On this episode of The Humans of DevOps Podcast, DevOps Institute’s very own Eveline Oehrlich joins Jason Baum to explore her epic journey through the IT Industry including challenges, triumphs and experiences that shaped the human she is today.
Eveline is an independent research director at the DevOps Institute. She held the position of VP women in tech and Research Director at Forrester Research, where she led and conducted research on a variety of topics including DevOps, Digital Operational Excellence, IT and Enterprise Service Management, Cognitive Intelligence and Application Performance Management for 13 years. She has advised executives and teams around the world on challenges and potential changes in people, processes, and technology. She is the author of many research papers and thought leadership pieces and is a moderator and speaker. She has more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry.
Eveline helps companies adapt their IT organization, processes, and tools for high-performance teams that enable their business partners to achieve better business results. She has helped some of the world’s largest companies implement new strategies, workflows, and automation tools.
The lightly edited transcript can be found below.
You’re listening to the humans of DevOps podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas and learning, or the SKIL framework.
Jason Baum 00:18
Hi, everyone, welcome to another episode of the Humans of DevOps podcast. I am your fearless leader and host for today Jason Baum. And you’ll notice that I don’t see him sound like Jayne. Jayne is, is going to be hosting a few more times, maybe co-hosting with me, but we’re moving towards me being your host for these podcasts calling in the future. As we work on ourselves being a little more in tune to the human side of DevOps, figured it’d be appropriate for me as your director of membership, to be the host. And to really get to know our members get to know the people of the DevOps industry. And with me today, I couldn’t think of a better guest to have on as my first guest, Eveline Oehrlich, who is our Chief Research Officer, in addition to many other roles that she feels that I’m learning about when it comes to content and just general overview oversight on what we do from a content perspective for DevOps Institute. Eveline, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Eveline Oehrlich 01:18
You’re welcome, Jason. And you have an awesome radio voice, by the way.
Jason Baum 01:22
Thank you. I actually did some radio back in back in the day. Back in college, I was a radio wasn’t everybody kind of on the radio and college? I don’t know maybe just to me. I used to do a Beatles breakfast. There we go. Sunday mornings, Beatle breakfast, you know, I stopped doing radio. No, I was on too early in the morning. Oh, not a terrible reason to get out of radio. But I was in college. Well, thank you so much for being on. And now. Now I gave up some personal information. So now it’s your turn. We’re, we’re gonna turn it around and get personal on this podcast if that’s okay with you.
Eveline Oehrlich 02:01
Yeah, no problem. Personally, I’ve actually relocated myself in 2017. I am living 32 years in the United States, which is maybe why I have such a wonderful American accent. But I also have a German accent, I am now back in Germany southern part between Frankfurt and Munich. Mostly because my mom’s stepfather and stepdad are 84. And my kids are in the US, they don’t need me except they need my credit card.
Jason Baum 02:30
So So let’s back up a little bit and kind of get into your career and your life a little bit more. And for those of us who you know, for those who don’t know, you, if you could just kind of start with a little bit of what you’re doing today. And then maybe we could start out on your journey and where it began because I’d love to learn, you know, what drove you into this field into this industry?
Eveline Oehrlich 02:56
Sure, of course. So today, as you already said, I’m Chief Research and Content Officer at the DevOps Institute, which means I conduct research, I work with a variety of other folks inside with our ambassadors and others on research topics and help fulfill necessary content. One, research work we’ve done for three years in a row now is the upskilling report on the DevOps, enterprise human skills, we also have a variety of skill books. So that’s one thing. Secondly, I also do and function as an industry analyst as part of the DevOps Institute. And also externally, I still have an industry analyst position, where I look at vendors and compare their solutions come or their companies and their capabilities to other vendors and those different types of research. We have worked some of that into the DevOps Institute, but have a different job actually have two jobs. And that all of that really started way back. When I was when I started out my technology career at a large hardware company here in Germany, that was in 1983 84. I always was interested in I met Actually, I’ll say the name Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett. That’s the founders of Hewlett and Packard, those two men were for me inspirational. I was 18 or so riding a motorcycle to work every morning, was kind of a research assistant, but really didn’t know anything about computers or Unix systems and anything. And I met there were two gentlemen. And one of them said, oh, and I was the only woman in the whole 37 engineers. And one of the gentlemen one of the founders shakes my head in hand and says, Whoa, it’s nice to see a young lady like you to be in this department. And I thought, wow, cool. I think he approves so
Jason Baum 04:53
that’s a pretty big deal. Yeah,
Eveline Oehrlich 04:55
that for me, you know, being 18 and, of course, my English was horrible. I could, I could say So No, but I understood what he said. And that was really meaningful and kind of coached me throughout my entire career with becoming much more technical.
Jason Baum 05:09
I mean, that’s interesting on several levels, too, because I mean, so we’re talking about the 80s. We’re talking about the technic technology field, and you’re a woman. And, you know, let’s face it, you know, it’s this is a predominantly male field. So did you see that as you know, what was your first taste of the difficulties in being a woman in technical in like a technology field?
Eveline Oehrlich 05:31
Yeah. So I started, of course, I moved into the US after three years of Hewlett Packard work, actually met my ex-husband there. And, you know, you follow, man, that’s that time. So I moved to the US. And I realized in college when a study computer science that I was in the back of the room, the teacher was a man and never called on us, there were two women a net and myself and a net. If you’re listening in hopefully you remember this. We never, we never were called on. So we actually decided we’re going to sit in front of the room. And so we did we move to the front of the room. And when he asked a question, we raised our hand, so high 10, he could not ignore us. And so, you know, we, we, we weren’t trying to be hostile or anything, but we wanted to make sure that he and all the other teachers and professors, and so he saw us as an equal member, to the team. And it was interesting how things started to change, the attitude of those who were in our class changed. And I think that gave us confidence. So while we were still, you know, insecure projects, and project deliveries, we knew we could write code, I wrote a magic quadrant in a Pascal, Pascal, the language. And we felt a lot more confident. And that confidence helped us fuel further and further into the next stage of our journey.
Jason Baum 06:58
You were recently quoted in a women and technology journal, saying that, you know, during your early times in the field that you kept being tested to see if you could keep up with the men in the group. What did you mean by that? And what were some of these tests that they kind of put you through?
Eveline Oehrlich 07:20
Yeah, so a few things. One was how durable how resistant were we to different hours of working? So let me explain. I worked in the data center and helped in as I was, I was hired as an IT operations person with JCL and hp 3000s. And in the data center, there were on call rotations just like today, right? And so we had always this challenge of Hey, is she going to be able to stand up at two o’clock at night and show up at the data center and fix something? Well, why not? I am just as capable. I didn’t have kids at a time. And even if I did have kids, I have a husband or somebody who takes care of the kids. Of course, for single moms, that is a little bit more difficult. But yeah, so that was one test. Another test was could we somehow when you know some of the activities were happening in projects, always felt like that there was some kind of challenge which either was how fast can you run like parties? Like how fast can you run? How in Colorado, we have a lot of throwing horseshoes. You know, can you throw horseshoes? We were making jokes. It’s like maybe we should do a makeup session, how fast can people put on makeup on themselves or PAL? Polish their nails, it was all very, very male-oriented. But we always showed up with a good attitude. And you know, we had in one project. I remember we had to submit documentation. And so it felt like that the more documentation you were submitting the stronger person you were. So we were thinking No, we’re not going to do documentation just by the number. We’re actually making it much more readable and better to use and started kind of like a wiki development. And everybody was very jealous. So we kind of shine through, you know, differences rather than falling into the traps of always kind of making going on to call they challenged us for
Jason Baum 09:19
and in so many ways mean there, there were so many ways that you know, you could have been sidetracked in your career or kind of being driven another direction when there’s so many pitfalls, right? There’s so much adversity because of just institutional This is how we’ve done it this is who does it this is like you said it’s very male-driven and it’s very and there’s so many things that come with that from a culture perspective that are you know, lends itself towards men succeeding. What was your What drove you to keep going? I imagine that’s very difficult.
Eveline Oehrlich 09:55
Yeah, I was actually two things. One, I had a fantastic leader and coach In my undergrad and graduate degrees in college, Dr. Susan Athi, I hope she doesn’t mind if I mentioned her, she was fantastic. We both had a lot of common things. She worked at Hewlett Packard, I, of course there too, and she was always very, very pointed towards never let who you are male, female, whatever you are, whatever diversity you’re in, let you put down. And I followed that she was an awesome coach. And I spent many hours in her office crying, and she every time pushed me up. That was one thing. The second one was, I was part of a workshop once. And that was the first year when I started as an operations person that you’ll Packard where we did a workshop. And it was really interesting, they were drawing a line in the middle of the room. And there were people on the left, and people on the right, and the coach said something, and when you were one thing, you had to cross the line, and when you were the other, you had to cross the line again. So you continuously were crossing the line, meaning, you know, he said, women on the left man on the right, so it’s like two women on the left and 50 men on the right, then he said, you know, whatever, all kinds of things, different different different classifications we all had. And that was powerful to me because during that 30 minutes or so how long we did it, I crossed the line many times and many others crossed the line. And every time we crossed the line, we looked at each other he made the point he said, make a human connection. And we had to make the union human connection between, you know, Catholic and Christian, or Muslim or whatever you use, I forgot all these different labels we gave each other. And that’s when I realized there are so many other people. I’m a woman a well, big deal, right? I might not be in the majority, I’m in the minority. But there was another person who said I sit across from he or she is also in the minority. And it’s a human connection. And that those two things were amazing.
Jason Baum 11:59
Yeah, um, you mentioned mentors, and you mentioned people in your life, you know, who kind of helped you get through the hurdles, and, and also the labels that we put on ourselves and building and the importance of community building, basically, finding your tribe, finding your community. And obviously, that’s the those resonate with me, if you’ve heard me speak already with the DevOps Institute, you know, I focus on community building, that’s my job, literally, as a membership director, but also as just a human. I like to make connections and help others make connections. So that resonates with me, I think finding a mentor, especially early in your career is very important, and can be that pivotal piece that kind of keeps you moving in the direction that you identified that you want to go into. Why do you think there aren’t more women in technology right now?
Eveline Oehrlich 12:47
Wow, that’s a tough question, which we’ve explored in many of these events, women in technology, there’s the first one is that not everybody is, is willing to, to just stand up and lean out there. It is hard work. It’s hard work every day in some women might not want to willing to go the extra mile. That’s where we have these communities of support. I think that’s one. The second is there, there are lots and lots of details to worry about. And I it hasn’t been an easy journey for me, I have to say is you do, you do have to find a mentor. You do have to find those who are alike. And you know, get through the forest. The challenges, but you also have to make sure that you have goals for yourself. And I think that to me, was always very important, have a goal and that goal, each step at a time. And this takes me back to my graduate degree again, my last year and Master’s our professor, another wonderful coach of mine, Dr. Charles Butler, asked us once in class, he said What do you want to be in the future and I wanted to be on the CIO magazine front cover all the time and wanted to be a CIO of women CIO. So I look for women, like there’s many like Meg Whitman, Agila Packard or she wasn’t the CIO, he was CEO, right. And there’s many, many examples. I try to look for those and I try to mimic them not copy, but mimic them mimic their, how they speak, how they act, how they think. And that gets me over the hurdles. But that that that’s challenging, and that takes a lot of work. And some people are not it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman you have to put the work in and I think that’s sometimes a challenge independent of who you are.
Jason Baum 14:53
Yeah, I mean, exactly no matter who you are. We all face adversity and sometimes that can derail have career take you in a different direction than you might not have thought you might be going in and might not even be career-related? Why you made that detour, which is even more of a reason sometimes to have that community right to support you and to lift you up or a mentor. I had a mentor early in my career and definitely shaped the path of where I’m at in my journey myself. So yeah,
Eveline Oehrlich 15:23
detours, let me add something, an example of a detour which I, I was, which coached me alert I learned a lot from so I was a 4.0 master’s student, top of the class, going to drop it at Hewlitt Packard after graduation and took us a long time off travel to Asia came back. I was supposed to be in this case tool development team as a developer showed up and they said, Oh, well guess what your job got? outsourced? We called it Wolfert at the time workforce reduction. And so I showed up the day one and walked down the aisle and some gentleman showed up and said, Hey, you’re my new programmer. I thought programmer. That wasn’t a compliment at the time today. Maybe, you know, maybe it is. But I thought no, I’m not a programmer. But I actually had to do programming. And, you know, on financial applications, I learned so much. I hated it from day one. But I learned so much was a detour. I never wanted to be a programmer. But I worked through it. And I learned a lot of things. And I think every time I took a detour, every detour gave me something else. I then moved into the software organization at Hewlitt Packard, I started and I was on call and a call desk answering questions from sales reps all across the world on products. I didn’t like that. Then I moved into business development, I didn’t like that as much because I wanted to be more in product. So then I became competitive intelligence manager, I had a wonderful, again, lady who was marketing manager. And one day I decided I’m going to be an analyst. And I applied at Forrester in 2006. And two weeks later, I had a job as an analyst, I was like, wow, I was really scared. First day on the job, I had to do inquiries and start thinking about a research agenda. I was extremely scared. But all these conversations, all the conversations with clients, enterprise customers across the different DevOps topics, and so on, I learned and they learned, but I always stayed human. I always connected in every conversation, I had almost every conversation, I like to brag a little bit. They said, Wow, this was fantastic. Evelyn, you really helped us every vendor, I almost everyone I work with, no matter how small or large said this was really, really good. Because you connected with us. So it was both technical skills. But also and I think that’s the difference. We this might, others might not like when I say this, but women have a little bit more. We have that little touchy-feely thing, right? I might be stereotyping us, which is set again, the opposite of what should I do, what I should do, but we fit, we fit in we can feel and we can sense things maybe a bit better than some of our male counterparts. And there’s male counterparts who do the same thing, but in majority, and I think that really helped me a lot through my career, and still helps me today in where I am.
Jason Baum 18:17
Yeah, I know, I know, when you say like stereotypes and myths, that’s true, like when we make a generalization, right, as you call it in the analyst world. But also, I think there’s lenses that we see the world through, and we’re shaped by our experiences. And I think some of that plays into or can shape actually the stereotype of where you end up or fall into just their experiences. And they’re sensitive men are sensitive women. And then there’s the opposite. So we all have our traits, and we’re all human at the end of the day. And but yeah, so getting back to the lenses and how we see things. In the same blog journal that that quoted you, you told us a story and that for me, I’m a white male, I don’t have some of these experiences. I’ve never lived them. So you know, when I see some of the things that you have to deal with, or, you know, when I talk to my wife about some of the things that she’s had to deal with like they don’t, it’s things I would have never thought of. And you told the interesting story about coffee, a coffee break. Do you remember this?
Eveline Oehrlich 19:21
Yeah, was the one where the individual said that I needed to do and bring the coffee?
Jason Baum 19:26
Yeah. And I think you were speaking at the event. Yes, exactly.
Eveline Oehrlich 19:29
Exactly. Of course, you know, doesn’t it doesn’t matter where that was, but I was a speaker, keynote speaker, and I think I was in preparation or something like that, or in a conference room. And the gentleman told me that I should make sure that the coffee is ready or bring some coffee. And I said, Yeah, of course. Absolutely. And so I did and I think I’ve forgotten so if the coffee gave him the coffee or brought the whole can of coffee. I don’t remember exactly. And he was, you know, thanking me being very nice. And so he went on and I went on and then later on, and I think it was a huge event. I showed up on there as a keynote or on the stage, and you should see him he was a little surprised. But he also was a little humble afterward and, you know, kind of said, Wow, this was a cool presentation. It was really good. I learned a lot. I laughed so hard. It was really was fun. I was serious.
Jason Baum 20:24
Yeah, I mean, and that story is just so crazy to me, for so many reasons. And it’s just another thing that I think maybe will shape, shape who you are, and those going through those experiences. Maybe it toughens you a little bit, too, and humbles you, and but also, you know, I’m at the end, I mean, you got to stand up in front of this huge crowd and make this person feel very, very tiny. So, you know, and it’s not about that, but it’s just something that I again, you know, we all have our lenses and how what shapes us in this world and who we end up being and I think that that story really stood out to me. It was a to me very interesting.
Eveline Oehrlich 21:08
Yeah, it was an interesting moment.
Jason Baum 21:11
I’m sure. You know, what, what would you say to a young woman who’s getting started in the tech field? Or, you know, what pieces of advice would you have? For her? I have a three-year-old daughter. So she’s not getting involved in tech anytime soon. But she might, what would you tell someone you know, a young woman who’s looking to get started in the tech field.
Eveline Oehrlich 21:33
Don’t ever stop when somebody tells you that you can’t do that. I think that’s very, very important. And I think not just to the to your daughter or other daughters, but also if you have a son, don’t stop. Second, know your strengths and know your weaknesses. And be aware of them all the time. Because I think we are a little bit more in the limelight or being more critically looked at when we do things with our colleagues and in projects. So if you have strengths, play towards them, if you have weaknesses, don’t overplay them, make sure you point them out and then develop them help ask people for help, you know that I think that would be the last one, ask people for help ask them for coaching, ask them for constructive criticism, feedback, feedback loops. I’ve had interesting stand-ups or as my, my, as Helen keeps telling me, I shouldn’t be calling him postmortem. But maybe that’s because I’m growing up in technology in the tech industry. But when you do some kind of a learning activity, make sure that you speak up about your own learning. And don’t just, you know, avoid because you are somehow insecure about them. We all have weaknesses, and other people have weaknesses. But that’s okay. We can only learn when we point out that there is a weakness, either in process or in ourselves or in technology, or whatever we’re dealing with. I think those are the three things which I’ve taught my daughters, as well. They’re not in technology. I wonder maybe my one daughter is an architect. She’s has a double master in architecture, and the other one is a psychology major. And it’s maybe because I keep laughing about that I had ITIL books on my nightstand, and DevOps and all these wonderful books. Maybe they decided that that’s not what it for. But they certainly are very, very strong, very developed. And I’m very proud of them. So we’ll be your daughter, you know,
Jason Baum 23:37
Yeah, exactly. Well, as a parent, I feel like you’re already proud of them no matter what they do. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s interesting, you touched on talent and really focusing on your own growth because at the end of the day, we are all human, we are all people and doesn’t matter men, Woman, what gender are you in? What gender, what race, what color? What religion? What anything, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day, especially now as we’re all so connected in a different way, where it’s more competitive, because employers can seek out town anywhere, anywhere, anyplace, anytime, doesn’t matter. We’re all I mean, and you and I are great examples. We’re part of the same team, we work for DevOps Institute, you’re in Germany, I’m in New York. And, and it doesn’t matter DevOps Institute is hiring talent based on what you’re able to how you’re able to perform talent, literally that with that word, and I think it’s more competitive now than ever. Because we can work through zoom, we can, you know, do so many things. Technology, right? Technology is the great equalizer these days, so it’s more competitive. And that kind of brings me almost to upskilling and to the need to upskill and kind of what we do through DevOps Institute so as a young forget, not young woman, but just as someone in The tech field who’s looking to grow? What advice do you have for someone like that? Where should I begin to be stand out?
Eveline Oehrlich 25:06
Yeah, thanks for the young by the way. The challenge was the where to start is, knowing where you are and where your organization is. So I think that I want to point out two things for those who are listening. In particular, in the DevOps world. There are challenges across people, technology called people process, culture, technology, all of that. And there are different capabilities you need in those different domain areas. And so we’ve done two things in DevOps Institute, and I’ve been fortunate to be involved in both of them. So first of all, we have developed a capability assessment tool, which we call ad hoc. And so that tool, you can actually understand either your team or your in your enterprise are, where are you standing today, relative to your capabilities around Intelligent Automation around functional areas around human skills around technology, and around processes and frameworks. And so once you have that, then you can actually develop your journey. Now, a journey towards the next step in the roadmap of your DevOps journey is not only by improving those capabilities, because you can’t just automatically do them, you have to have talent in people. So you have to have capabilities who are supported by humans who actually have those skill domains. And that’s where the upskilling work comes in. And we’ve seen quite interesting that there are a variety of skills, top five, we call them in each of those domains, which map to the domains of the capability assessment. And so to say that you should do this or that is not possible, because I don’t know where you are. So you find out where you are from your company, where your team is, where your organization is, and then map that to your skills where you need to go if you want to be part of that journey, right? Because that makes sense. It’s fulfilling to you to have the right skills to be part of daily program and achieve the goals of your team, your organization, your company. Now, if you want to move somewhere else, it still can do that. You look at your own skills, you don’t have the capability assessment of your journey. But you go within yourself and say, Where do I have the experience? What do I need to do and want to do, because I do believe strongly in motivating yourself doesn’t come from the outside, it has to come from in within you. And again, I go back to my CIO front cover to be on the CIO magazine front cover, I’ve not been on it yet. I’ve been on different magazines. But I have motivated myself to be part of a technology community and be a woman and a speaker and a leader and a thought leader. And there’s many of us, Jane is one, Helen is one and does many, many other examples. And so that motivated me internally and that has contributed to the success of my research practice at Forrester has contributed to the success of DevOps Institute. And I think that is, is what needs to be done.
Jason Baum 28:11
Yeah, and that assessment of the DevOps capabilities, a doc is available for free to members of the association, Premium members of the association. So if you have not had a chance to check that out, please do you know, you could go to DevOps institute.com/member. Membership, and, and you can go ahead and join the association. And during the association, on a monthly basis, you know, if you divide it by a month, you’re spending less than a Netflix membership. And you get everything that Evelyn just talked about, which is a lot of value, plus all the additional savings and things like that through membership. So Evelyn, thank you so much for being on the podcast, getting personal sharing your story. For me, personally, I just love everything that you talked about, you’re truly influential and can’t thank you enough for being on and sharing. And I’m going to share this podcast with my daughter when she’s old enough.
Eveline Oehrlich 29:06
Oh, that’s very awesome. Thank you so much for having me, Jason. And thanks for your compliments. Really appreciate it.
Jason Baum 29:11
Thank you so much. All right. Thank you everyone for listening to the Humans of DevOps podcast. We’ll be on twice a month. So feel free to bookmark us and subscribe and we will talk to you on the next one. Thanks so much. Take care. Bye.
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