Stepping into Your Confidence & Embracing Soft Skills in Tech

Aqssa Mohammad
March 26, 2024

Navigating the tech industry in a male dominated culture is no easy feat. In addition to having acquired plenty of hard skills, the soft skills it requires to build a lasting culture are crucial and often underestimated. 

Amritha Nair, Senior DevOps Engineer at adMarketplace, discusses the highs and lows of her constantly evolving field and the key skills needed to succeed. 

DevOps is a methodology that promotes the collaboration and communication between software developers and other IT teams, while also automating and streamlining software delivery in a secure and scalable way. How would you explain DevOps to someone outside of technology?

Have you ever opened up your phone in the morning and noticed that one of the apps you look at everyday changed a bit overnight? Either a completely new feature or an old one that feels smoother or easier to handle? That’s usually a result of some DevOps-culture-infused technology. We’re the facilitators between what software developers want to do and how they get to do it.

I’ve heard it put this way: Say you’re building a car on an assembly line. Software developers are like people who build the car. DevOps engineers are the folks who build the assembly line. What skills do you think make a great DevOps engineer?

When I first began learning the ropes of DevOps, I wasn't just learning how to build out CI/CD and IaC pipelines, YAML, Groovy, Dockerfiles, Terraform, Kubernetes, Security tools, and all of that. I was also learning how my code works with the developer’s code. That means I had to understand Python, Java, Angular, Maven, Node, and more.

So there’s plenty of hard skills involved in being a great DevOps engineer. Soft skills are less easy to learn, though. Empathy is a big one. We work with so many different departments, so it's really important to have empathy for other people, their responsibilities, and the milestones they’re trying to meet. I believe that everything that comes out of DevOps is a result of culture, and soft skills like empathy really build a strong, lasting DevOps culture.

In the spirit of continuously iterating and improving, I feel like a lot of us in tech get really good at shutting off our natural instinct to relax.

So, how do you prioritize well-being after you’re done smashing your keyboard? 😉

I feel like women especially are overly critical of themselves if we’re not perfect. We’re often the only women in our entire team, so we constantly feel like we have to prove that we’re worth taking up the space. If you didn’t finish your Udemy course or if your code isn’t perfect by the end of the day, don’t beat yourself up.

Take a walk, sit on your balcony to feel the sun on your skin, lift weights at the gym. Keep reminding yourself that you need more than your desk to lead a fulfilling life. That applies to anyone, regardless of your gender.

If you could have dinner with any famous woman in history, living or historical, who would they be?

Definitely the ENIAC programmers, a group of six women who helped program one of the earliest electronic computers. Kathy Kleiman, an author, found a picture of them standing in front of the first modern computer. She asked who these women were and was told they were just “refrigerator women,” a term used to describe pretty women hired to stand in front of a new product to market it. 

Kleiman refused to believe that. After some research, she found out that they were pioneers of early programming and software. She then gave them the recognition they deserved in her book, Proving Ground: The Untold Story of the Six Women who Programmed the World’s First Modern Computer.

Apart from hearing about their accomplishments, I’d love to share how far society has come and discuss if any of their struggles were similar to the ones we face even today.

The first early computers couldn’t have been built without women like the ENIAC programmers, but the number of women in computer science has whittled down since their time. From the 1970s–1980s, women made up around 40% of computer systems majors. It’s now fallen to around 19%.

That’s why it’s so important to keep empowering women in tech to raise their voices–whether it’s offering up new ideas, pushing for leadership roles, or encouraging others to join the field. To any women who have questioned the importance of their mind and voice, I recommend the TED talk “Technology Needs Women!” by Mona Badie. 

A lot of engineers deal with imposter syndrome, a fascinating concept disguised as negative self-talk and questioning if you deserve the space you’re taking. I recommend The Mountain is You by Brianna Wiest, a book full of important messages and lessons I often find my way back to whenever the imposter monster visits. 

Lastly, to any woman in need of a mentor or a friend in the field, you can always message me on LinkedIn!

Amritha encourages women to raise their voices, step into their confidence, and empower other women to take on leadership roles in tech. Amplifying female voices in tech allows us to tap into a rich source of fresh perspectives that can only push the field forward. The more voices we hear, the more vibrant and exciting technology becomes.

Check out more from our Women in Tech series here and discover how Aqssa embraces her voice, femininity, and fosters an empowering work culture.