*APAC Heritage Month* This is What a Technologist Looks Like
Let us introduce you to industry experts in the APAC region and discuss their most pressing issues. Tune in to learn more about this week's guest, Gwenny Warnick, Cloud Engineer, Kasna.
Hey, good morning. I'm Gretchen and you're listening to This is What a Technologist Looks Like.
So this is a series of talks that we're running over six weeks and we really want to show you what opportunities are available in the tech industry, what the people in the industry are actually like and how they got to be where they are.
So my guest today has studied and worked with music, linguistics, education and marketing.
There's a lot there and along the way she's found the time to become a cloud engineer.
So thanks for coming along today, Gwenny. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Bright and early. I've still got my coffee but you're sensible.
You've got a glass of water. I'm struggling a little. So Gwenny, could you tell me about your current role?
Like I've listed you as a cloud engineer. I have to admit that even though I've been in tech for a while, I've got no idea what that actually means.
Yeah, sure. So cloud engineering is like being an engineer in the kind of cloud computing space which is talking about creating and managing resources and infrastructure in the cloud.
So it's the same as... Does it count as actually a cloud?
No, it's... But what is a cloud? It's a good question. It's a little bit hard to explain.
I find everything in cloud a little bit hard to explain because it's quite abstract.
There's always layers of abstractions. Because yes, there is a physical server somewhere.
There's a physical like not just one server, obviously, a magical cloud server.
There's a lot of servers that people have found a way to abstract or to program and kind of be able to rent out or get someone to pay for their compute power, for example, as a service.
So what it means is that someone somewhere has been able to programmatically, so that means via code or via programming, they have been able to create cloud resources in a way that is abstracted away so that someone else can pay to use them.
So for example, instead of buying and paying for your own infrastructure or your own computer with your own compute power or your own storage, having to buy a hard drive, if you imagine that on a really large scale, it's, you know, it's a lot of physical resources and cloud removes that.
And it's also if done in a way that is like we can say cloud native, that is taking advantage of the benefits of cloud, it can be more reliable, more scalable, and cheap.
Often, yeah, often cheaper. Not always.
I feel like this is kind of similar to sharing a car with your friends.
You get to jump in the seat. That is fabulous. So do you spend, you're a cloud engineer, cloud is an abstract concept that has a stupid branding issue, I think.
What do you do each day? Do you just sit there and write code? Yeah, so I'm in a Google Cloud consultancy at the moment.
So that means we work on a client's challenges and help them with whatever they need external guidance around.
So it's a combination of sometimes writing code, sometimes testing, like at the moment I'm working on pipelines, so that's when you're writing the code to kind of run your other code as automated, like in an automated way as much as you can or as much as it's appropriate to do that.
So that can look like what's called YAML.
So it's like writing, it's basically writing like pairs or lines of words with colons in the middle.
And you're saying like for, I can't think of an example.
This is like live coding, it never quite works. You're not just writing code on a terminal from nine to five each day.
No, no, a lot of it is, yeah, like testing, debugging, like planning, how you're going to do things, designing things, reviewing other people's things, I'm discussing as a team how you solve something if it's not working.
So depending on what you're doing, it can be very collaborative.
At the moment it's, we actually have a quite a large team because we were doing a cross-platform project.
So we were doing, trying to align two different cloud platforms to make an experience more similar.
But in the GCP side, there's about seven.
And does that team consist of like senior people all the way through to a newbie who's not written that much code in their life?
Yeah, I thought I stopped with the senior question prematurely.
Sorry. Yeah, you're exactly right. It's a mix.
So there's a lead who is responsible usually for the kind of direction the team goes in, the strategic direction and a lot of the design decisions.
Because we are working for a client, we also have to be communicating that and getting their sign -off.
We also have to work, we're in a financial institution at the moment. So you have to, it's the most legislated industry in Australia.
You have to get a lot of security approval.
Is what's hard, sorry? Is it hard to get the sign-off back from the client that you're consulting with?
Are there gaps there in their knowledge or understanding of what it is you're trying to do?
I guess I'm asking. Are you educators?
God, yeah. Sorry, I'm losing my voice. Yeah. Oh, no. Let's wind back a couple of years back.
Yeah. So when you were at school, you went to high school, right?
You did the high school thing. Did you go, hey, I want to be a technologist.
I want to write code. No, not at all. So I was from a very non -technical background.
I went, my first experience after uni was classical double bass in an orchestra.
So like the big violin, the like really big one. And I then went and learned how to teach English and I became a teacher.
And I did that for a long time and then went into, was often in the university system when I was working in Australia and then went into kind of academic support and curriculum development ultimately.
So that was like writing lessons or writing course books. I'm still trying to align the giant violin with writing code.
There's a chasm there and I love it.
It's funny, there's that's something like if you're into music, you might love coding.
There's a lot of people actually that find kind of parallels or really love both.
What do you think the parallels are? Yeah, I know. I was just thinking that.
The biggest thing for me is the creativity. Like it can be very creative programming.
And I think that's also something a lot of people don't know if they're, if they haven't been exposed to tech, can be very creative.
And Gretchen, you and I were talking before about creative problem solving.
So yeah, I think that's maybe the biggest parallel.
And then that it's kind of in its way a language.
They are also both like that, I think. And you can get really lost in that.
I agree that both, I played piano for quite a while, not particularly well, but there is, I always thought that need to practice the basic foundational bits so that you can make something that seems like magic happen is also another thing that happens with technology and coding.
So after writing curriculum stuff, being in the educational system, you went on to study web development.
How was that process and journey of studying web dev after being free in the world as an educator yourself?
Yeah, pretty brutal. I got into it as well because as you would be aware, as probably everyone would be aware, and this was before COVID, there was a trend towards blended learning.
So for things to always have options online or to be pushing students to use online more so that they were prepared when they went to university.
We would have to use learning activities designed by software engineers and they often weren't, they kind of discounted the 50 years of research into how people learn.
And I found that very frustrating and really demoralizing and eventually thought I just wanted to learn how to do that myself.
And I also ended up teaching, when I had a little bit of self-learned knowledge, I ended up getting asked to teach with Code Like a Girl, a really great Melbourne social enterprise.
They teach young girls how to program.
And they'd said, no, we've got the content, we saw your teaching background and we'd, you know, would you be interested in teaching on coding boot camps?
And it was one of those things where I was like, I had a lot of, I was very intimidated by it.
I was going to say imposter syndrome, but like I didn't fully know how to program.
So I feel like it was valid. So I ended up doing teaching, learning more that way.
And eventually I was also volunteering for Girls in Tech, a global nonprofit and hearing a lot of women from different backgrounds, different ages say that anyone could do coding or could join tech and do the different jobs in tech.
And I sort of thought, why am I teaching, you know, and fully believing these girls can do anything and then not holding that same standard for myself.
And yeah, I ended up doing the boot camp for, it was a six month web development boot camp, technically a diploma of IT.
So the boot camp side of it, I think in the way that it's different from degrees is you're programming from day one, essentially, and you're doing a lot of coding every day.
Whereas I think university can be doing a lot of learning and a bit of coding in some cases.
It was, yeah, it was just really hard. I had a really hard time. The kind of attitude I think often in tech is kind of hack at it and figure out a way like to do it.
That's not a way I like to learn. That's not a way I feel comfortable.
I was just like, well, can't we look up where it's done and how to figure it, you know, figure it out in a kind of methodical way.
But docs are often, docs like the documentation are often not written either clearly or with beginners in mind.
So there's a lot of assumed knowledge, which is again, very like demoralizing.
And yeah, some people that are really good coders aren't necessarily that clear at communicating how they do things.
Cause there's a lot of, like that they're just doing subconsciously.
So as a learner, like that was really difficult.
And there were a lot of like challenges, like you're just meant to do stuff and kind of figure it out.
And I couldn't even understand what I was doing.
So I couldn't figure it out. So I like stopped going to challenges because I was, it just was too much of an impact on like my mental health.
Like I was just, it was really, really challenging to kind of show up every day, but I was sure that that's what I'm terrible.
It sounds like a terrible experience. It's such a, it was what I wanted to do as well.
So it was kind of like, I knew that that's what I wanted to do.
I was comfortable with doing six months of whatever happened and yeah. Fighting your way through.
I feel like somewhere amongst this, it's a feeling somewhere amongst this.
So university degrees in computer science are fabulous. You learn the theory, you do some of the programming.
And I think in Australia, there's starting to be a shift towards making them a bit more practical as well and doing those skills, which was needed.
And bootcamps are at the other extreme of it, where it's like just go, go, go, go, go, bash the thing until it turns into the shape you want it to be.
I feel like there should be something beautiful in the middle where they take all the knowledge we have around education and learning and make a practical course.
Maybe that'll turn up somewhere. There's a business opportunity.
Yeah. Well, I know Code Like a Girl have just done online courses and those are, I think those try and meet in the middle with that, but you know, they're shorter courses.
Yeah. And can you piece them together? No, they're kind of individual topics.
So there's like an intro to web development. There's a, I think a Python course and another one, I think UX design.
I can't remember, but yeah, there are definitely good in terms of that level from intro level to a complete beginner explaining things in a really stepped out way, which is where I think the gap that we're both talking about is.
And it's a gap that makes people leave.
It does, it does. It makes people leave and it gatekeeps, it keeps people out.
Which I think neither of us are a big fan of. We've talked about it a lot. Too bad I'm coming anyway.
Yeah. Too bad I'm staying even if I'm a bit not finding it fun.
So how, so once you got through that six months of kind of just being bashed with information, how did you get a job?
I looked at different options, but I knew by that point.
So when you're doing web development, you're writing like, as you know, at an application kind of level.
So you're writing like, I think of it as like writing a sentence in like a paragraph.
It's kind of like at a lower level in terms of where you're thinking about.
My like brain just didn't work like that. And I was kind of confused, like still confused about the programming.
I think I'll always be confused about the programming, like absolutely love it.
And I'm grateful to the bootcamp for getting me to where I got as well.
Like I don't want to completely, I don't know how to not swear.
They did what they promised to do, right?
You got to change careers. Yeah, it was. Yeah. And yeah, exactly. I don't need to paraphrase it.
Yeah. But so when at the end of that, I just really craved to understand how, where that application was sitting.
So I was like, what system is it running on?
Like where, what's talking to other parts? Like how does that actually, I understand how from my computer, you can put something on the Internet.
Like that makes sense to me. But then in terms of an application working and optimizing an application and getting all of the code working in the way it should, I really wanted to know that.
And so I'd gone to a lot of meetups and read a lot about tech even prior to joining and knew that there was this field called DevOps.
And DevOps is that kind of bridge between it's, the words are like development and operations put together for anyone listening that doesn't know that.
And it was previously when software development took a really long time, there would be people developing software for like months or years.
They would kind of hand that over and then an operations team would have to run it.
So if something broke, it wasn't like you would have developers fixing things at all times.
You would have bought a license for this piece of software potentially.
And it was kind of on you to run it.
Yeah. So DevOps came out of the idea that maybe the teams that write the code, run the code.
And so they're able to potentially solve problems faster.
I know coming into the industry, it's interesting coming into it because you're like, well, yeah, that makes sense.
Isn't that a bit. But I read back and I'm like, okay, like, no, that's not how it always was.
And okay. It had to evolve to become that.
There are engineers that were always doing what is called DevOps. So it's also things like it's optimizing, making things more efficient.
Sometimes that looks like automating things.
So if you're going to be doing something that you repeat, you often will do like write a script, which is writing a file with instructions in it, essentially, where you're telling a computer to do something.
So like there's a guy, the lead in, yeah, the lead in my team was telling me about this program he's written.
And this is also, I guess, a good example of creativity in like using creative kind of problem solving to make a technical product or solution.
He's got two daughters and he programmed this. I can't remember what it was like a raspberry pie or something like, or maybe just a script.
I can't remember, but he programmed it so that his girls can say something like, it's sleep time.
And then it automatically runs where it turns off the lights and plays like a guided meditation for them to sleep.
So yeah, a lot of DevOps is like writing scripts or like writing files that deal with, yeah, improving how things run.
But then the cloud it's, it is kind of synonymous in the industry at the moment with cloud engineering because the lines are blurred.
Yeah. So I forgot what I was thinking about. Oh yeah. So, you know, there are other concepts like at the moment code used to be for like a program.
Now it's also for things like infrastructure.
So I can write a line like that format I was telling you before with a word and a colon and a word, I can say like server colon, like and how many I want, for example.
And a computer is able now to kind of interpret that and build me however many virtual like resources of whatever resource I've written in the file, for example.
So there's concepts like infrastructure as code, config as code, which is like writing configuration of code, which is how things would be set up.
You know, it's something you would manually do like on a TV or on a computer, but we can do that programmatically.
So yeah, it's now like, there's a lot of tasks that are associated with cloud engineering that would also fall under DevOps.
But yeah, that's where I wanted to go.
I had an internship and I asked them, I said, this is the area I'm really interested in.
And they accommodated that. And yeah, that was also a very tough experience because I was alone a lot of the time and I was, it was in a nice way, like treated like an employee, but realistically, I kind of didn't know what I was doing.
It was like a lot of research because they were looking, getting me to look at a new tool they wanted to use.
But yeah. And was that COVID lockdown time or was that in an office?
No, that was like a, I don't even know where we're at, almost two years ago.
So it was like eight months or whatever before COVID. So July to kind of December of the year before COVID, then I'd started a second internship because I knew I wanted to work at this, the place I'm at now, Mantle Group.
I knew, I really cared by then about culture of the place I worked at and that they really wanted me to be there.
Like, I feel like I'm a very slow learner and I wanted an environment where they knew that they were wanting to make a more inclusive tech world and wanted to support women and gender diverse people to enter the industry.
And Mantle have a program where they hire only women and gender minorities.
And for nine weeks you work part-time and if there is a role and like it's a good fit for both sides, they hire you.
So I was in that intern program that started in February, got cut short in COVID because, you know, businesses didn't know what would happen.
Absolutely. But they found a role for me and hired me as an associate cloud engineer.
That's fabulous. Yeah, it was. I still don't know how it happened.
Probably because you're more awesome than you give yourself credit for would be my hot take here.
Does it make a difference, do you think, to be, I mean, you've said culture is important and clearly you're in an organization now that walks the talk on that and the gender diversity.
Does it actually make a difference to you?
Yeah, huge, huge, huge difference. Because the kind of environment that they have because of the people that they hire meant I've been in kind of three teams that were challenging, like on the client side.
Because when you do a consultancy as well, you're immediately on a client.
So I was new and still kind of feeling pressure that I need to be delivering to a client.
But because of the people they hire and the culture, it's like a principles led company, but they really live that.
So they have one, for example, in it together or make things better.
And people are really conscious of that and will kind of say it to you. And they're like, no, no, we're in it together.
Let me help you with it. So yeah, I really felt so supported.
So I also went into the industry expecting not to be necessarily treated respectfully.
And I had the absolute opposite experience.
So everyone I've worked with at Mantle has just been so respectful, like as in almost too respectful, like treats me like I know what I'm doing.
And I'm like, I'm new to the industry.
But yeah, they were just so supportive. And I look back and I'm so glad that I made that decision because I was thinking about taking a second on internship versus a role because it's financially really hard career changing.
Like I didn't have a partner. My parents were in another state. I didn't have support.
I had to work like three jobs while I was studying. And that was like super stressful.
So yeah, it just made, I think, the biggest difference to be in a company where I felt like I could take time when I needed it.
I felt supported and psychologically safe to ask questions and to take whatever time it took me like to learn things.
So yeah, that to me was... And it feels like you belong there.
Yeah, for me that's it. And it feels like I can be myself there, which is also part of the reason I entered tech.
Really appealed to me to be in an industry where you can kind of wear what you like and they're not like coming from the university system where it's can be a bit traditional.
I knew that I didn't want to be in that environment as well.
And so that's also, yeah, that's also helpful being in a company where you see other people that are just all different kinds of people and they're who they want to be kind of thing.
I love that. And so part of being who you are and who you want to be means you're bringing with you your giant violin experiences.
Do you think your other roles were a waste of time? Yeah, that's such an interesting question.
Absolutely not. And when I speak to other women entering the industry at any age, I am like, you can do this at any age, anyone can do it.
They are all learnable skills in technology. But for me, I think it was a real benefit for me.
I got asked to do different roles alongside the engineering.
So I was doing a role that's called scrum master and a business analyst, like a lot like doubling up alongside engineering twice on projects.
I had a background with the background of writing and editing from curriculum development and from education.
That's a huge role in tech because whatever you're doing, you need to document it because it's not necessarily you that will be maintaining that code base, for example.
And sometimes you forgot what you did anyway.
100%. I mean, for me, if I don't write something down, I forget it. So it's like, yeah.
I've gone back to code I've written a bit later and gone, what was I thinking?
And why didn't I document it? It's like that get blame thing. There's these funny videos for people who, if you're not in technology or you don't know about it, where you can see who wrote code when you write, like get blame if the code was done by a tool called, it's a version control tool called Git.
And it happened to me for the first time last week where I was like, I just don't know what this line of code means.
And like the senior in the team was like, it's got your name all over it.
And I was like, no, you can't hide from it. And you don't remember it. I love that you're taking all these other skills and still using them, right?
Like none of that was wasted time or wasted learning or wasted experience.
Not at all. And I think that's a benefit of career changing.
Like you're not just coming into an industry without other skills.
You've got transferable skills. And that's also something you can, for anyone thinking about that, you know, that's something you can talk about in interviews or have in your resume.
Like think in terms of transferable skills.
So, like what tech really needs is like strong communicators, people who are like good listeners, people who can translate ideas into like plans, for example, or problem solve or collaborate.
It's really a lot of, I really don't like calling them soft skills.
I've heard the argument to call them core skills, which I prefer.
But that's something that is really valued in the industry as it should be.
Yeah, because it's teamwork now, right? Yeah. And as we wrestle with like more and more complex and kind of really messy problems, like those are the skills that help you solve problems.
One person can't write a huge, well, they can, but it's not going to be as quick or as like robust a solution as if you've got a team, like a diverse team working together to solve a problem.
Yeah. I so 100% agree with every part of that. But another thing I have really strong opinions of, who would have thought?
I'd like to hear your opinions on it as well.
Do you think there's a particular skill set that lends itself to a career in technology?
I mean, you've mentioned communication. What else? I think that there is a place for every skill set in tech is maybe a, yeah, a way I'd think of it more.
So whatever skills people have, like I encourage you to join tech because we need more diversity in the industry and we need to build a more inclusive tech industry.
But yeah, so I do think there's a place for all skills. The skills, like I just was saying, that are really, can make a difference in a team and can help people get to a better technical solution are often like, yeah, communication, collaboration, being like empathetic or having like a lot of understanding for how other people are feeling.
So how you're like end users might feel, although you should be obviously validating those assumptions.
That's a good point.
To everyone out there, please do that. Not just a gut feel on that.
Yeah. I've got one final question. I'm sorry. No, no, I just was. What are the biggest myths about tech?
For me, those were things like you need to be like into gaming, like they're kind of stereotypes.
But yeah, that there's a certain type of person that should do tech or that suits tech, um, that you should be into gaming or into like Star Wars or like a kind of identify as like a nerd and want to tinker with computers or like take things apart.
Like all of those things I'd kind of heard and been like, oh, okay, like, yeah, that's not, that's not me.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I don't identify with that.
Yeah. That is a big one.
The kind of stereotypes. Yeah. Again, like it, it can act as a gatekeeping inadvertently for sure.
Absolutely. And that was such a good, succinct way of saying it.
Like the biggest myth is the stereotypes and they come through really, really strongly.
Yeah. Hey, I'd like to thank everyone out there for listening today.
And Gwynny, thank you for getting up early and hanging out with me.
Our next episode of this is what a technologist looks like is on Tuesday next week at 8.00 AM.
And we've got Janelle Brandon on who has one of the most spectacular journeys into technology I've ever seen or heard.
So she's a senior engineer at Clipchat and we can't wait to talk to her.
And Gwynny once again, thank you so much for your time this morning.
And I'm sorry about my delays in our interwebs hanging out together.