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Self-taught software developer shares her story

A self-taught software developer shares what it's like to be a female software engineer in a time where women in technology are still all too uncommon.

A cloud services engineer works at the intersection of infrastructure management, systems integration, project leadership and DevOps, according to Dominique DeGuzman, who fills that role for Twilio, a cloud communications and IaaS provider in San Francisco.

In this podcast, DeGuzman shares her do- it-yourself path to a systems integration career, insights on her daily work and favorite development tools, and processes. She also talks about co-founding Twilio’s diversity and inclusion initiative and volunteerism in software development non-profit organizations.

To enjoy all of her candid interview, check out this podcast. A brief excerpt from the podcast follows.

What do you at Twilio, and what's your work day look like?

DeGuzman: I'm a cloud services engineer. At other companies, my position would probably be called system engineer or infrastructure engineer. I focus on infrastructure monitoring, which would include making sure all of our services are working, also that they are all reporting correctly. That also includes a lot of our metrics. Alongside that, I deal with a lot of development tools and development pipeline. So, not only monitoring the infrastructure but also helping us develop that infrastructure whether it is tools, internal communication, etc,

Which technologies, tools, and processes do you work with every day or most days?

DeGuzman: I know it's not a very popular, but I prefer coding and scripting a lot in BASH. I also use Python and Ruby. In the past, I used Puppet and Chef and a couple of other variations of distributed infrastructure systems, but right now, BASH, Python and Ruby are the main tools that I'd be using. They simplify how to do something. A lot of the things that need to be scripted can be done either in Python, Ruby or a simple data script.

If you had the choice, what kind of development projects would you be working on all the time? What do you like doing the most, and why?

Dominique DeGuzman, Cloud engineer at TwilioDominique DeGuzman,
Cloud engineer at Twilio

DeGuzman: I have a system administrator background and, like a true system administrator, automating is what I like most. If I'm going to have to do something every week and it's a manual process, I'm going to make it as automated as I can within reason.

Also, I like changing the infrastructure. Infrastructure is a part of every team's environment. Every other team is depending on it. [When making a change,] you get to interact with a bunch of other teams, see what those other teams are working on and how the things that I'm working on directly connect all of those projects and all of those services.

At Twilio, you are part of a diversity improvement group. What have the results been?

DeGuzman: I helped co-found that with another colleague. It started off as an email thread where we would go back and forth chatting about the tech companies, releasing technical [staff demographic] statistics. We turned emails into a round table discussion, which I thought would bring six people, but it brought over 20. In a small company like Twilio, that speaks volumes. We have now been recognized by the entire company as a full-fledged initiative and organization.

We have split into two focuses. My colleague focuses on internal things like making sure we have an inclusive culture, making sure that everybody feels open and welcome here. She focuses on also attrition rates, our internal statistics. I focus more on outreach and recruiting. I tag along to recruiting events and do a lot of the speaking and panel events. Our marketing team has been great, and I've been thankful that they support me in also going to other events as well.

You work with a number of organizations that stimulate application development, education and diversity in IT, such as STEM Development Foundation, a science, technology, engineering and math education group, and Lesbians Who Tech, a tech community-building non-profit. What encouraged you to get involved?

DeGuzman: When I went up for this position [at Twilio], I was the only female on the team. They were great guys to work with, but I didn't find anybody that I felt had a part of me in their personality.

I was looking for a female mentor. I found Leanne Pittsford, who started Lesbians Who Tech (LWT), and I've been involved with them ever since. In the past year, I've been a speaker at LWT Summits and at least 12 different events, including the White House Summit last year in June.

What have you gained or benefited from doing this kind of community work?

DeGuzman: I've definitely benefitted, and I think the benefit goes both ways. It [means] a lot at a Hackathon helping a group of kids who may not have these types of opportunities growing up or even may not even have a computer at home. Helping them figure out what they can do by programming and the amount of excitement and pride on their faces when they've accomplished is rewarding. I know that it makes a difference.

People come up to me and say that they've seen my talk and what it meant to them. I never expected that, ever. I used to be in the audience for those panels, and I remember how influential it was for me.

What's your advice to other developers, engineers who might want to get involved in some sort of community service related to IT either at or outside of work?

DeGuzman: The biggest piece of advice is to not take on too much too quickly. We learned that very early on. When you get the amount of support that you didn't expect, you get really excited and you really want to do all of the changes, all of the things you can do.

Coming from an engineering background, you’re [probably used to] breaking projects down into quarters and into sprints. That’s a good approach once you have an overarching goal. That also helps management to see the progression of what you're doing. That’s what really counts.

Next Steps

Learn more about DeGuzman and other speakers at the Lesbians Who Tech conference

More advice for women in technology from Computer Weekly

Can the government do more to attract women to technology?

Check out the UK's 25 most influential women in IT

This was last published in April 2015

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I can very much relate to her experience, as I too am the only woman on my software dev team of 12. It feels a bit isolating at times, as I'm so different from them, personality-wise. I am glad that she was able to find a female mentor to help guide her - I would love to be able to do the same!
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Thanks for the feedback, abuell. I'm glad you enjoyed the podcast. You might want to check out something like the Mentoring Women Network. If you'd like more resources please email editor@SearchSoftwareQuality.com and we'll see what we can dig up.
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Thanks for the tips, I will check that out!
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Interesting interview... Thanks for sharing.
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