Women in DevOps: Tracy Ragan

Written by: Hannah Inman
4 min read
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In our Women in DevOpsblog series, you’ll hear from talented women in DevOps. They will share their experiences in DevOps, thoughts on leadership, lessons learned and also how they think we can encourage more women to focus on an IT career.

Tracy Ragan, CEO and co-founder, OpenMake Software, has extensive experience in developing and implementating DevOps strategies in large enterprises. In 1989, she began her consulting career and soon realized the lack of standardized development procedures on open systems that were common on the mainframe. In the years leading to the creation of OpenMake Software, she worked with development teams in implementing a community-driven, standardized build and deploy process that enabled frequent builds and releases, automated around version control. She has been published on numerous occasions and regularly speaks at conferences including CA World where she presented for 15 consecutive years. She holds a BS degree in business administration, computer technology from California State University, Pomona.

Hi Tracy! What has your experience been as a woman in the DevOps industry?

I started by writing make scripts and working with SCM tools. This has led me on quite an odyssey that is now DevOps.

DevOps is always changing. There are always new things to learn and many new and cutting-edge technologies. Being a woman in this industry has been difficult, to say the least. DevOps morphed from ALM. ALM used to have many women, but somewhere along the way they were scared off. I find myself lonely in meetings full of men.

Despite the difficulties, you have truly become a leader in DevOps. What has made you a leader in this space?

Persistence and the ability to transfer ALM skills to this sort of new practice. While some basics have changed, like speed to production, most of the principals around managing the application lifecycle are fairly similar. A passion about innovating around the new challenges, learning about microservices, containers and their challenges is key.

To be successful in DevOps, organizational skills are key. A passion for being tidy is particularly important. The ability to see things in a logical way and understand how to put together the broader picture from multiple puzzle pieces. In order to do this, one needs the ability to be precise and particular. Also, the ability to constantly ask, "Is there a better way?" is crucial.

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

STEM programs early - I mean really early, like third grade. We need to focus on the next 10 years bringing up young ladies to believe that they too can be technical. In other words, they can be geeks themselves. This message needs to be louder. In addition, guys at the top need to look for women who are pushing tech and bring them up to their level. The good ol' boys frat club is getting a bit tiresome.

Do you have any advice for women who want to dive into DevOps?

There is a stereotype that women are not, or cannot be, technical, and that DevOps is super technical. Neither of these beliefs are true.

From project teams to the boardroom, men must understand that women are key to bringing in technical expertise. Organizations must start hiring local women and minimize the importing of technical personnel. We have women right here in the USA that could be doing many of these technical jobs, but the myth is that we need to bring in expertise from elsewhere. Some importing of talent is useful, but this has been done at the expense of US women, in general.

Be loud - speak your mind, be competitive - with men, not your sisters. We have to stick together and help each other become more technical. Break down the habit of being a nice, young lady. They never win. Don't be afraid to be called a b----, it takes years of practice and training to become one. Stay informed, bring your experience to the table, adjust it to meet new demands and don't be afraid to dig in! Older men do not have the answers. You can figure them out yourself.

Women must be more willing to take risks, challenge themselves, be perceived as competitive and lose the nice persona. My suggestion: take a martial arts class, get a black belt, it was the best thing I ever did!

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