I recently got the chance to meet Ewelina Wilkosz, IT consultant and new member of the Jenkins Governance Board. Let’s dive into the highlights of our conversation.
What is your role and how did you end up in your current job?
I’ve been IT consultant for over four years. On a day-to-day basis, I work with Git, Jenkins and docker, trying to improve the daily lives of developers. Prior to this role, when I was still living in Poland, I was a software developer for a big company, but I couldn’t really find my place so I was trying out different things. I guess that’s one benefit of being part of a corporation - you have lots of options that you can explore. The last project I was involved in was related to migrating from ClearCase to Git, which also entailed getting started with Jenkins.
I enjoyed it so much, I started to realise that could be “my thing” - that being what’s now more commonly known as continuous integration. At that time, I also came across a Scandinavian consulting company focusing on continuous integration and DevOps, so I got in touch with them and here I am today. Hello from Malmö, Sweden!
How would you describe yourself, as a person, in a couple of sentences?
Judging by the way I’ve been approaching this blogpost - and by my Swedish classes - I would say I’m a first-class procrastinator. It probably sounds worse than it is, though :) What I mean is that I tend to put off actioning on things, but I do think them through in the meantime. In the end, things get done, but there’s never a risk of something getting done too soon… unless it’s related to nature. I’ve always loved nature - it’s difficult not to, with all the beautiful parks and amazing forests close by. In the last few years, I’ve also become obsessed with birds. I think Swedes are taking the bird interest to a whole new level, so I’m joining in and I love it.
How did you end up in tech? And most importantly… Why tech?
I think it all started with my parents. Neither of them worked in tech, by the way, but they’d always encouraged me to do my best in school and throughout my childhood were almost obsessively teaching me that no one could tell me what to do and that I had to think for myself. That mantra stuck with me for the rest of my life (that’s why I probably ended up a bit too stubborn). Thanks to my parents’ encouragement, I never cared about the whole “girls are not good at math” prejudice. Plus, I had an amazing math teacher in elementary school, Ms Chramęga, who made sure every pupil got to use their full potential. I know it might be a bit too long of a story, but since so many people are trying to figure out how to attract women to tech, I strongly believe it all starts with these women being young girls and with the support they get from the influential people in their lives, so we should talk more about it.
Anyway, this background mixed with more pragmatic reasons, such as the ability to live an independent and comfortable life in Poland, led me to tech. I had lots of other interests, some of them very idealistic, but working in tech provided the perfect combination between excitement and practicality.
What is the project you are most proud of in your career so far?
The configuration-as-code project for Jenkins must be the thing. Even if I am only one of the many people who made it happen, I am still very proud to be part of it. I got to work with really great people, I met Jenkins community legends and I travelled the world - all while helping to create something that makes people’s lives easier. It feels really nice to hear from a stranger saying that they were waiting for Jenkins configuration as code for a long time and are grateful for what we did.
What was the challenge that you addressed with Jenkins configuration as code?
A “screenshot” challenge. It goes without saying, configuration as code is not a concept I came up with. There were Jenkins-specific solutions, but none that would satisfy a wide range of users, including myself. When I got my first assignment as a consultant, the first problem I had to address was bringing my client’s old, grumpy Jenkins configuration to a stable state. As part of the process, I was producing an enormous amount of screenshots; basically every change I was making was preceded by a screenshot, so that I could go back manually, in case I broke something while troubleshooting. The actual “undo” button didn’t exist. It still doesn’t, but if you use the Jenkins configuration-as-code plugin you can undo the change you’ve made in a configuration file, by using the “undo” button on your text editor or by reverting a commit, if your setup is more advanced.
As I mentioned, some “as code” solutions existed before, but they were a bit challenging for people without a strong technical background - for example, some solutions required programming skills like groovy init scripts and not every Jenkins administrator is a developer. Jenkins configuration as code relies on yaml format, not exactly loved by everyone but easy to read / write (once you have indentations under control); plus it also supports commenting. Most importantly, it doesn’t require Jenkins to restart for the changes to be applied. In the end it seems like we made a lot of people happy.
What advice do you have for anyone starting their career in tech?
We are all unique, needing and wanting different things in life. There is no secret recipe that will make everyone happy or successful. What’s important is to try as much as you can and not be afraid to let go when something doesn't feel right. Don’t see giving up as failing. There might be a new thing just around the corner and it may very well be your thing. Don’t let disappointment creep in and bring you down just because something didn’t work out on a certain occasion.
Let’s briefly talk about your work habits. Do you work from home? How do you find it?
I do work from home, I guess 2020 left us no choice. It took me a few months to get used to it, but I have a pretty comfortable and uncomplicated setup at my kitchen table. I am facing the windows which can sometimes cause... distraction-related issues. I live on the ninth floor and the birds flying in the sky sometimes interrupt my flow, especially if I’m in the middle of a meeting and a small flock of birds unexpectedly lands on my window ledge.
How do you usually relax/ disconnect after a long day of work?
It all depends on how the day went. If I am physically tired but up for using my brain a little bit more, then I usually read - science, fiction, magazines. But sometimes the brain has had enough and then Netflix saves me. At the end of a long week of work, I sometimes enjoy a weekend in nature. It’s pretty convenient that I can just pack and be on my way within ten minutes. It allows me to be spontaneous.
Last Question… What’s your favourite app or piece of technology?
There are so many things that I use on a daily basis and it would be difficult to imagine a life without them. It’s not easy to narrow the list down, but since I’m sitting here thinking about the delicious pasta I made based on a recipe I found online, I think I’ll go with the information source, the Internet, as my favorite. Sorry, I went for an easy answer!
It was great chatting with Ewelina and getting to know her better. Watch this space for more conversations with DevOps leaders.
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