Women in DevOps: Paola Moretto

6 min read
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In our Women in DevOps blog series, you’ll hear from talented women in DevOps. They will share their experiences in DevOps, their thoughts on leadership, lessons learned and also how we can encourage more women to focus on an IT career.

Paola Moretto is a proven technology executive, innovator and serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in leadership and executive roles in the high-tech industry. She is the co-founder and CEO of Nouvola , a startup offering next gen performance testing and synthetic monitoring solutions for web and mobile applications. Prior to launching Nouvola, Paola ran product organizations at Intel, developing first generation mobile and cloud solutions, and co-founded two startups in the mobile space, leading both teams to successful exits.

When she’s not obsessing about web application reliability and continuous performance across delivery pipelines, she can be found playing outdoors with her two young boys and running and hiking in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

What personality traits or habits would you say make one successful in DevOps

From my experience in the industry, I believe the fundamental traits you need to be successful in DevOps are risk-taking, resilience and passion.

Leaving a comfortable job or known technologies, which represent a comfort zone, to jump into new and unproven technologies and uncharted territory is not for the faint of heart. The path-finding aspect of this endeavor is incredibly exciting, but also extremely hard. Building and adopting a new technological paradigm like DevOps implies a cultural shift, and it can be very, very hard. In a lot of cases, it means solving problems that were never solved before. Hence, resilience is important. Don’t be discouraged by failures along the way. This is a problem-solving exercise and it’s about solving one problem after another. Setbacks are not only part of the game, but necessary for true learning. The final key trait is passion. Like Steve Jobs said: “People with great passion can change the world.” If you don’t love what you do, especially when it gets hard, sooner or later you are going to give up. But when you’re truly passionate about something, you’re going to do your best work and that’s what it takes to succeed in DevOps.

"Unless and until the field delivers with the women who are in the industry today, you’re not going to see that many more women joining the pipeline. "

What set you on the DevOps career path?

My passion is working on technologies that could change the world. I have always taken this direction in my career and used this principle as my “North Star.” That approach has helped me decide what is important to me at any given time. My biggest successes are related to technologies that made big changes possible. For example, I am proud to have led the Centrino effort: high bandwidth Wi-Fi made connectivity everywhere possible and clearly enabled new ways of buying, interacting and working.

In my view, the most pressing challenges for the industry today are based on the fact that we are amid a huge paradigm shift, in which every company is becoming a software company; that is, very nearly every company in existence is developing complex software operations, or directly relying on vendors with these specialized skills to do it for them. The scope of this digital transformation is literally global, which means there is an urgent need for companies everywhere to make the process of building and deploying large scale sophisticated applications more efficient, so developers can focus on what they do best, which is building great software. In addition, there is the challenge of how to make the various aspects of software development, from idea to production, more efficient and collaborative. Software development is ultimately a great exercise in communication and collaboration. The amount of software being developed right now is staggering and the pace at which it’s getting developed is also staggering. Some companies are pushing software out hundreds or thousands of times per day. Every day. How do we make sure we are able to sustain this pace and still maintain high quality, reliability and performance? These are the biggest challenges for the industry today, which I find extremely compelling. Developer-first products are the future. The market is already huge and we are just scratching the surface right now.

"The smartest businesses today are those that operate with a keen understanding that diversity is a must-have for the business bottom-line and that, conversely, monocultures ultimately kill businesses."

How can we encourage more women to get into this industry?

Unfortunately, there is still a substantial imbalance between men and women in the tech industry and even more so in the DevOps world. Most often than not, I have found myself being the only woman in the conference room and part of the 10% of women at conferences. It is a complex problem that is not easily solved. A lot of the discussion today is centered around the immediate pipeline to tech – i.e. getting more young women to enter the industry, putting the focus on STEM education and recruiting practices. Though it is absolutely important to recruit more girls to STEM, I don’t think that is the root cause of this gap.

There are still strong biases that impact women, widespread sexual harassment, the maternal wall, the glass ceiling, to name a few. Some of those things are subtle, yet they do exist and have a huge impact. We can encourage women by improving recruiting practices and providing better access to opportunities in education, but ultimately the root cause is not specific to DevOps or tech, or any particular industry – we’re really talking about culture. The foundational work, then, requires building and reinforcing a culture that is fundamentally more inclusive of women. The organizations that understand the vital importance of diversity to their long-term sustainability are leading the way and will be the best positioned for success in the future.

What does career success mean to you?

My views about career success are aligned with my perspective on the future of work in the digital age. First, be radically open to new ideas and change in general, as this is the age of acceleration and new ideas can blossom everywhere.

"Second, I always consider myself in beta. I’m a work in progress, always learning, always evolving, always re-thinking. I never consider myself finished or arrived."

And then, I believe that passion, as I mentioned before, and curiosity, are even more important than knowledge. Passion and curiosity are much-needed elements for the challenges of today’s software industry. Some of these views are well aligned with the latest thoughts by Thomas Friedman in his book Thank You for Being Late . Success for me means working in a place where I get to live and operate according to these values and where I’m surrounded by very inspiring people.

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