#284 Valarie Regas from judoka & stay-at-home mum to renowned dev advocate
Our latest podcast episode features an inspiring conversation with Valarie Regas, a woman who successfully transitioned from being a stay-at-home mom to a thriving DevOps engineer. Valarie's story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the value of diverse perspectives in the tech industry.
As we delve into Valarie's journey, it's impossible not to admire her passion for technology. From her early fascination with computers at a young age to her determination to enter the tech industry after years of domestic life, Valarie's path is nothing short of inspirational. Her unique experiences and perspective have brought invaluable insights to her teams and have made a significant impact on the industry.
One of the most important topics we discussed in this episode is the significance of mental health in the tech industry. Valarie advocates for more humane work cultures that prioritize employees' mental health. She bravely shares her personal experiences with burnout, depression, and anxiety, emphasizing the need for companies to consider the human aspect in their drive for innovation.
The episode also touches on the trials and tribulations of job hunting. It's a process that can often feel daunting, especially for those who feel like outsiders in the industry. But as Valarie explains, it's essential to value your unique background and experiences. She discusses the importance of diverse perspectives in problem-solving, reinforcing the need for inclusivity and diversity in the tech industry.
One interesting aspect of our conversation revolves around the influence of upbringing on leadership styles. As a Southern woman in tech, Valarie's experiences shed light on how her cultural background has shaped her approach to leadership. This perspective is invaluable in a tech world that often overlooks the importance of cultural diversity in leadership roles.
Towards the end of our conversation, we delve into the issue of parental leave policies in the U.S. Valarie gets real about her experience of returning to work after having a baby, highlighting the lack of support for new parents in many tech companies. It's a sobering reminder of the work that still needs to be done to ensure tech workplaces are supportive and inclusive for all employees.
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Valarie Regas: 0:00
Be yourself. I find that when I get up on stage and I tell a room full of people, oh yes, and I'm sober by choice, and here's why burnout and depression had led me to problematic drinking because I was under so much stress, and you don't have to live that way and I share my dirty laundry. One of my kids asked me why do you have to tell people that I'm like, yeah, but if I recover loudly, it can save other people from dying quietly, and all that matters on this planet, all that matters, is the people. I believe if you make a good product and take care of your people, the money will follow. You don't have to worry about your money. It really will follow if you are putting good in this world by taking, making the best choices you can with regards to the other people in it. And I don't know. I'm looking for my next role, hopefully in developer advocacy. If not, I do love me some engineering. I would love to get back to container orchestration. It's cool, but mostly I'm just looking for a company that has integrity and morals and ethics and treats the people that work there like human beings, because that's where the innovation comes from. Comfortable, respected, cared for people get to make cool stuff and I wanna make some cool stuff.
Hello and welcome to Developer's Journey, the podcast bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host, tim Bollinger. On this episode, I receive Valerie Regas. Valerie is a DevOps fanatic, full stack developer, a Georgia Tech coding bootcamp graduate and a veteran mommy. She holds a BA in psychology and currently works as a DevOps engineer. After years of being a stay at home mom, she decided to change her life by entering tech and has learned a lot along the way. In addition to DevOps, she enjoyed mixed martial arts, fighting, tabletop role-playing games, public speaking, creating tiny humans and activism of all sorts. Valerie, a warm welcome to DevTourney.
Well, hello and thanks for having me today.
Oh, it's my pleasure and it's remote, so I don't fear anything coming your end if I say bad things about you. But you're role-playing game fanatics, so that's good Anyhow. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show. Every month you are keeping the DevTourney lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests than editing audio tracks, please go to our website, devjourneyinfo, and click on the support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable DevTourney journey. Thank you, and now back to today's guest, valerie. As you know, the show exists to help listeners understand what your story looked like and imagine how to shape their own future. So, as is usual on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your DevTourney?
You know it's a fun question because even just a month ago the answer to this would have been different. The older I get and I'm officially an old now I'm in my 40s and that's for y'all out there in your 20s and 30s, please know that now in my 40s, you could not pay me to go back to my 20s and 30s, literally like there is nothing you could do. 40s are great and in fact I get mad now when people tell my children enjoy your childhood, it's the best time of your life. No, it is not. No, it is not. Being 40 is fantastic. If I decide I want to stay up late eating junk food, playing video games, that's on me and I can do it. It's great. So even just a month ago, like your perspective changes. I might have chosen, like when my DevTourney started at a different place, but I'm gonna say it started when I was eight. Actually, I saw my first computer in the wild. You know my father took me, so we used to have this store back in the day. We had this store in the States called Radio Shack. I have no idea if they were international or not, but they don't exist now and that was where you went to get random chords and dongles and whatnot, before we even knew what a dongle was. And so my father goes to get something and there's this magic box on a table and it's very expensive and he's like, don't break it, but you can touch whatever that is. He didn't even know. And it was this. You know Apple, and I had never seen a computer I was maybe eight. And you know he comes back a few minutes later and I've created some little like you know scratch game, just little stick figure running up a hill, kind of thing. And he was so excited. And you have to understand, my father was born in 1926. My father was older. When he had me he referred to me as the fall crop. I'm the youngest of four and you know I have a sister who's 30 years older than me. So my father fought in World War II. So for him, seeing an actual real life computer in the real world was exciting, just on the face of things, you know. But for him to see his eight year old work, this magic box, was like oh my God, I've raised a sorceress. You know he was very excited and so we go home and he tells my mother this excited he's like we've got to encourage this. She just knew how to work this thing. And my mom, in all seriousness and with no maliciousness, just very matter of fact, they said, well, how will that help her find a husband and make babies? And that was the start of all sorts of journeys for me. If I'm, you know now that I've done like 30 years of therapy. By the way, everyone out there, if you don't have a therapist, you're missing out. Don't think of them as mental health advisors. Think of them as life consultants In business. If you don't have a subject matter expert on staff and you don't know the solution and you don't have the skill set to deal with something, you hire a consultant, right? So I have had a life consultant on and off for 30 years, because I am certainly not a subject matter expert on how to live this life and you know. So I look back at this little eight-year-old girl and it did kind of dash my dreams of. Well, yeah, I did have a lot of fun playing with this thing. Maybe dad's onto something, and so I kept going. I fell in love with Judo at some point and kind of went down a path of physical skill. I'm gonna use my body to live this life. I'm gonna be an athlete. And then, when I went to school, there was still sort of that air in my social circles of you're not really going to school for a bachelor's of arts degree, you're going for an MRS degree, you're going to meet the right man and get married, and that's why girls go to college, and I hate that. I grew up in that, but I also love that I grew up in that because it gives me a different perspective on things. So I was afraid to get a CS degree. I really was. I got a psychology degree with a minor in gender studies. That's not lucrative, and all of my electives, though, were like in microbiology and medical immunology, and I was always very drawn to the sciences, but kind of convinced by the culture I grew up in that women don't do that. It's just not your place, and so I did whatever one wanted. I had my starter husband, that college husband we don't talk about anymore, which kind of pretend that one didn't happen. I got better from that after a few years, and I did bodyguard work. I worked as a medical office manager. I've always been drawn to leading people, when you're a high level athlete and you win a gold medal. Especially and I know it shouldn't change things, but it does when you win a gold medal with your country written across your shoulders and your anthems involved, it's a very special feeling. But I didn't think there was a better feeling until I started coaching other people and seeing my athletes win their own gold medals. And that's when the water I mean I seriously have broken down, sobbing on the side of the mat so proud at one of my athletes winning their gold. And so I've always been really drawn to coaching people and helping them and office management just sort of felt natural like great, I've got this staff, I'm gonna help them excel. One of my goals for software is to get into management and foster new talent and help people just become whoever it is they're supposed to be. But yeah, I don't know how I ended up in this industry. It doesn't make any sense to go from yes, I'll be your bodyguard for the evening to oh, I would love to orchestrate your containers. Yeah.
But there's a story to be told Before we get there. You said something. You said I was afraid of getting a CS degree. Mm-hmm, Was that in your mind at that time already?
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. It was so ingrained in me culturally that sort of my only purpose on this planet was to breed children and teach them to fear God and maintain the status quo. And it was really ingrained in me that I wasn't not just because I was born a woman I mean, that was my first mistake, don't get me wrong but it was sort of ingrained in me that just I as a person wasn't smart enough, wasn't good enough, wasn't capable of. That was definitely a message that was both purposefully and accidentally sent to me throughout my youth. And some of the problem was and I I won't even blame a quote American public schools, I mean all schools globally, have their issues. But I just happened to be raised in an area, in a school system where they didn't know what to do with a kid who was malvy, had a high IQ but some learning disabilities. Like I'm dyslexic, my IQ is high but I struggle to read sometimes because the words won't stop moving. It's very rude of them and you know I just all through elementary school, for example. I mean at one point I was being put into a gifted program and one of the teachers was like well, that's not possible, she's an idiot. How could she test for the gifted program? Like there's gotta be some mistake. And you know they didn't think about the words they were saying and how they would impact a growing child. But and what's funny is, you know, I always have been just sort of a type to say if something needs doing, you just do it. So like I dated a person who was getting a CS degree and if I would say, hey, I wanna go out, let's go shoot pool, let's go party, let's go play, if he said, no, I have homework, I'd say, well, give me your books, I can do it. And I would just knock his homework out for him. And not because I understood the material, but because I'm just very good at pattern recognition and finding things. And you know, my starter husband in college was getting a geology degree. I did a lot of work for him, just like random little assignments. Just, you're saying we can't go to a movie because you have too much work.
Well then, give me your work, I'll just do it.
I wanna go to a movie and I've just. You know, I worked as a handyman at one point and this poor gentleman who hired me, he would say well, do you know how to lay tile? This house needs tile laid. Of course I know how to lay tile. I didn't know how to lay tile, but I did know how to go to the library and get a book about tile work and read it and then lay tile. And you know I've just always been I get that from my father. I'm very much a little George clone. You know he re-did an entire home based on reading books at the library and then coming home and saying I'd like to redo the electrical system. Now I read a book about it. The Colonel and I, you know, definitely have that bond, quite proud to be his daughter. But yeah, so it's fascinating. I always feel weird giving people advice about getting into tech because my entry was so odd. I did five years as a stay at home parent and that is bar none the hardest job I've ever had. I didn't know that life could be that hard. It really is. I mean, it was 24, seven grueling hard work and what I didn't realize is that I was sort of automating our home? I didn't know. So I had never heard of DevOps because I'd never heard of anything really to do with computers. I married a technical architect. He's incredible. I've decided to keep this husband. He's lasting a while and so you know he would talk about work things and I had no idea what he was saying and that was neat. I didn't realize that I was doing things like having a standard grocery order that I could just click a button Sunday morning and have food arrive at my home for the week. And I was doing little things to automate all of the stay at home tasks and really optimize efficiency. Like I divided the home into four zones and only cleaned one zone per weekday, monday through Thursday. And like I had and the zones were picked not based on you know geo location Like not these two rooms because they're closest to each other, but what's the average time it takes to clean them. Like I was putting so much mental energy into this job that I hated. But that's you know what you do when you're me you just make the best of whatever presents itself and you power through. And so I had gotten pretty miserable, though as a stay at home. I was just unhappy and my husband was noticing that I was unhappy and he one night was working on a work problem and I stayed up late to be with him, not that I could help or do anything useful, it just felt like, you know, he's got the burden of our finances on him and he's clearly quite stressed and I love him. So I'm gonna stay awake out of solidarity. And at one point I thought, well, I can't help with the work thing, but you know, I'm logical, I can ask questions and maybe, maybe I'll ask the right question that will remind him of something he knows he's just too stressed to recall right now. And so, sure enough, I started asking questions. And you know it was really funny because I'm like all innocent and well, is there some way that you know you could just pull this kind of data to get this kind of answer? And he's like no, it doesn't work that way. And then, you know, after a few questions, he kind of softened and was like oh, oh, no, it doesn't work that way, but you just reminded me and I can do this, and blah, blah, blah, and I remember it felt so good, it was like a drug. It was like a drug when he solved the problem and we could go to bed and I just, I mean, I remember sitting there thinking I don't know what this feeling is, but it's so nice and warm and fuzzy and it was debugging. It's what debugging feels like. So about a week later he found me at like two o'clock on a Tuesday. I had put the kids in front of the TV like a good mom, strapped into their high chairs, eating food, watching TV, and I had gone upstairs and locked every door between me and the children and was sitting in my closet drinking wine, like you do in the middle of the day, sobbing. And he came home and was like you don't look okay. I was like I'm not okay, I suck at this job and I hate it. And so we decided that maybe being a stay at home parent wasn't for me, and he suggested I look into something to do with software. He was like you know, you're logical, you're analytical, your pattern recognition is on point, do something. And he really thought I would be drawn to data science, because I am so facts and figures based and I don't do well with vague, I want to see numbers. I get mad when people say, well, if you do X, your chance of death is double if you do Y and I'm like, yeah, but what's the chance on Y? Like double, what If it's twice as high but Y is non-existently present? I don't care, you know, I've just always been very data driven and so he thought I would really dig that. And I ended up doing the coding bootcamp at Georgia Tech for web development, and that's where I was actually introduced to the concept of DevOps, which DevOps doesn't exist. I didn't know that at the time, but it doesn't exist. There's no such thing. It's a myth, it's a fairy tale. And so I laugh. When I see a job title for DevOps engineer I'm like what does that even mean? Because at three different companies, that is, three different roles that look nothing alike. But the concept of DevOps culture, the concept of okay, if you have to do something more than once, you need to automate it, you need to make it reusable, and the concept of running things efficiently to save time and resources that really spoke to my stay at home mom heart, because that's what mommies do, that's what stay at home parents do. All you do is worry about resource allocation, disaster recovery and mitigation. You are forever thinking about how to make everything smooth and how to get your little teammates to work together. I mean, I fear no meeting where adults are yelling at each other over software, because I have made small children agree in such a way that like they both think they won the fight and I really I just fear no boardroom anger because, well, I'm pretty good at convincing irrational tiny humans to get along with each other. I can handle adults, that's fine.
I'm laughing, my heart out.
Great, like compared to my toddler. No adult scares me.
I mean you fully.
And the two of my three children are like living with velociraptors. They're crazy, bright, a little bit evil, and they're just, they're just, they're tiny velociraptors. In my home my oldest, though my oldest, though, is the one that tricked me into having more. Be warned y'all out there that have one kid and that kid sleeps and is respectful and empathetic and kind, and that kid is just an angel on earth. That's a trick, it's a trap. It's a trap. It's to convince you to have more and then you have more, and they're like tiny velociraptors and they're three years old, picking your locks. Like we have baby gates all over our home for a four year old, as though he's still a baby, but he's so destructive we have to have like Fort Knox. There's like a prison in our living room and two engineers had to zip tie this together to make it work. It's ridiculous. So, yeah, I got into the software thing, and I think the end result here is that I've never really felt like I belong. I'd be interested to like look at the feedback from your listeners on people who come into software from a non-traditional background. Do you ever really feel like you're not an outsider anymore, cause I'm six years in still feeling like a stay at home mom hanging out with the software people.
I've never heard it put it this way, but I guess that's a common trait. Still about not belonging, about not being up to the task, so hashtag imposter syndrome. I'm always looking up to the others and saying they have something I don't have. So I'm not right here, and this has been talked many, many, many times on the show, but I'm not in the way you put it directly.
It's a little different. Like I think I did suffer from imposter syndrome the first few years, the I'm not enough, I don't belong because I'm incapable, or these negative self thoughts. But it's different. At this point I know I'm capable, I'm actually. So I'm in a weird place where I'm job hunting right now and I look at these job wrecks and I'm like, yeah, I can do this job and any section that I don't have experience with. I know I can learn. I know I'm capable, over a long enough timeline, of learning literally anything. If you need brain surgery, just give me long enough with enough books and I'll figure it out. So I don't really have the I'm not good enough anymore. It's more just like 20 of these things belong together. One of these things does not kind of a odd man out. Like I know I'm capable of doing the work. I just still sort of feel like the bodyguard in the room or like a tourist, like I'm a tourist. Like all of these people are enjoying the beautiful cathedral together but one of them is wearing the wrong shoes and now we know she's a tourist, so I don't know. It's interesting. I try to. I go out of my way. Every conference I speak at every meetup I attend I go out of my way to find people new to our industry and make sure they feel welcome as best I'm able. Make sure they feel like they belong because they do. I'm only six years into this, but I look at various problems I've seen solved and situations I've worked at some incredible companies already. I'm so fortunate in my career. Most of our problems result from limited viewpoints not knowing what they don't know. How do you know what you don't know? I see problem after problem at an enterprise level where it's just a bunch of people who are crazy bright, highly educated, very experienced, but they don't know what they're not aware of. For my money, having teams with as varied a world view and varied lived experience as we can, the technology can always be learned. You can't just little things. One of my first team outings I started work at Airbus. Airbus had an Atlanta office. They still do. Actually, they're great. I spent three years in my first role in tech because I loved Airbus and, more to the point, I loved my team and my office mates so much that they're still on my Christmas card list, kind of thing. We worked in a very affluent area of town and we worked in one of these really hipster buildings with overpriced bougie food on the ground level and then office space and play space. And hey, let's skip work to go fly drones in the park. And hey, let's go to the roof and drink $20 glasses of wine. No one needs. It's like this first group outing. I'm up on the roof of this incredible building we have here in Atlanta called Ponsody Market and I'm drinking this $17 glass of Malbec. That was. I mean, it was okay. We're eating this overpriced fancy food and I just start tuckling and one of my coworkers like what's so funny? And as I'm standing there overlooking my beautiful city, surrounded by expensive things and money, all I could think about is the time I was homeless in college. I felt ridiculous just wasting company money on this meal, because my worldview is a little different and the number of times I didn't grow up poor, so to speak. So my father, being older, couldn't retire. He just couldn't. He kept retiring year after year, but it never stuck because he was just again. He was born in 1926. He worked his whole life. He was on his own, without parents starting it. I think he was 14 when he went out on his own. He was married by 16, had a kid at 19,. My older brother and he just couldn't be still so he would start these businesses. And so what the result was? In my childhood we had years of feast and years of famine. There were years where we were going to shows and nice dinners and had nice things, and then there were years that we lived on food storage and couldn't spend a penny on anything. I got made fun of for wearing hand-me-down clothes, which never really bothered me because that's a really silly thing to care about in my world. And so I do bring this sort of different perspective on money and resources and the number of times we've been planning an event at work and I'm like, okay, but what you're proposing would cost $2,000, we can just have a craft day and in one hour knock this out and knock that out and then for like $200, we could have this party. And they look at me like you're insane, just spend the money and pay someone. And I'm like, yeah, but that's company money. And it drives home to me that if we have a room full of people who have all lived the same life, you're just not going to get the same kinds of ideas. And sometimes time is money and sometimes spending that two grand instead of 200 saves so many resource hours. It makes more sense. But it is nice to have that counter perspective. I'm always thankful when I'm you know when. Again, when I worked at Airbus, we had a very diverse team and I got called out several times for accidentally saying problematic things. And I remember the first time it happened, my colleague. She was very concerned that she would offend me by saying hey, we don't use this word, this is an offensive word. And you just said it and I wasn't upset. I said, oh my God, I had no idea. When did that word become a problem? When did I miss the memo? And she told me and we talked about it and I said, oh, okay, cool, good to know. I've been using that word for 20 years and I didn't know that that was thank you for letting me, letting me in. And it was a really interesting moment in the office because so many people were waiting for either her to get mad at me for not knowing or me to get mad for being called out. And neither of us got mad. I just politely, I was like I know who I am and how I was raised. Honestly, the fact that I'm not saying problematic things, every sentence, is a big accomplishment given my origins. So no, thank you. I don't ever want to offend people and if I do, I want it to be on purpose and I want to know about it. I don't ever want to accidentally be offended.
This is something I've observed as well, which is absolutely fascinating People coming with a first career or a second career or third career. Already you put it yourself saying I only have six years of experience in this industry, but you have so much baggage that you could come with you. You're not that 18-year-old coming out of high school or 20-something coming out of university or college. You have a whole life behind you and that has a lot of value, even more so than what you learn in high school being able to react with human beings, being able to know where you stand and not being shaken by such a comment and saying, hey, okay, that doesn't attack who I am as a person, it just attacks the words I was using. Didn't know. That's good, good to know, and this is gold in itself. And when you have teams with such people, everybody's more grounded, everything tends to be smoother. I like that.
Yeah, no, it's definitely lived experience matters, no matter where your experience is, and it's been fascinating. I really fell in love at the time that Airbus hired me, and they hired me a few months out of my boot camp. And I have no pride, and this is a thing that has come from years of aiming for the stars, and maybe you reach them and maybe you don't, but I just I don't have any fear of failure and I'm very thankful for that particular trait. And so I did my boot camp and I recognized that I wasn't the top student in the class. I was very middle of the road. I was in a cohort with people whose parents were engineers, or one of my favorite classmates. She had a master's degree in human computer interaction, so it wasn't. Web development wasn't new to her, it was just a new skill set. It was an expansion of a knowledge base, whereas I literally called my laptop the magic box that holds email and I knew nothing. I mean I cried, and so this is the other thing. I don't have any shame about crying. I was once doing a shooting certification where you had to fire a great many bullets to pass this test, and it was a point of pride for me to pass it on the first try at the highest level because I was the only person taking the test that wasn't former law enforcement. I mean, you know, we had a quick draw contest and a gentleman who had been on a SWAT team outdrew me by two tenths of a second and I was so upset. I was so upset because I like to win Winning is fun, I like it Feels good. But I really wanted to do well on this test and I didn't pass it at the highest level on the first try and it was fine. I mean, I collected myself, I retook it, I passed it at the highest level, but I wanted to do it on the first try. And so when I found out that I missed it, and by something ridiculous, like two bullets out of hundreds, that I was firing for this test, some middle school tiny margin, I missed it by. I was so upset and so I cried and I wasn't weeping and wailing and ah, you know, but some tears were falling down my face and I took a deep breath. I went to the restroom, splashed water, came back. Deep breath, let's do this. And so later a gentleman was saying well, val, you know I was gonna hire you after this. I've been so impressed with how quickly you've learned these skills and I just I just saw you crying and I thought you were a badass Val Badasses, don't cry. I can't believe you cried and I didn't even really think about it, because in Judo we cry. It's we a moat? And so I just looked at him and in front of all of his colleagues I said actually, badasses cry whenever we want to because we don't care what people like you think. And I didn't even mean it that way at the time. But I stand by it. You know, emotion is not a bad thing. But you know this lived experience of I tried a thing. I didn't quite meet my goal, but I still came back. I did it. I dealt with some judgment that has nothing to do with software, but what it did do is make me more resilient. And so when I'm in a situation like I've done a few workshops over the years when I'm in a situation where someone's denigrating a lack of background knowledge or oh, you didn't get a CS degree, you did a boot camp or whatever it is, it just rolls off because I know who I am and I've had so many experiences putting myself to the test. It's like okay, well, you can denigrate me if you'd like, but that's a reflection on you, not me. Sir, you know, I hope you feel better for what you've just said, but it doesn't really affect me, so bye.
That is fantastic. That's where you want to be.
That's where you want to be. I want that for everybody.
Absolutely, absolutely. I'd like to connect a couple of dots. See, if I'm not mistaken, up to not so long ago, you were really DevOps working in DevOps as a DevOps I don't want to say DevOps engineer, because that doesn't exist. You told it yourself.
But that's the best way to have. Yeah, that was my job title.
That's the best we have. But drawing a line to the whole athletic experience you have and the leadership you talked about, drawing a line toward this stay-at-home mom, organizing for the tiny humans and the big humans revolving around it and organizing the whole system how do you not drift into leadership in every role you take?
I tend to. Personally and I don't know how other people with my background navigate it I can't help but take over leadership, because one I'm just always. I'm that person in the action movie where the bomb has just gone off and people say what do we do now, whether I really have the answers or not. I was raised a Southern woman and Southern women in the US. I don't know how much time you've spent with Southern women, but we are a force of nature. We get things done. I mean, we organize, we galvanize people, we get them to get together and make change, and Southern women are incredible because we've had to be. It's not a request, it's an expectation and we rise to it and it takes a great toll on us. So some of us have done again years of therapy and I now get very excited. I say a word that you're not supposed to say as a Southern woman. I'm gonna say it right now. Just y'all, brace yourself. A Southern woman is about say it no as a complete sentence. No, it's so liberating. Every time someone asks me to do something and I say no, it's an act of defiance against generations of programming. But yeah, I do drift into leadership just because in a room full of people saying, well, we're all very bright and we can see 20 pads forward and there's so many options and our IQs are so high and we're so educated and we know all of these things that we could do. I do tend to walk in, hear the different ideas and just pick for people because I am more limited in my experience, so I'm not bogged down with knowing that there's 20 ways forward. I only see what's presented and I'm very good at quickly doing a cost benefit analysis of all of these options and choosing based on long-term reward versus short-term comfort. And it's again in some ways limited. Experience makes me more valuable because I don't remember how it was done 20 years ago. I hear my husband talk sometimes about he feels bad for me coming into software at a time where everything is abstracted for you. I mean cloud computing. Think about that as difficult as it can be to come into software in an age where the cloud is a thing but there's no cloud. There's servers somewhere. You're just not touching them. But so I learned everything about how servers work from a GUI. For you know, for me it was mostly Google Cloud Platform, and there is a difficulty when you're learning abstraction as fact. But then I've heard stories from people who have been long time in IT and they're talking about how difficult it was to go from running their own physical servers to having to learn the abstraction and feeling like they don't have the granular control they used to have and they're having to unlearn 20 years worth of knowledge and take this differently. And it's neither of us has it easier or better, it's just different. And imagine if you put the two of us together, we're an unstoppable force.
Now yeah, as long as you're not fighting against the grain. Yes, as long as you're fine or comfortable in the place that your mind, your skills, your traits, the way you work has put you. And if you're against the grain and in that place, that sucks, that's really not fun. But if you're going with the flow and really embracing it, then hell yeah, that's a great place to be and then find the contemporary people and rock with it.
But I do wonder sometimes where I would be if I hadn't had the good fortune to have had the roles I've had. I mean, my first role was Airbus. Right, We've got this Atlanta office and a gentleman named Jesse Coleman was the president of this little subsidiary and I am giving him a shout out on purpose because he changed my life, he and the other people involved in that organization. But to actually to comment on something you mentioned earlier, that people coming into software as a second, third career, we do have a whole life ahead that we've already lived. So we're new, but we're not new to this world and I remember I had spoken to the engineering manager and the CTO and I'd met the staff at Airbus and everyone was great. And my last interview was with Jesse Coleman and he said, okay, well, let's talk salary. Everyone likes you and we don't have anyone doing DevOps. And I just looked into this internship because, basically, the back end engineering team did not want to deal with the Google Cloud, just in general. They didn't want to deal with it, with configuring, with figuring out what needed to be set up. They didn't want to. They wanted to continue creating back end code and features and they didn't want to deal with the Kubernetes. They didn't want to deal with it and just make that work. Someone do that so we can keep being creative and innovative and do what we love. And so I pretty much was like, hey, I'll learn how to do anything you all don't want to do, I'll just learn it. And so that's how I ended up an intern at Airbus and Jesse said something that really struck me as being reasonable but also just sort of let me know he was visionary and he said you know, I want you to know, this is the salary we're offering as an intern and it's a little higher than we would normally offer, but you're not an intern. An intern, you're a grown adult who's had successful careers and you're raising a family and you bring a lot of lived experience. So, even though you're an intern, we are going to pay a more normal salary because you're an adult and you bring a lot to this and just the amount of gratitude I felt that he saw me and recognized that, while I might be new to this industry, I've led people I've beaten up drunken frat boys for money as a career path. It was a really fun job, way easier than being a stay at home mom. That was being a bar bouncer, so easy compared to being a parent. But yeah, it just. It really endeared him and Airbus and the whole org to me. And I think leadership needs to take a step back and think about, especially right now there's so much hiring going on because there were so many layoffs and then, oh no, we let go of too many people and now we don't have enough people to do this work Whoops. I feel like leaders need to take a step back and remember the people they're talking to, the candidates, and the people they're interviewing. We're actual human beings, it's not just a job. I mean, how many job wrecks have you seen open lately? That start with we're looking for a highly motivated individual. I don't believe that they are, because if they were looking for highly motivated individuals, you know who they'd be targeting. Single parents you want to talk about a highly motivated employee. You find a single mom with no ex paying her child support, who is solely responsible for the lives of tiny humans she loves like they're a piece of her, walking around on the outside of her body. That's a highly motivated employee. That's someone who's going to do whatever it takes to get the job done and get it done right. I feel like it's mixed messaging If you tell me you're looking for highly motivated but you're not targeting the most highly motivated employees you'd ever have.
And they're probably not going to screw around on top of buildings drinking wine. They're going to be off by five because they need to pick up the kids, and so the work is going to be done by five.
Pretty much, yeah, no, it's been such an interesting journey and I've sort of fallen into my niche. So you were right. I did spend the first four or five years of my career as a DevOps engineer. I had the joy of working for Airbus I can't say enough good about that company and then I moved to Salesforce Again. I loved my time at Salesforce. I loved my team. I was two companies in a row had fantastic leadership. That never happens. I've heard horror stories, so I feel particularly thankful. But a couple years ago I realized that I was speaking at conferences on my own time, on my own dime. Airbus was great. They would actually help cover travel. They were very proud of me speaking at conferences, but it wasn't part of my job. It was always in addition to and you know, I had to take PTO for the days that I was speaking. And then I went to Salesforce where I was on a DevOps team and you know we handled deploying this one specific cloud and it was great work. But my speaking and really enjoying the community was starting to butt heads with my work responsibilities and I had this great manager and Occe was just a, just, just a good human. You know, you can just feel like there's good leaders, but then there's good people who are also good leaders. And he was both. And he kind of put the bug in my head. He was like you know, we're so proud of you for these speaking engagements, but we hired you to do DevOps work and you're gone a lot and I need you and there's no right answer. Val, I'll support whatever you need, but we need you to pick. And that was when I ended up going to developer advocacy, Because I do love people. There's a reason I got a psych degree. It wasn't just that I was sort of terrified of you know. Well, I'll do all of my electives in the sciences, but I you know that that's not for girls, that's not for me. You know I'm very interested in why humans make the choices we make and you know I, speaking at conferences, I've sort of fallen into this fun niche where I almost feel bad when I take the stage because if I'm speaking about something technical it's going to be like 70% technical, 30% human based. But for the most part I now get on stage and just talk about the experience of being human, because I don't know if you know this, but engineers are hurting and I love it. I do this one talk where I talk about the five like biggest problems facing engineers and I say engineers but I mean everyone in our industry. We got five problems. We got burnout, depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse and prescription drug abuse. We're struggling y'all and you know I've been through most of them myself and had to come out on the other side. And you know I don't think they'll ever be. A time in my life I don't low key, deal with depression. It's just a thing. My brain is just wired where I have to work really hard to keep myself level. But this, this matters very much to me and I get so frustrated sometimes because people are like why aren't you talking about? You know a framework or or some sort of piece of technology. Why are you talking about this? And I'm like? Because if we took engineers who want to innovate and want to be creative and want to solve problems, but they're so burnt out and depressed that they're finding excuses to drink at three in the afternoon and spending their evenings wasted instead of innovating, and then they're hung over all the time. Or you know the number of us that have these minor injuries and then get hooked on opioid painkillers way higher than the general population would suggest is reasonable. And you know people so depressed that they're like they're reading about emerging technology, but they're not impassioned or excited anymore, they're just tired. Imagine what those engineers could create if we addressed the human. I think there's this push to really innovate in software through new frameworks and, more often than not, tweaking existing technology, and. But I think we could really innovate if we took care of our people. Because, as it turns out, I don't know anyone who gets into software thinking I'd like to Plug in proprietary code to something I have no say in and I don't ever want to create anything creative. I don't. I don't want to solve any problems, I just kind of want to type alphanumeric characters and get a paycheck. I don't actually know anyone personally who feels that way. We all kind of want to be pioneers, we want to, to make the next cool thing and we want to disrupt the entire industry and but then we are tired and you know we're terrified of layoffs so we're trying to keep our head down or we're so overloaded. I mean, airbus was great and I can't say enough good about airbus, but I had a third child working for airbus and airbus being, you know, an international company, they didn't really have to think about parental leave Because every other country except mine that that's built into the company or to the country's, you know federal regulations. So in the states we don't do that. We don't, we do not prioritize families in the states at all and you know we have what's called the family medical leave act and that's great. In in the us. It means that you fill out a form and your company cannot fire you for 12 weeks because you have to have a human. But you know what? They don't have to pay you during that time. And it's so weird how your landlord and your electric company and the grocery store Don't accept those 12 weeks of you not having a paycheck. So if you're lucky enough to not need you know not to need the money, fmla is there, but that's all we have in the states. So if your company doesn't provide parental leave, you're just sort of out, you're just out. So I was lucky, um, airbus allowed me to use six weeks, up to six weeks, of short-term disability. So I came back to the office at six weeks after having a baby. Um, I had not slept in six weeks. There's still bugs in that code that I put there. Uh, because if you haven't slept you cannot innovate, you can barely function. Um, at one point, my first week back, I actually went to the nursing mother's room to pump and walked back into my office and I was so sleep deprived. I had remembered my laptop, I remembered my bag of pump parts. I forgot to put my shirt back on, just walked right on into the office in a bra, just in the bra, and my, my colleague was like Val and kind of glanced down and I, oh, okay, I looked down and what, those are my breasts. Those are out in the office. Cool, that wasn't the plan today, um, but that's a great story. Yeah, so I went and got my shirt and put it on it was a black t-shirt on a black chair and I was six weeks sleep deprived, whatever. But I walked in and I'll never forget my. My colleague was so sweet, he was so concerned about me. He was like sweetheart, are you? Are you embarrassed? And I started laughing. I said no, no, I'm really not. I was like you know, what's embarrassing is that I'm six weeks postpartum and I haven't slept and I can barely function and I'm here. What's embarrassing is that in my state, of Georgia. It's illegal to take a puppy away from its mom until eight weeks, but my six week old baby is in a daycare swimming in bacteria and viruses. That's embarrassing.
You know, oh. Yeah, this is, this is a world. Uh, I mean, in europe it's absolutely the opposite of this, and uh, in germany it's even more the opposite. So that just feels impossible that this is the the standard in the us.
But I guess it's a part of late stage capitalism, it's. You know, our birth rate is on the decline because it is. It is ridiculously hard to have kids here and people think of it as oh Well, you're making children because you like to play with the cute babies, and, yes, they are cute. I won't lie, I personally make some really cute humans and, yeah, that is fun. But long term, again long term I'd like to retire one day. If there aren't people working in my country to pay into social programs, I don't get to retire like I. I'm also like Replenishing the population. There should be some amount of gratitude, especially from people who don't want children, like, just, I'm doing my part, I had three. I did more than my part. I'm a team player here.
Indeed, you are. I'm I'm sorry, but we we time maxed out our time box already and I had a few advice. I wanted to ask you, but I guess I I have to read back what you said, and that that's the best advice I can think of right now, which was Imagine what we could do, what we could innovate, if we took care of the people. As I cannot top that, do you have a better advice for us?
No, no, um, the. The closest thing to better advice for listeners would be be yourself, unapologetically, and Even when it's scary, just be yourself. I find that you know when I get up on stage and I tell a room full of people oh yes, and I'm sober by choice, and here's why Burnout and depression had led me to problematic drinking, because I was under so much stress. And you don't have to live that way and I share my dirty laundry. You know, one of my kids asked me why do you have to tell people that I'm like, yeah, but if I, if I recover loudly, it can save other people from dying quietly, and all that matters on this planet, all that matters, is the people. That I believe. If you make a good product and take care of your people, the money will follow. You don't have to worry about your money. It really will follow. If you are putting good in this world by taking, you know, making the best choices you can with regards to the other people in it. And I don't know. I I'm looking for my next role, hopefully in developer advocacy. If not, I do love me some engineering. I would love to get back to container workstation. It's cool, but mostly I'm just looking for a company that has integrity and morals and ethics and treats the people that work there like human beings, because that's where the innovation comes from. Comfortable, respected, cared for people Get to make cool stuff and I want to make some cool stuff.
Then I wish you none other than just that. Well, it's been a hell of a ride. Thank you so much.
This has been delightful. Thank you for having me on.
I was delighted. Where would you place? Where would you? I'm completely off my script. Where would be the best place to continue this discussion with you?
Yeah, so I, I am on, you know, the pretty standard socials, uh, twitter, or whatever we're calling it this week. Um, and I, most things I'm, I'm so easily findable by my name. I, please, I hope no one out there is a stalker, because it's just too easy to find me. Um, but I'm on twitter at, you know, at valerie regus, I spell my name with two a's just to be difficult. Um, you know, I, the only place you really can't find me is on facebook, because that's where I hang out with my friends and family and say the inappropriate things. But I'm on instagram and you know I've got a notice profile if you're interested in my speaking. Um, but honestly, like twitter, my dms are open and, uh, selfishly, I'm just gonna say, if you're out there and you're listening and you think that you might have an issue with burnout, depression, anxiety or any sort of substance abuse, hi, I'm friendly and safe to give you resources and and help point you towards the life you deserve Find me on socials.
Please do that Sorry. Thank you so much.
Have a great day.
And this has been another episode of their first journey and we'll see each other next week. Bye, bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share, rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms the show appears on on our website dev journey dot info slash. Subscribe. Talk to you soon.