Women in DevOps: Swati Shah

Written by: Diana Hwang
5 min read

Swati Shah is the senior vice president of emerging technology at U.S. Bank focused on implementing DevOps as a key strategy for modernizing her organization. Over the course of Swati's career, she's joined a number of technology, women and customer boards in the IT industry. With her unfailing passion for technology and diversity, Swati serves as an inspiration for leveraging her knowledge and experience to mentor other women in IT.

swati shahFirst, please tell us a little about yourself, where you work, what you do, a few other interests...

My name is Swati Shah and I’ve been a senior vice president of emerging technology at U.S. Bank since November 2017. I lead the enterprise API and microservices strategy, bringing business and technology together to produce API as a product. I also lead the DevOps strategy to drive business agility, cloud adoption and modernization.

I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics, a controller of Science degree in computer science, and an MBA from Lake Forest School of Management in Chicago. Currently, I serve on the Google Technology Advisory Board, CloudBees Customer Advisory Board and hold several leadership roles within the Women of Technology and Operations Services business resource group at U.S. Bank.

I’m passionate about people and technology and how we use technology to solve problems. My husband Jay and I live in Chicago. Giving back to the community is something we’ve both learned from our parents and family, and it’s one of our deepest values.

What character traits/habits make you successful in DevOps?

DevOps is an initiative tied to our broader theme of organization modernization. My approach is to focus on how we deliver products to market faster, define long term goals, start small and scale fast like you would any change initiative. In my experience, what makes organizations successful is removing pain points to accelerate and create cross-functional teams that involve security, risk, compliance and technology teams from the start. Defining developers’ journeys, identifying manual steps, handoffs etc. is key to seeing the current state and painting the future state. Overall, build collaboration, communication and contribution to tackle silos and focus on outcomes.

What are some lessons you have learned on your DevOps career journey?

I’ve learned a lot around getting buy-in for how you execute an enterprise DevOps initiative. DevOps is often viewed as a complex initiative so, simplifying it as much as possible is extremely important. Focusing on business outcomes, identifying pain points and being mindful of how you scale can go a long way with the management group.

It’s also important to understand the difference between agile and DevOps. When a team or organization is in the early stages of digital transformation, using these terms interchangeably can create confusion. My advice is to clearly define what each means to your organization and to ensure they’re working together toward long term goals. Finally, I’d also share that even if you’ve been through a DevOps rollout, take the time to listen and understand the pain points if you’re rolling it out with new team or company. It’s very possible you’ll experience a different operating model and execution of the initiative.

What do you look for in a great company/boss/mentor?

Being part of a company whose culture is built on relationships and trust is important. Many organizations are on a journey of transformation, and working quickly with the unknown is the new norm. Having strong relationships and trust helps us build and move together. I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to have great bosses and mentors, and we had great relationships because our foundation was built on trust. I’ve also had bosses that were challenging, but I viewed those situations as opportunities to push myself to change – and change is generally good.

What can we do as an industry to encourage more gender diversity?

Diversity is close to my heart, as I consider myself a diverse employee – I’m female, Asian and an immigrant. In addition, I know our employees and customers are diverse. My motto when it comes to diversity is “let’s do it together” as everyone has an important role to play, even if we’re only making one change at a time. Diverse teams are stronger and inclusive cultures are more resilient. When we seek out different perspectives, we make better decisions and build better products for our customers.

I would encourage all leaders at all levels to leverage programs like Women in Technology and to seek mentorships inside and out of their organizations. Male Ally is another great program that supports partnership. Reading and participating in blogs like this is another great platform for showcasing diversity. Overall, it’s important that organizations continuing investing in diverse programs, that industry leaders continue to serve as mentors and sponsors and that each of us takes on a role of a support system when we can.

Any closing thoughts?

This is an exciting time to be in the DevOps space. Leverage it on the road to digital transformation and understand how you and your organization can benefit from it is speed. Tackle the silos with communication, collaboration and contribution. Let’s do some advanced engineering!

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