Women in Tech: Sailing through the Performance Engineering space

For Salt, a global Technology Recruitment Agency’s latest Women in Tech interview, we met with Diana Omuoyo, a System Performance Engineering Specialist, an independent contractor with experience in introducing open source tooling as well as DevOps methodologies into the Performance Engineering space, to talk about diversity, advice and how to navigate and progress in your career. 

The #SaltSessions Women in Tech #WiT interview series speaks with thought leaders from around the world to get their opinions and advice on how they have grown their career in tech and overcome challenges and adversity during their career.

  1. What is your current role, and the most exciting part of your work?

I am currently working as an independent contractor – specializing in Systems Performance Engineering. I enjoy working with a myriad of clients because each engagement is different and unique, allowing me to work on diverse applications, environments, and architectures; learning, and challenging myself every step of the way.

  1. What has been your most career-defining moment that you are proud of?

It’s hard to name just one – I have had a number of successes that bundled up to get me to where I am right now. If I had to pick one, I would say it was the decision to go independent – it was scary at first but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. The freedom to pick and choose the path and direction I would like to pursue is both empowering and satisfying, and I can honestly say it’s a decision I am proud to have made.

  1. What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in tech?

There are a lot of resources currently available to everyone; whereas, there are definitely not that many people actively using these resources to their advantage. I think as professionals we could offer more in-person learning sessions, sharing our experiences and encouraging more girls to be enthused about technology.

There’s often a misconception that technology is all about coding – If we could help others understand that there are a lot of different career paths, talking through some of what these are, then we might be able to garner more interest.

We should also strive to get them excited about technology early in their educational and/or career-pathing journey.

  1. What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in male-dominated environments?

My experiences have varied throughout my career and I have been lucky to have been in environments/companies with great cultures wherein gender was not really a factor in teams – in terms of hiring or performance evaluation. I have almost always been the only female on the team and have often managed to gel with my colleagues and have also had great managers and mentors along the way.

There have been some cases where a client would question whether or not my reports/strategies/ideas were valid. I had one role whereby I was required to run everything past my male colleague for review/signoff before they would be accepted {ideas, comments, emails, reports, suggestions…}. This was both confusing and disheartening because this person was at the same level as I was but did not work in the same field/specialty. Given that nothing I said or did would be accepted, I eventually turned these interactions into ‘sounding-board’/brainstorming sessions which ended up working well.

Also, as sad as it is to say, a lot of my challenges have come from lack of support from other women. I have had numerous discussions with other technical professionals and it seems to have happened to a lot of us. I think females in leadership have a lot of influence and it would be wonderful if we all supported and encouraged each other – regardless of gender.

  1. What is the biggest deterrent, in your opinion, to women succeeding in the workplace?

Fear and Intimidation

You will find that most women feel intimidated, especially around their male counterparts. It must be the confidence that most of the male counterparts exude and the internal fears that we, as women, harbor in terms of not wanting to look stupid or incapable.

Bad Experiences

As mentioned earlier, some experiences tend to leave a bad taste and often times, we find that the women tend to succumb to the pressure, or give up trying because there was perhaps backlash when they spoke up, or their ideas were dismissed etc.

Isolation and Discrimination

In some organizations/teams, you find that the culture promotes competition and as such, the team members will rally against each other to emerge on top. In these situations, I find that the women counterparts tend to feel even more isolated. Sometimes it’s just a matter of isolation/discrimination by exclusion. While this might be unintentional, the feeling of not being part of the “club” often emerges, and this can often lead to lack of motivation, zero teamwork and subsequently, sub-par performance overall.

  1. Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor in the workplace and why?

I have had a number of mentors along the way, right from college. I graduated with a degree in Finance but a passion for IT. My first boss saw my potential and hired me, mentoring me along the way and challenging me to be better every day. This kick-started my journey in IT and I eventually actively pursued it because I could not imagine doing anything else.

When I was making the transition from software developer to PerfEng, I had the support from my manager and a great mentor who showed me the ropes. His passion was infectious and was one of the smartest people I knew. So from them on, I have been striving to achieve as great heights as he has in the field.

The continued learning and collaboration with my colleagues over the years has also served to keep me encouraged, motivated, and hungry for more.

  1. As an employer, what would you recommend to other companies regarding infrastructure to have in place to develop the best talent?

Refine your hiring process to support the culture you wish to promote. If you hire the right people for your teams, empower them to be self-sufficient, and provide the support needed {training, mentorship, challenges, shared knowledge etc.} then the teams will have the foundation to succeed.

Understanding the strengths of the individuals and building on those not only motivates the person but also builds confidence. Managers need to understand their teams, the personalities and how best to provide leadership and guidance. Having enough training and knowledge that not everyone is the same and that different personalities may clash, but also compliment each other, a manager can help nurture each individual’s talents and drive their teams to success.

  1. What are some of the best and worst workplace initiatives you have seen/heard of to help promote diversity?

I have come across a few initiatives, most of which tend to be a double-edged sword wherein the intent might be to promote diversity but the execution or outcomes tend to create more isolation. E.g.

Quota System

While this system aims at encouraging companies to actively consider female inclusion and consideration for roles; often times it’s just about the numbers. While I am all for getting more women into technology and senior roles, I still believe in hiring the right person for the job. Sometimes the lines get blurred.

Women’s Groups

I have been a part of very successful workplace groups for women and have also seen some that totally miss the mark. I found that the successful ones are all-inclusive and primarily focus on encouragement, cheerleading, and empowering the women to grow in their careers.

Some of these groups, however, focus more on “grievances” and injustices in their discussions; while we all need a safe place to share these, it’s is also a great platform to build each other up as well.

  1. What is your biggest stress reliever?

I love to play tennis – it is both physically and mentally stimulating, and of course work is better if I win.

I also enjoy sailing – I love the challenge of winning a race, as well as a relaxing sailing session. Being on the water is quite calming and the sights are often quite intriguing.

  1. Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?

Yes, to trust my abilities, have confidence, and speak my mind. I eventually got the push and support I needed from one of my managers who was very empowering, who saw the gaps and guided me through the transformation journey.

  1. What job did you dream of when you were a kid – your Plan A career path?

Flight Attendant – I enjoy travelling, exploring new places, meeting new people and learning about different cultures. I always dreamt of travelling the world and figured the best way to do that was to be a flight attendant. Having never pursued that path, I don’t really know if I’d have been any good at it.

12. Fun fact about you? 

I am deathly afraid of dogs!

About Diana Omuoyo

Diana is located in the capital of New Zealand, Wellington, and has extensive experience in software development, SDLC, and systems architecture – with a speciality in performance engineering and application/systems tuning, coupled with championing DevOps initiatives to support continuous delivery. Over the last few years, she has been leading ‘Continuous Delivery for Performance’ research and delivery, introducing open source tooling as well as DevOps methodologies into the performance engineering space.

Diana continues to lead the implementation of performance testing technical practices aimed at providing quality, efficiency and cost-effective ways to clients’ software performance requirements – including, but not limited to, risk analysis, test execution, and application monitoring solutions.

In her spare time, she loves to play tennis and enjoys sailing; both competitively and for relaxation purposes, soaking in the beautiful scenery

Find more Salt Women in Tech interviews here…

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Women in Tech: Sailing through the Performance Engineering space

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