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  • Writer's pictureThiago Assuncao de Faria

Curiosity and Happiness - The story of Kim Willemse as Cloud Consultant

Meet Kim Willemse, a Senior Cloud Consultant whose journey into the world of technology is as unique as it is inspiring. Kim's passion for sociology, anthropology, and psychology has shaped her approach to technology, blending creativity with technical expertise.

Kim Willemse sitting with sands flowing through her hands watching at an stunning horizon in Jalapao (Brazil).
Kim: "Explore and do what makes you happy. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, in a country I feel very much at home and always makes me happy to be: Jalapão, Brazil."

In her Lovelace Series interview, Kim opens up about her unexpected path into IT, her challenges, and how she's overcome them. She emphasizes the importance of curiosity, continuous learning, and the courage to be authentic in a constantly evolving field.

Looking to the future, Kim is excited about the growth of AI, blockchain, and quantum computing and the increasing focus on making technology more approachable for a broader audience.

Her advice for women considering a tech career? "Give it a try! Trust me, it's much more fun than many people think!". Enjoy the full interview to learn more about Kim's fascinating journey.

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

I'm a senior cloud consultant/cloud engineer/cloud nerd, whatever you call it, at CloudNation. I love my current mix of architecture and conceptual thinking on one side and playing around with Infra as Code and DevOps on the other side.

Next to that I also spend time improving internal processes and culture, using my background and non-tech interests! I have a background in social and cultural development.

I'm still very passionate about sociology, anthropology, and psychology besides technology.

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

I grew up in a family where computers played almost no role at all until it was primarily practical for school. My parents stimulated me to play outside, read, and draw. During neighbor visits, I was amazed by 🌈The internet🌈. Late 90's/early 00's internet that is, Yahoo FTW!

My first time getting involved with actual IT was the informatics course in high school, which mainly consisted of building and querying an Access database, still one of the most boring things for me. Those experiences and the class nerd being very stereotypical (which wasn't cool then) made me think I'd never end up working in IT. Yet here we are….

While studying social and cultural development, I slowly became the family IT helpdesk. Computers caught more and more of my attention out of curiosity and by this time I had my laptop to explore with (and no parents at home to tell me not to spend too much time behind it).

While I wrote about the flow theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi for my thesis, I realized I was in that state of flow when diving into computer stuff, problem-solving, and learning more theory of and the reasoning behind it. I also realized it involved a lot of creativity and creative thinking to find solutions, which surprised and positively triggered me to learn even more.

I still enjoyed my study, so I finished it and started a traineeship, starting with an on-site support job, after that. After a year of catching up quickly with certifications, I changed to an application packaging company. I could expand my responsibilities from intakes and application packaging and virtualization to workspace management, Citrix, VMWare, and building images here.

When I saw how 'the cloud', the public cloud that is, was developing rapidly, I wanted to make that switch. At the first company, I eased into the cloud through hybrid environments. Still, because that wasn't enough for me I joined CloudNation, a public cloud-specialized consultancy company, I didn't want to work with the on-premises world at all anymore.

One of the main reasons I switched to IT and that led me to my current role is the endless learning.

I get bored if I miss intellectual stimulation and IT, especially the cloud, is developing so rapidly that there's always something new to learn. That's definitely one of the things I like most about it!

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

My main challenge was not having that long history of IT as a solid base for my further development. For example, I never had to deal with MS-DOS, which led me to miss experience in CLI-based environments.

When it catches my interest, or I need it to do my work well, I make sure I learn about it and pick it up, but I'm also perfectly fine with admitting I'm not good at everything.

On a more personal level I have found it very challenging at times to feel a bit alienated: not just being the only woman, but also my character being different from others in the environments I found myself.

Having been in some environments where others doubted me, were not women-friendly (or unfriendly towards any minority) didn’t help and there have been times that I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep on working in IT.

Besides some moments I doubted staying in IT, it also pushed me to prove others wrong. This led to me learning more, developing myself, and getting some help from therapy that made me feel much more secure about myself in general, thus also at work.

I started to see my added value because of my different life experiences and 100s of other interests. A great help in helping me overcome this was finding the right environment where I felt appreciated for who I am, as tacky as that sounds.

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

Even though my parents instead saw me spending less time behind a computer, they did always support me in staying curious, learning more, and doing what I liked, which is still at the base of my journey. I'm incredibly grateful they always have an open mind to let me find and create my path in life as they always support me.

On a more technological level, I think my most significant influence is Yannick van Rooyen, former colleague, current colleague, and friend! Sure, there have always been peers and colleagues who supported me. Still, Yannick stands out for his incredible knowledge, rapid learning that I admire, and the wonderful person he is!

He helps me look at things from different perspectives, triggers my thinking, learning and development.

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

In tech, I definitely see more women and POC in the field. However, in my opinion, areas like technical cloud consultancy and engineering are still far behind. Though I do slowly see that changing, partially because I'm in close contact with TechGrounds, a foundation providing the opportunity for career changes to IT, focusing on minorities.

I see the effort for diversity is mostly outwards.

There are all these initiatives (that do pay off!), and there's a sometimes crazy run on adding more diversity to a company in the hiring process, but that's where the effort often stops.

I think it's a bit of a circle we're in because there are hardly any minorities working at a company. Many of these companies don't make an effort to make work of DEI within the company. Inclusion comes with challenges and companies need to be willing to overcome these and listen to the actual minorities instead of deciding from a white straight cis male perspective.

Bright white cabinet displaying the two books authored by Adora Nwodo - Cloud Engineering for Beginners and Beginning Azure DevOps).

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

Oh, I'm not the kind of person that lives to work at all, which helps set boundaries. I care a lot about a healthy work-life balance, and I think my job gives me the flexibility to have that even more than many other jobs. For a significant part being able to work from home or remotely from somewhere else helps a lot with this.

I'm flexible in planning my hours, though I try to stick mostly with regular office hours and make time for myself or with loved ones after that to shift my attention towards personal time. Though that flexibility in planning also adds to a healthier work-life balance for me: if the weather is great I can walk in the sun and return later, recharged.

The possibility to work remotely is a great plus for me, and I use that by spending part of Dutch winter in my 'soul country' Brazil. It's easy to slightly adjust my hours and sometimes even a benefit because it adds some quiet hours to the end of the day. Escaping Dutch winter and spending some months in my 'país da alma' has tremendously positively affected me and my happiness.

Q) What skills do you believe are most important in today's tech world?

Curiosity and continuous learning are the most important due to the changing tech world. Next to that, I think creativity and social skills top it off. Creativity to keep on finding new solutions and being innovative and social skills because the most significant power of IT lies in it being used by everyone, not just technical people.

If we don't know how to make the translation and involve others, we miss out on huge power to benefit IT.

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

The most crucial thing in life is to be happy, which also applies to work. So instead of some specific technical accomplishment, I think the most significant in my career is how I found my spirit and courage to always work from my authentic self.

I believe one of the best ways to be happy is by feeling free to be your true self.

I have found a way to incorporate my interests, personality, and life experiences to add something unique and create my path. This path continues and is constantly shaping. There's much more I want to add to make the tech industry even better, more fun, or more inclusive, whether on a small or a large scale.

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

I don't have very clear goals, I want to keep on learning, developing, and contributing to my (work) environment positively. I go with the flow on whatever that looks like exactly.

I plan to develop much more as a cloud nerd and embrace more of the rebel in me. I've found a lot of joy in that combination of technical work on one side and helping others and companies grow on the other while keeping on challenging and developing myself.

Soon in the tech industry, a lot more will happen around AI. I also think blockchain and quantum computing will grow. There's also more and more focus on making technology more approachable for a broader audience, which I think is excellent.

And finally there's more attention for how technology impacts our lives and the possible downsides of it. I believe it's very important to be more conscious about how we use technology and set boundaries where needed.

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

Give it a try! Trust me, it's much more fun than many people think!

Always stay true to who you are and find your own way.

Create your path and don't be afraid to show yourself. The possibilities are endless, so keep on exploring and stay curious!

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

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