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Marking International Women’s Day 2022

Eleanor Toulmin on March 7, 2022Head of Business Operations — Buildkite
Abstract illustration of a woman with a laptop and colourful shapes flying out

2022 is starting to have the feel of a desperate script writer trying to one up on last season’s cliffhanger. As an Australian employee at a mostly Australian company, I sit with a heavy heart as I look upon our domestic and international news. An unjustifiable war in Ukraine, climate change-driven floods across Australia’s northern states, an ongoing pandemic, as well as everything else that is happening in the world at the moment. With an already full heart and nearly empty cup I came to think about International Women’s Day late, but with a deep desire to still do something.

This year’s theme by the UN is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”

The last part of the theme really sticks with me. For a sustainable tomorrow. And you’ll see that this theme is really echoed in the sometimes spicy takes below. We want a sustainable tomorrow, and gender equality is just one part of a much bigger vision for that future.

For me, sustainability increasingly means looking inward as well as out. Trying to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue. Trying to still find a desire to help and to be helpful.

One of the things that helps me is my job.

Buildkite isn’t perfect — I don’t think any business ever could be. But it is the best place I have worked. Including on a gender diversity front:

  • We currently have 26 men and 25 women employed at Buildkite (though engineering leadership still skews towards men and supportive backend functions tend towards women).
  • We offer six months fully paid parental leave for primary carers and three months for secondary carers — regardless of gender — for employees who are adopting, and who are having a baby (including through surrogacy and for stillbirths).
  • We provide every employee with a self-care budget to look after themselves at work and in the rest of their life too.
  • During Covid’s working from home orders, we provided flexible hours that allowed mums and dads to work split shifts through the day when childcare was closed during Melbourne’s lockdowns.
  • But most importantly for me — I am seen as a competent person — regardless of my gender or disability. My gender and disability are still important to me, they just don’t change how my colleagues engage with me anywhere near as much as they have at past jobs.

Within Buildkite, my role — Head of Business Operations — is to get everyone the information and support they need to do their best work. And I love it. I really do. I may not be an engineer, but I am a woman and I am in tech. But I’m also so much more than a woman in tech. To quote Beyoncé — I’m not bossy, I’m the boss (at least of my own business unit).

So with the goal of thinking about gender equality and a sustainable tomorrow, I went out and asked some other women at Buildkite some questions.

What do you love about your job?

I love that software development offers an illusion of certainty and order in a world that is full of ambiguity and contradictions. When I write code I feel like I am in a fictional universe where behaviours are idempotent and deterministic and I am able to control them. Even with bugs you're always a stack trace or a log output away from some form of objective truth. The real world does not work like this and is far more messy and unknowable.

Headshot of Rose Lu
Rose LuSenior Software Engineer, Buildkite

I get to solve technical problems with an amazing group of very capable and fun people, and see the direct impact it has on users.

Headshot of Jasmine Quek
Jasmine QuekSenior Engineer, Buildkite

The high level of trust, and working with great people. I like that coding problems feel self-contained and solvable compared to the nebulous miasma of doubt that life often presents me with. In my job, I get to escape to a programmatic world governed by logic sweet logic, just for a little while.

Headshot of Laura Suzuki
Laura SuzukiSoftware Engineer, Buildkite

I love working with engineers who build great tools. I love showing potential customers that there is a way to make their company better, to be more efficient, more productive and show off our awesome product. I love to hear the great things customers say after they buy Buildkite. It is so rewarding to see engineers within our customers change jobs and be so excited with Buildkite and so disappointed in their tools at the new company that they evangelize Buildkite for us.

Headshot of Christine Foster
Christine FosterDirector of Sales, Buildkite

What is an accomplishment you are proud of?

I lost my job right at the start of the COVID pandemic when the world was a frighteningly, uncertain place. I'm extremely proud of all the work I'd done, relationships I'd built and communities I'd contributed to which led to me coming through that time and landing at Buildkite. Sometimes the most challenging of times provide the greatest of opportunities.

Headshot of Georgina Robilliard
Georgina RobilliardHead of People, Buildkite

Buildkite's new values. I was pretty anxious when approaching it as a project, because values should really go to the heart of how a company operates and sees itself. But with G working alongside me I knew we could come up with something that would make us stronger. It was so exciting how people really actively participated in the process, and were then happy with the outcome we ended up with. I totally still see them as Buildkite Values 2.0 though – there's always room to continue improving how we work and be.

Headshot of Eleanor Toulmin
Eleanor ToulminHead of Business Operations, Buildkite

I'm happy that I stayed working in tech long enough that I got enough skills and seniority to be picky about where I wanted to work, I found my first few jobs quite tough and it was entirely to do with the environment and not the work itself. Having this security meant I felt like I could take a break to do my Masters in Creative Writing and publish my book and be one of those rare people in the arts industry that isn't financially struggling all the time, gives me a lot more creative freedom.

Headshot of Rose Lu
Rose LuSenior Software Engineer, Buildkite

Why did you join Buildkite?

"Buildkite is a SaaS startup that brings great people together to problem solve and better a bit of software that was designed to solver bigger problems for the broader DevOps community. Centred around authentic human connection the company wants its employees to bring their whole self to work, creating a culture that allows for creativity, ideas and play. It also helps relationships between customers, as it's built on a peer to peer approach. Buildkite serves the DevOps community, rather than commercialising it." I wrote that in my third week here, and I sensed it before I joined.

Headshot of Samantha Milburn
Samantha MilburnSales, Buildkite

I really loved the interview process and everyone I spoke with! I felt so strongly about the company that I wanted to be a part of it. It’s turned out even better than I expected, and I’m so grateful. It is a company where people care, and that has shaped how we work together to create products for our customers.

Headshot of Jasmin Wong
Jasmin WongSenior Product Designer, Buildkite

Buildkite is an amazing tool, it was the CI/CD tool I loved using as a Software Engineer 💚. I love developer tooling and infrastructure and dreamt of working for a company who built an amazing product that empowered teams in that space.

Headshot of Mel Kaulfuss
Mel KaulfussSenior Developer Advocate, Buildkite

Buildkite is like a weird fairy tale land where people celebrate each others differences and quirks, instead of trying to erase them. There is no articulate way to describe it, but I 'found my people'.

Headshot of Erin Rangi
Erin RangiCustomer Success Manager, Buildkite

What interested you in a career in tech?

Living in the heart of the Silicon Valley for two years, showed me the cool potential that tech innovation can bring the world! I wanted to work for a company that was changing the way we do things.

Headshot of Samantha Milburn
Samantha MilburnSales, Buildkite

I found work that allowed me to solve puzzles for money! I was always attracted to complex problems and I loved creating things. I found that whether I was writing code and shipping features myself or helping others to do the same, I was 100% fulfilled in a way no other career could provide.

Headshot of Mel Kaulfuss
Mel KaulfussSenior Developer Advocate, Buildkite

As a youngin I was interested in the latest tech news and innovation, but I also have to add that I did get a huge book of career info from my school with salary estimates and software engineer was looking very 💰💰💰👀

Headshot of Jasmine Quek
Jasmine QuekSenior Engineer, Buildkite

My dad was always very interested in the latest technology so he introduced us to that world since we were kids. I started playing lots of computer games and as a kid, I always said that I wanted to be a game developer. My big brother taught me how to program in Visual Basic, and I loved it since then.

Headshot of Paula Zeballos
Paula ZeballosSenior Support Engineer, Buildkite

A career in technology is not something I planned. I ended up here by accident, but what has kept me here is that the industry attracts people who not only want to do things better, but also be better.

Headshot of Georgina Robilliard
Georgina RobilliardHead of People, Buildkite

What would you want people to know about women in tech?

That there doesn’t need to be a term called “women in tech” where we are singled out for being… women in tech. Like others, I’ve attended events with some rather questionable advice on women entrepreneurship and leadership. I’d like for people to learn more about ways to strengthen that which makes us unique: emotional capacity, resilience, and care.

Headshot of Jasmin Wong
Jasmin WongSenior Product Designer, Buildkite

I feel lucky, and unable to comment on the experiences of other women; I'm white, CIS-gendered, and I know how to advocate for my own needs and speak up.

The term "women in tech" is a term that is overused - usually by marketing teams, and copious amounts of panel discussions that don't affect any real change because they're operating in echo chambers. The term is also exclusionary to people whose gender identity is non-binary, that trans women can feel uncomfortable/unwelcome in "women in tech" spaces/events unless it's explicitly stated that this space is for them and #IWD can be an uncomfortable day for people who are misgendered.

I would like to be "in tech" rather than be a "woman in tech" and I'd love to see women be valued for who they are and what they bring to technical teams and organisations (no matter their tone of voice, or emotional energy). Buildkite is better than some organisations but we still have a way to go to ensure we're supporting and growing women's careers and also understanding the pressures that come packaged up in that "women in tech" bundle.

Headshot of Mel Kaulfuss
Mel KaulfussSenior Developer Advocate, Buildkite

I really dislike the "women in tech" jargon. Here's why: It's a one-sided conversation that hasn't actually produced any substantial change from my point of view the last few years. I would much rather see a theme of equality addressing everyone's needs (to level the plane field) with change agents in the room who are held accountable (in this case, change agents are the people in positions of power who can actually take a grievance and do something about it).

In my experience the last decade, whenever I have attended a "women in tech" event at work or a conference, it has usually only been women in attendance and it has turned into a group venting session instead of "how to create change at the organization" so I stopped going and participating in those conversations because I found them highly un-productive. Instead, I started voicing my concerns to VP-levels (regardless of gender) and actually got some things done.

I am extremely grateful for all the women who spoke up in generations prior (and all the people in positions of power who amplified their voices) so that I have the opportunities I have today, AND I also believe that in the 21st century, the conversation needs to evolve.

I am a huge fan of data, and I really hope that in this decade we finally see statistics reported in a way that takes the burden away from marginalized groups and puts it on the people with power, i.e. Currently, we usually frame data like this: 42% of women will likely experience gender discrimination. You know what would be more useful? X# of companies do nothing about gender discrimination.

Headshot of Golzar Yaghoubpour
Golzar YaghoubpourSenior Marketing Manager, Buildkite

Buildkite is full of smart, hardworking people who want to make the world better through their actions and — sometimes — through their code. Some of them are women, all of them are in tech, and all of them wish you a Happy International Women’s Day. May our future have both gender equality and a sustainable tomorrow. 💚

Thank you to Pia Wrigg for the wonderful header illustration!

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