join us on the day.)
The participants enjoyed vibrant discussions and commented: “The varying backgrounds were perfect! QA, Dev and Sys Admin, it was really helpful to hear each perspective, and I also appreciated the focus on hearing real experience breaking into a dev ops role, how past experience was helpful, and what it has been like as a woman. Even the fact of having three different cultures. This set of panelists was very well selected and representative. It was laid back but also very professional. A very positive experience.“
You can now watch the panel on-demand using this link.
The first Indo-European ACM Celebration of Women in Computing: A Decade Celebration was virtually held on June 22, 2023. ACM-W Global Chair Ruth Lennon welcomed the participants with her inspiring speech; ACM-W India Chair Heena Timani and ACM-W Europe Chair Rukiye Altin, followed by giving an overview of activities carried out in their respective regions.
The event held two panels. In the first panel, ACM-W India Treasurer Rutvi Shah chaired, and the panellists shared their ACM-W chapter experiences. The panellists included ACM Women Trondheim Vice Chair Anna Szlavi, who is also a postdoctoral researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Anna also talked about womENcourageTM, which will be hosted at NTNU in September. Elif Şen, who is ACM Bilkent (Turkey) Chair, talked about her experiences at Bilkent University, Turkey and how an ACM chapter can inspire women in other fields. Dr Geetanjali Kale, who is the Chair of ACM-W Pune Professional Chapter (India), inspired listeners with her words “Collaboration is a key to success” and encouraged all to collaborate more. Shreya Sharma, Chair of the ACM-W chapter at ABESEC (India) and Shagun Kesarwani, Secretary of the ACM-W chapter at ABESEC (India), shared their journey through ACM-W.
The second panel of the event was chaired by Dorota Filipczuk who is ACM-W Europe Vice Chair. The guests on the panel were the founders of both regions. Reyyan Ayfer, founder of ACM-W Europe and Arati Dixit, founder of ACM-W India, told us how the idea of starting regional ACM-W became alive.
We thank them for their selfless work in supporting, celebrating, and advocating globally for the engagement of women in all aspects of the computing field. We are looking forward to many more joint celebrations.