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  • Writer's pictureThiago Assuncao de Faria

Aleena Yunus: Charting a Dynamic Path in Cloud Computing and Platform Engineering

Aleena Yunus's journey in the tech world is a tale of evolution, resilience, and continuous growth. Completing her master's in Informatics with a focus on Distributed Systems during the challenging times of 2020, Aleena's path led her naturally to the cloud computing domain.

Aleena Yunus wearing traditional Pakistani clothes
Aleena Yunus wearing traditional Pakistani clothes

Her initial role at AWS as an Associate Solutions Architect was a springboard that allowed her to assist startups in leveraging cloud technologies. As a Senior Platform Engineer at Slalom_build, she delves deeper into building, automating, and connecting cloud infrastructures.


Aleena's story is marked by her transition from an aspiring astronaut to a tech enthusiast, overcoming initial challenges in coding and adapting to the dynamic tech environment. Her journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and the importance of finding one's niche in the tech space.

 

Q1) Can you share a bit about your background and your current role?


In 2020, during peak COVID-19 times, I finished my Informatics master's, which is just a fancy name for computer science. I majored in Distributed Systems. So it was a natural progression for me to end up somewhere in the cloud, not literally, of course.

Right out of my master's, I joined AWS as an Associate Solutions Architect, where I worked with Startups to help them build on the cloud.

After 2.5 years at AWS, I joined, and am still working at, Slalom_build as a Senior Platform Engineer, where I build, automate, and connect cloud infrastructure.


Q2) How did you first become interested in technology, and what led you to your current role?


Before my bachelor's, I hadn't written a single line of code. Ever. Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut because that was the cool thing to aspire to be, but reality (and South Asian parents) led me to a Software Engineering program.

And to be honest, the first year was quite tough. I'd always been an overachiever, and not doing as well as I thought I would, made me consider switching majors a few times.

I can't think of one particular moment when I started cherishing what I do, but over time, I came to enjoy writing code, spending hours debugging it, and finally seeing it work, which is actually a good segway to my current role.


My favorite part of my work day is sitting behind a laptop and silently coding, so even though I learned a tremendous amount and thoroughly enjoyed my time at AWS, I wanted to be in a role where I could still work with cloud technologies but spend more time implementing. So to tip the scales, I switched from an architect to an engineer role.


Q3) What main challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?


Challenges, hm. I think I had the right foundation for the career I wanted, so there weren't very many technical challenges, so to speak. Something that I've struggled and still struggle with is this little voice in my head saying you don't know anything.

When I joined AWS, I thought I wouldn't survive in the role because all my knowledge up until that point had been theoretical.

Then when I was moving from AWS to my current role, I was anxious for months, thinking I hadn't worked on large enough projects and wasn't familiar with so many technologies outside of the AWS space. But hey! I learned those. You eventually get there by trial and error, asking more experienced people and reading endless documentation.


But every time I start something new, I psych myself out, so I'm open to pointers for anyone reading this. Also, if you have any tips on dealing with crippling stage fright, that'd be great!


Q4) Who or what has been the most significant influence or support in your tech journey?


The first person that comes to mind is my sister. There's not much career counseling in Pakistan, so I think having role models is super important. When I was starting university, she was wrapping up her engineering degree.

It was great having someone tell you which programs to apply to and what to expect from each.

She was also the biggest proponent of my move to Munich to pursue my master's, leading to my continuing my professional career here. AND; she taught me derivatives and integrals a day before my exam, when that little voice I just talked about was screaming at me that I didn't know anything, and I actually didn't.


Q5) How have you seen diversity and inclusion evolve in the tech industry throughout your career?


Talking specifically about gender diversity, I see it as an inverted triangle, starting with an almost 1:1 ratio of male and female students in my bachelor's, to fewer females in my master's, and then being the only woman in the team for a long time in my professional career.

The situation is getting better, with people actively hiring diverse candidates. The diversity aspect is improving, but the inclusivity still needs some work.

Having a woman in a panel because otherwise it would be a "bunch of dudes", or assuming someone would be in a non-technical role because they're a woman. Needless to say, I would like to encounter fewer of these incidents going forward. And hopefully, we can only go up from here!

Q6) How do you manage the work-life balance in the tech industry?


Putting that lid down at 6. I'm not saying I always manage to do it, and I'm guilty of spending extra hours trying to fix a bug.

But I'm lucky enough to be working in tech and not in a bomb disposal squad. My problem will not self-detonate and will still be there tomorrow, so I can always fix it then.

As soon as I realize that, I can shut the lid down, make dinner, read a book, and even go out on a weekday if I'm feeling risky.

Aleena in front of the Little Prince, her favorite book.
Aleena in front of the Little Prince, her favorite book.

Q7) What skills are most important in today's tech world?


Something we used to say a lot at my old job was "using the right tool for the right job"; knowing the right tool for the right job then becomes really important.

If you're using a full-blown kubernetes cluster for hosting your personal blog, there might be easier ways to do things.

It's crucial in today's tech world to be aware of the different tools available to you, the improvements being made to them, and the new ones coming out.

Q8) Can you share a project or accomplishment you consider the most significant in your career?


I can't think of the most significant one, but I'm super proud of the project I did around sustainability during my time at AWS. I feel very passionate about sustainability in the cloud and co-wrote a series of blog posts on optimizing your cloud applications for sustainability.

I had the idea to use what we learned from there and integrate sustainability into the developer workflow.

My colleagues and I then released an open-source tool called the Sustainability Scanner, which helps use AWS services more sustainably by evaluating your infrastructure against a set of best practices.


Q9) What are your future goals, and where do you see the tech industry heading in the next few years?


The combination of data and platform is something that intrigues me. I enjoy learning about big data technologies and architecting and building large-scale data pipelines in the cloud. That would be an area I would like to develop a niche in. But there's still a long way to go.

As for the tech industry, I see how GenAI has changed the way I personally work, and I'm honestly just looking forward to more of its applications. That, and more automation, everywhere!

Q10) What advice would you give other women considering a tech career?


It's honestly not a bad place to be! The working hours are nice (if you want them to be), and you can work from your couch and have as much coffee as you want. Hah!

On a serious note, just talk to people who are already there. Ask them about their experiences, the good and the bad, ask for contacts, and ask for learning materials. I'm happy to help or connect you to someone who can. :)


Q11) Let's continue the flow... who would you like to read on the Lovelace Series?


It would be great to read up on Genta Roko's journey!


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