Women in DevOps: Tessa & Ellis

Written by: Hannah Inman

In our Women in DevOpsblog 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. This is a special dual blog, highlighting Tessa van Veen and Ellis de Haan from ABN AMRO.

Tessa and Ellis, how can we as women encourage more women to get into this industry?

Tessa: Start with yourself. If you create an environment for yourself in which you feel comfortable, others often also feel comfortable - it is contagious! Spread that feeling around as much as possible. If you are in a position like Ellis you can really mean something in the area of Women in DevOps, e.g. setting up teams in which women are enabled and treated as equals. Ellis can coach and stimulate the feeling of self-assurance and the value of being a woman in the IT industry.

Ellis: I love it that Tessa mentions that it starts with yourself. It’s so true! Despite the fact that the workforce is almost equally divided between men and women, we still see that women are underrepresented in IT. If the limited number of successful women available would have more exposure and visibility, more women in the workplace might be inspired by them. Literature mentions that for young women to get inspired, having a role model is extremely important. However, women have the tendency to do “invisible” work and to not profile themselves actively. That needs to change! By actively sharing results and success, the work of women will be more visible and higher valued. In addition, I believe that women should be encouraged to speak up, to be more visible in their environment. If we can encourage the few women in DevOps to be visible, we can inspire more and act as the necessary role models.

In your experience, what character traits and/or habits make one successful in DevOps?

Tessa: Pro-activity, assertiveness and being daring. Dare to be different than others. But always keep in mind that you are strong together and it doesn’t matter who, which gender, position or nationality you have. Do not let yourself be messed with.

Ellis: YES! That is the spirit Tessa! I believe in passion and authenticity. You need to be curious enough to truly grasp the complexity of IT, and be confident enough to stand by your (wo)man. Never accept the status quo. That means that you need to have fierce discussions, learn quickly and liberate thinking. By embracing change and being natural in collaboration, DevOps will work for and with you.

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

Tessa: A great leader for me is someone who can have different perspectives on a subject. Someone who gives you opportunities and is open to change. Also, it is important that I get the feeling that he or she understands me and is empathic, that my needs are understood.

Ellis: For me, a great company offers a workplace where I never stop learning. I love the 70/20/10 rule. 70% learning on-the-job on challenging assignments, 20% coaching and 10% training. It is also a company that accepts that I am not here to get or stay in my comfort zone. I expect from a good leader that he or she signals when it is time to get out again! I need support to challenge the status quo, and feedback to improve or feel confident about the choices I’ve made. Only then I can make a difference!

What do you love most about being a woman in DevOps?

Tessa: Being around a lot of men, ;) no just kidding. I don’t think it matters if you are a woman or man but the fact that you can be innovative and have continuous learning possibilities makes it great. Sometimes the fact that men are really surprised by what a woman can do or has achieved within IT. I don’t know if this is caused by prejudices or just because of an unexpected fact, but all those surprised faces make my day even better!

Ellis: Haha! I so agree with everything Tessa said. I have been working in IT for almost two years now and, in the beginning, it was quite a challenge. I had no IT background and there was so much to learn, and so many abbreviations to understand. Now, I have a better understanding of DevOps and see where I can add value. Not by adding technical stuff - there are already so many people who are more knowledgeable than I am - my added value lies in translating the technical deliveries into what it means for our customers, helping in business implementations and stakeholder management. Communication is key and that is where I can help. And of course, as one of the few women in IT, it is so easy to be different. ;-)

Any closing thoughts?

Tessa van Veen (in red) is 27-years-old and studied in Antwerp for three years at the University of Antwerp for her controllers in organization and management. After her studies, she moved to Utrecht and went to work for a consultancy company where she was assigned to ABN AMRO. From the first day of February 2017, she worked for ABN AMRO. She currently works as a Scrum controller and development engineer in one of Ellis's Scrum teams. Her team is responsible for rolling out IT tools within the bank such as JIRA and Confluence.

Ellis de Haan (in yellow) is 30-years-old, was recently married and just finished her executive MBA at University of Nyenrode. She has always lived in the Netherlands and currently lives in Utrecht. After her international business and management studies, she joined a consultancy company where, like Tessa, she was also assigned to ABN AMRO. From that moment on, she never left. She has now been there for four years and has fulfilled multiple roles, from business advisor and process manager in finance, to team lead within IT. She currently manages a department in IT4IT of eight Scrum teams, all dedicated to tooling for IT.

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