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DevOps Institute

[EP37] Women in DevOps: Ayelet Sachto, Cloud Engineer at Google

Humans of DevOps, Podcasts

May 25, 2021

On this episode of the Humans of DevOps, Jason Baum is joined by Ayelet Sachto (@AyeletSachto), Cloud Engineer at Google. Ayelet is passionate about solving problems and delivering great solutions. They discuss the importance of human skills, the challenges of being a woman in tech including overcoming the ‘boys club’ mentality, and the importance of practicing inclusivity.

She also touches on her wide array of experiences including being in the Army Tech Unit, her degree in psychology and computer science, and taking apart her first computer at age 12!

The lightly edited transcript can be found below.

Narrator 00:03
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
Hey, everyone, it’s Jason Baum, Director of membership at DevOps Institute. And this is the humans of DevOps podcast. So I am so excited today to be chatting with Ayelet Sachto, strategic cloud engineer for a little company you might know called Google. Ayelet welcome to the podcast.

Ayelet Sachto 00:41
Hello, thank you for having me.

Jason Baum 00:44
Absolutely. So I let we’re going to get cumin on this podcast. That’s what I always warn people about, we’re going to get a little bit in the weeds of you and your life and what you do at Google and just about pretty much everything. Are you comfortable with that?

Ayelet Sachto 01:00
Yes, without human, there’s no solutions. So all in

Jason Baum 01:04
very go. And if you said no, we’re probably going to do it anyway. So alright, so just get just we’ll just jump right into it. So you know, tell me a little bit about yourself. Maybe a bit about how did you end up at Google?

Ayelet Sachto 01:22
Um, wow, really? Tech one question for the beginning. But let’s, let’s start. So boats, almost 20 years in the industry now. I started unofficially, when I got my first computer, and I try to take it out part, first of all, from the US perspective, and then physically,

Jason Baum 01:47
for you when you did that

Ayelet Sachto 01:49
12. But you’re laughing, but that’s how I learned the importance of DLL files. Which for the Mac and Linux people in the crowd, this is how I got started with Windows. Don’t, don’t blame me. And more officially when I joined the Army and was also in a technical unit, and I could grow up there, let’s say, in a technical role and lead a team. And but since then, I also did my degree in psychology and computer science. So combining humans and computers from the very beginning. I have also been in several companies, including my own startup, and, and was in different technical roles from an IC, tech lead team lead. And about a year and a half ago, I joined Google as a ski, as you said. And what I’m doing is also very similar solving problems for GCP, or your customers.

Jason Baum 03:05
So I’m not gonna give away your email address on the podcast, but it does have the term problem solver in it. And I find that to be awesome. Because it was very unique, but it also tells exactly, I think what you do, you know, so what is it about problem-solving? I mean, you said at the age of 12, you were taking apart computers, I imagine that was to figure out how to put them back together. Although I have a three-year-old, she takes apart things, she just doesn’t put them back together. You know, you talked about psychology, you’re not the first person, by the way, to say that they had an interest in psychology, you might be the first person who actually had a degree in psychology and computer science, I would imagine that makes you like perfect for the job. So what is about problem-solving that interests you?

Ayelet Sachto 03:55
So a few things. One, I think it’s that combination of humans and computers that I mentioned. So I do believe that to create impact. You need that human perspective you want to even if you’re thinking about skill, you still need that human aspect. You still need to influence people to make that change. And technology is just another aspect of solving problems creating opportunities. The second aspect is for me personally, for me, personally, I really like the creating aspect, not just innovation, but creating new stuff. And I’m doing it both at work and at home. Like it’s, for me it’s an art form. It can be addition to kitchen, it can be documentation. I know people hate it, but it’s sort of unnecessarily evil. It can be a piece of code, it can be an Even a new site can be a lot of different ways. But for me, the creation aspect, so contributing and making an impact is amazing. It filled me and it’s my passion.

Jason Baum 05:21
Yeah. And I would imagine that’s probably what leads someone to start their own startup. Because most entrepreneurs, if you speak with them, I used to do a podcast with retail entrepreneurs, people who started their own retail shops. There’s a little bit of that, well, there’s a lot of passion. There’s a lot of problem-solving, right? You create that business, because there’s a problem you want to solve it is that what led you to starting your own company.

Ayelet Sachto 05:51
So that was part of it. One part was the fact that it could have evolved. So I, we started from a service company, and I wanted to make that service a product. But it was more also ideology. We had sort of a slogan that, looking back with printing that you’ve, which called like security for everyone, I’m coming from a very enterprise and security background. And I saw that a lot of companies not just prioritizing security, and time like there was a lot of buzz about cyber, but also have a lot of resources to put behind it. But smaller companies, especially SMBs, did not have that level of resources, but they were the ones that were the target of attacks for ransoms and other hackers and potentially, like zero-days and things like that. So the idea was to create a product that will not defend for everything, but we’ll give them a sense of security, at least cover the 80% and allow them to protect the guns, those types of vulnerabilities.

Jason Baum 07:22
So, throughout the course of this, you know, you’ve walked us through your career path, which, you know, maybe we could touch on in a little bit, you know, it’s a journey, right? It’s not really climbing a ladder, we could touch on that comment, we’ll come back to that. But what were some of the challenges that you faced, as you were, you know, working your way to where you are today, you know, as a woman in tech. Yeah. And just kind of starting in tech, what, what, what were some of those challenges?

Ayelet Sachto 07:59
So I’ll start with the positive. I think that we are in a better place now than when I started. And I don’t think it’s till we are in a place that we can say that we have equality or diversity or inclusion in the workplace. But we are moving to a better direction pleased. I hope so. But, yeah, to be honest, it wasn’t easy. I think that especially in devil DevOps roles, and being a woman, it’s even harder. I was mostly, not just the only woman in the room in meetings, but the only woman in groups meetings in sometimes in that role in the company. And if they were women, sometimes it was maybe secretaries. And it was a lot of, let’s say, the feeling of a boys club. So it wasn’t easy, especially when I was 20. And I wasn’t aware that nobody told me oh, you know, that’s gonna be hard, like joining as a woman, to production engineering platform engineering role. That’s something unique but since I started, I was reminded all the time, that I’m a woman. And it was a something explicitly, people were saying what they’re what undermine and sometimes explicitly by their views behavior. And I think that that is is what actually led me to Google. I understood that company culture is very important for me. And I also understood that diversity and inclusion are very different things. And while there’s a lot of company that advocate for diversity, they are not practicing inclusivity.

Jason Baum 10:27
Can you give us an example of that, because that’s a pretty powerful statement? And I would love to hear what you mean by it.

Ayelet Sachto 10:37
Without going to a lot of details, I would say that even if you have, let’s say, in the room, you have 10 engineers, and Let’s even say that half of them are female. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. I don’t think that I ever been in that room. But let’s say theoretically, but you will treat the woman and a man differently. When it comes to promotions, when it’s come to pay, when it comes to criticism, when it’s come to even what it was, I have been in places that there was unofficially, a dress code for women, but not for men. So if you put all of that, even if you have diversity, even if you are advocating for diversity, and you are hiring people from different backgrounds, those people will leave the it will be really hard to retain those people. And I’m explicitly talking about gender. But this is not explicitly for gender, it will be for people with disabilities, people that are on neurotypical and neurodiverse people that are from different races, gender, and so on. It’s sort of feels very trendy to be diverse now. But advocating for inclusivity is something else.

Jason Baum 12:18
Yeah, I mean, look, I think everybody’s felt a little bit at some point in their career, because we all have different things that maybe, maybe it’s not even you could see it that make us different, or, you know, like you even said, as a 20-year-old, even being young, sometimes in a position with others who are in different places in their career, sometimes your voices in hurt. It could be multiple things. It doesn’t have to be just gender-related. But yeah, I mean, that it’s that’s pretty powerful. I think it’s pretty true. You know, we had Evelyn or look on the podcast a few weeks ago, and she talked about stereotypes, and how sometimes we’re pegged. And then we honestly start buying into our own stereotypes. And that’s pretty hard to break that cycle. And I think that’s a little bit of what’s happening, like what you’re talking about. And yeah, and inclusivity. I think recognizing the problem is a start and talking about it. Because, you know, I’ve been educated over the past few weeks about things that you know, you might not think about so I really appreciate your sharing that, you know, what tips do you have for women who are entering the workplace in technology.

Ayelet Sachto 13:41
So I think that one of them, of the, of the thing that really empowered me was joining the community that I mentioned, women in high tech in Israel, understand understanding that power of community of people that actually care about you, that promote you that help each other and very positive atmosphere was really really empowering, both from getting that feedback and help but also from helping each other and, and let other, learn from my experience and share. So I do recommend not just to women, but joining communities be more involved. And I think that also leads me to my second recommendation, advice tip call it whatever, which is to put yourself out there and try and reach outside of your comfort zone. It can help you to evolve because tech is communal, and by sharing knowledge. You can also help l Potter but also learn by teaching To inspire others, and it also helps you to build credibility. During that time, I also learned the importance of self-branding, and the importance of those soft skills that you’re talking about being humans. And soft steel, this is part of it. And just for the people that maybe are not familiar with, the term, buy soft skills, I’m referring to people skills, interpersonal skills, like problem-solving that we mentioned, or communication, leadership, teamwork, time management. And of course, you don’t need to have all of them. But those soft skills are what makes you you. It’s the how, and a lot of people and now I’ll give you an example, from women that I mentored are actually saying, Oh, I don’t have that special how I, I don’t have that additional value that add on. But by probing and asking those damn questions, you really understand quickly that they actually have those soft skills. And those do not really know how to tell those that story, they don’t really know how to emphasize it. And if you are really struggling in finding it, yourself, I would advise by starting with a very simple question. Let’s say you and your colleagues are doing the same exact project. How did you do that specific project differently, looking back what the value that you brought to the table was different? Now both of you can deliver successfully, both of you can deliver it with impact, but most likely, you will deliver it differently. And that difference is what makes you you. And that is what you would want to emphasize and to push on.

Jason Baum 17:07
So what is that unique quality in you? What’s your brand? What is? And then I also want to ask because you did mention that you mentor? So I want to see, you know, is there as a mentor in your life that you’ve had, who’s kind of help you to get to this point. But first question, you know, what is that brand was that personal thing that Eilat would bring to that project?

Ayelet Sachto 17:31
So I think that you call it out already. It’s that problem-solving. And combining that technical technology aspect and human aspects in all my work. And when I’m talking about problem-solving, other people say Oh, so you just writing code or you delivering solutions. But solutions look really really different. in different places. solutions can be documentation, solutions can be process improvements, solutions can be very different things, and the important part by to be a problem solver, you need to be flexible enough to accommodate for the need in that specific case.

Jason Baum 18:25
And then, so then, my second question on mentorship because I’m a big believer in mentorship, you mentioned community, obviously, I’m a big community fan. We are a community here, DevOps Institute as an association. Joining associations is a great way to meet people, it’s a great way to empower others, you know, we are, it’s that we are all in this together mentality when you join an association, or a club or community, anything like that. So what or who empowered you.

Ayelet Sachto 19:00
So for me, there wasn’t just one person. I think that there were a lot of amazing women along the way that helped me to community. And even before I had the opportunity a few years ago, my first official mentor was in Israel. And, and actually, the reason that I started that process was due to a nun official mentor, which was my former manager. And she’s a few years she was a few years before in the company, and she started a journey a little bit before. And there were a lot of similarities in our journey. But I think that What was the strangest thing was dead, she would have driven me to actually ask for what I need to reach to the next level to focus me on that. And actually, we are still in touch her knees, hon. And after she left the company, we came also friends. So, big shout out for her. And there were also a lot of amazing women in the community that helped me along the way, understanding that our branding, finding my own brand, and finding my own career path, believing me when I didn’t believe in myself. And I do believe that, as engineers, we do not just build those solutions. We build people. And we build teams. And we also build communities around it. And I think that this is especially true for DevOps and SRE in that regard. Because it’s a very unique domain that combines both interpersonal skills, and software skills, engineering skills. And to be successful, you need that combination. And you need sometimes to be a translator to translate between business needs and technical needs to translate between different functions in the organization. And I think that by understanding that your personal growth actually relates to enabling others actually drives you forward and promotes both yourself but also people around you.

Jason Baum 22:01
Alright, so we spoke a lot about your career a lot about you know, the people in your life that that helped to propel you and maybe more the community. Now, what’s one thing that nobody knows about you? Maybe that you haven’t shared before, a hobby and interest, something that you’ve done in the past?

Ayelet Sachto 22:28
I’m trying to be pretty transparent, in general, so I don’t think that there is something that nobody knows about me. I, I am also very open about my journey. Hopefully, that resonates with other people as well. And I think one of them, the things that maybe I’m looking back at, and I didn’t do and I might recommend, others to do, others to do is to be strategic, in, in their direction to be strategic in their journey. And, and thinking about not just the short term, but also their long term. And yes, I am saying it with sort of a disclaimer, don’t be too specific. Don’t be too stuck on the titles. Because things are changing, you said a digital word. So my role did not exist a few years ago, if, I don’t know, 10 years, or in the beginning of my career, I would say, oh, I want to go to be a cloud engineer. Maybe I would be reached because I would behave the power to predict the future. But nobody could really think about that as a career growth as a career presser at the time. And so be flexible, but still, try to be strategic. And, and on a very personal note, maybe if I can use the platform, we talked about being a woman in tech, so and I just want to put it out there that if you were harassed, told that you are not you don’t belong somewhere. It’s not your fault. It’s never your fault. It’s not okay. It’s their fault. Never put the blame on yourself. And I also have a request for others that listening that if you see that type of behavior don’t make it someone else’s problem, don’t shut up, call them out. It is sometimes more important to be an ally, then and show support, than not behaving this way to condemn that behavior.

Jason Baum 25:23
Yeah, sometimes being silent is complicit. So I think that’s a really important, important thank you for, for sharing that. And, you know, it is unfortunately been a theme, you know, that we’ve, we’ve spoken about on this podcast is, you know, really influential women in this industry, who’ve all shared experiences of at some point, someone told them, You can’t do this. And, and look at them now. But and then thank goodness, they didn’t listen. But you wonder how many are out there that did listen, and aren’t doing it now. And that’s, it’s just so unfortunate because to have something like that be your barrier. You know, there are natural barriers, I think in life, right? To have these barriers that shouldn’t be there because of your skin color, your sex, your disability, your age, whatever, those shouldn’t be factors in your progress in the progression of your career. It’s just truly unfortunate. So I appreciate your sharing that. Now, let’s lift it up a little bit to get to the end here as we come up close to our time. I don’t I don’t know. I just like to get interested sometimes in what you’re listening to music. So for me, and I’ve shared this in the past few podcasts as music has been something that has been my saving grace during the pandemic. Because obviously, it’s been hard we’ve been home, we’ve been, you know, off of our routines. What is something that you’ve been doing to kind of get through the pandemic? What’s your go-to? Is it music? Is it cooking? Is it what is it for you?

Ayelet Sachto 27:13
So I’m sort of laughing because maybe that’s something that not a lot of people know about me. And so of course, music is important, creating things is important. If we go back to March last year, I sort of tried all the creative things that I could think of from molecular food to making cocktails and, you know, dishes and stuff. But actually, something that did stick. Since then, is an please don’t laugh. It’s Tick, tock. And

Jason Baum 28:00
media count.

Ayelet Sachto 28:01
Yes, I’m not posting I’m a consumer and, and actually, I don’t know if you’re familiar, but the algorithm is AI. So it’s customized the content to you. And my friends were like, are you talking about the denting app, like when, like, children are dancing and like, maybe that’s what you see, I’m actually seeing a lot of interesting information about history and science, I’m seeing a lot of amazing artists, that to be honest. Like, I’m amazed by their talent and gift. And I’m also grateful that we are in a time that I can view and listen to those artists that actually, you know, thinking, my own story, my own feeling is out loud. Because a few years ago, we were not we didn’t have that platform, and they didn’t have the stage. So like, just the very mainstream artists were listening to so I do enjoy also the less known artists, and actually, some of them become more and more known, which is also great due to the, to the platform

Jason Baum 29:33
as a lot of great ways to get content right now. You know, I was talking to someone about this, like the pandemic has been difficult and obviously you know, there are the aspects of the pandemic that are truly horrific. But you know, we also are if there was ever a time to have a lockdown to be locked down to be in your home. Boy, there’s a lot of ways to get entertainment right now that didn’t exist even like 10 years ago. So it’s almost like We’ve been working towards, oddly enough, so yeah, I totally understand what you’re saying. And also finding the town. I love that too. I have been listening to music pretty much ad nauseum these days.

Ayelet Sachto 30:15
So from, from working from home, I actually worked for years from home. And from a productivity perspective, it was awesome. Like, you shorten your travel time, you are more focused. You don’t have a lot of distractions, but from well-being and from a human interaction perspective, it was really, really challenging. And you mentioned horrible time, I think that distress itself is a really big factor to consider as well. It’s not just you’re stuck at home, you are also under a lot of stress. And so for me, it’s it was a great outlet to, to hear also and know like-minded people and be connected in a, you know, you know, reality disease not really collect connected. But I can’t wait for actually things to get back to normal. And thing my co-workers in people back in the office just to have an organic conversation about something that is not just with an agenda.

Jason Baum 31:37
Yes. Yeah, I agree. I agree. This is pretty cool, too. I mean, I can have a conversation with you. You’re in the UK. And, and you’re Israeli born in the UK, right. And here we are, I’m in. I’m 10 minutes outside of Manhattan. And we’re having this conversation. And now I have a friend in the UK, which is pretty cool. So Ayelet thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. It was so much fun having you.

Ayelet Sachto 32:06
Thank you so much for having me. Lovely talking to you guys.

Jason Baum 32:09
And thank you for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m going to end this episode the same way I always do encourage you to become a premium member of DevOps Institute to get access to even more great resources like this one. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and most of all, stay human, live long and prosper.

Narrator 32:31
Thanks for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps podcast. Don’t forget to join our global community to get access to even more great resources like this. Until next time, remember, you are part of something bigger than yourself. You belong

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