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  • Writer's pictureLaura Caicedo

Yury Niño: Woman in Cloud

Updated: Jan 25

Yury has an inspiring story. She changed jobs within the tech industry, and during that time, she discovered a passion for Chaos Monkey and Chaos Engineering. Then, she jumped to become a thought leader on the topic. She has spoken at more than 100 conferences, including QCon, which was a big achievement for her because she is still scared of speaking in front of crowds in a different language.


Yury grew up in a small town in Colombia called Garagoa, and when she was still young, she moved to Bogota to study software engineering. This was a significant change for her because she had to learn how to take care of herself. In this interview, Yury talks about her challenges learning other languages, her view on Diversity in the tech industry, and how she became a cloud engineer at Google and started advocating for Chaos Engineering.


Check Yury's page . Her drawings and Quotes are full of knowledge and inspiration.

Yury Niño looking at the camara with a lake in a background

And for the first time, we have a live interview, podcast-style. Thanks again to Laura Caicedo for sharing this fantastic story! Watch it below and know that more interviews will happen on the Lovelace Series YouTube Channel!



 

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


I am Yury Niño, and I currently work as a Cloud Infrastructure Engineer at Google. As a parallel project, I am an SRE and Chaos Engineering Advocate. About my background, I have a bachelor's in Systems Engineering and a Master's in Computer Science from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.


I have been working in this field for 17 years. It seems like a lot of time, but since I have held several roles, these years have been an incredible trip to grow professionally and personally. I started my career as a software developer at the University. After 10 years of designing, implementing, and managing the development of technology solutions, almost always for the banking sector, I moved to DevOps and Infrastructure roles. Currently, I work in this area at Google. 


My job is designing and implementing infrastructures in Google Cloud using DevOps and SRE principles and practices and, of course, best recommendations in terms of security, reliability, and performance. 

One part of the job involves working with non-technical stakeholders and sales teams. I had to improve my soft skills, as I have to translate commercial business needs into cloud technical solutions, which requires to be able to communicate my ideas in a clear way and the most important to be resilient because the problems are part of my day to day.


Q2) What drove the change from Software Developer to Devops?


It was a bit strange because although I enjoyed my job a lot, I have to confess that I was tired of the routine of those days. I had been doing the same work for almost 10 years in Banking; you know, building monoliths using waterfall methodologies, solving issues with legacy infrastructures, and even putting out fires without analyzing root causes.


Although, now that I think about it, it was precisely solving an issue in the bank that I discovered chaos engineering and the DevOps world. While I was presenting my solution at a conference, I was invited to work as a DevOps Engineer in the Digital Factory of the Grupo Aval in Colombia.

I wasn’t sure of taking this challenge but I accepted. I had to start over, as an Automation Junior Devops Engineer because I didn't know anything about DevOps.

It has been one of my best decisions in my professional career. I discovered the cloud, I learned about repositories, pipelines, automation, infrastructure as code and the most important for me now: about injecting failures with chaos monkeys and applying principles and practices about site reliability engineering. I was promoted there until I became a Technical Program Manager of a Site Reliability Engineering Team. 


Q3) How did you first become interested in technology, and what led you to your current role?


Since I can remember I wanted to be an engineer. I remember that I enjoyed assembling and disassembling stuff in my home. But probably my first interaction with tech topics was in high school when my father bought me my first computer. Throughout school, I enjoyed math, science, and teaching others. 


My first attempt with technical things was when I had to choose a career to study at the University. In those days, Microsoft released a new version of Encarta, and I wanted to know how it worked behind the scenes. I was obsessed with discovering how a box could show me the inside of the Louvre museum in an interactive video, so I decided to be a Systems Engineer.

Fortunately I was admitted in the best public University in Colombia and I spent the best years of my life there learning about programming, software and hardware.

Q4) What main challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?

Since I started on this journey, I have had to overcome several challenges, which may sound easy for some people but for me they have been very hard and painful

The most challenging part has been leaving my family so young. I was 15 years old when I enrolled in the University in Bogotá, a big city compared with Garagoa. In those days, I had to live alone and far away from my family.


Another critical challenge has been learning new languages, specifically English and Portuguese. I must confess that I do not like to speak in another language. It is tough for me!  I have problems memorizing new words and grammatical forms that I do not understand. 

However, it has not represented an obstacle for giving my talks and conferences. I think I missed to mention that I have had the fortune of participating in more than one hundred conferences talking about Chaos Engineering and SRE topics.

When I think about this, I can not believe that I have been able to communicate my ideas in a different language. I do not do it very well, but today I have achieved that the attendants understand what I say and I can understand their questions and recommendations.


Q5)  Tell me more about chaos engineering and what you have done in this field.


These almost six years of chaos have been an incredible journey of adventures, conferences, travels and most importantly, they have an opportunity to know amazing people worldwide. As I mentioned, everything started with an issue that I had to solve in the Bank. It was related to the performance and reliability of the authentication component. I tested the solution using a new discipline during those days: chaos engineering.


While I was presenting the solution to the architectural committee in the Bank, a colleague convinced me to write a paper and submit it to a conference. I was not good at public speaking, and I had a job where I had been told that I could not express my ideas in public and that people wouldn’t be able to understand what I was explaining.

However, like everything in my life, I decided to try, I had nothing to lose. 

The presentation was successful, and I was invited to another conference. It was like a snowball, since I enjoyed this part of my life I applied to other conferences, in which I was accepted. Today I have completed 116 talks talking about chaos engineering.


In terms of what I have accomplished, I designed a tool to manage chaos gamedays, a practice in which an engineering team simulates production failures to determine the level of resilience of applications. The application is called drawer, which basically lets you configure and manage a chaos gameday. I also implemented the proof of concept of a model that uses machine learning to automate the elaboration of postmortems.

Women with pink sweater looking and smiling at the camera.

Q6) Diversity: How have you seen diversity and inclusion evolve in the tech industry throughout your career?


Diversity and Inclusion are essential for progress, but getting access to it is not easy. According to IBM’s Institute for Business Value 2018 Report, Women hold only 26.7% of tech employment, while men hold 73.3% of these positions. White Americans hold 62.5% of the positions in the US tech sector. Asian Americans account for 20% of jobs, Latinx Americans 8%, and Black Americans 7%. 83.3% of tech executives in the US are.  I think that is a big challenge for the governments, the universities, and, in general, for the industry. 


And although the landscape of diversity and inclusion (D&I) has evolved significantly, I just started to pay attention to these topics when Google hired me. In my previous jobs, I never heard about this. In Google it is a priority, the company supports several inclusion and diversity programs for hispanic and black people, abused women and men or veterans. These programs create spaces and provide tools for career development and community partnership.

For me it has been a great discovery since diversion and inclusion means freedom, opportunity, and influence.

Q7)  How do you manage the work-life balance in the tech industry?


I don't think I'm the right person to talk about this topic because I'm going through a health challenge due to my obsession with work and productivity. However, I am learning that Human effort is a finite resource. When outstanding peers surround you, it’s easy to feel like you constantly need to work harder, do better, and produce more. But, like it or not, each of us has a throughput limit: the amount of work we can get done, on average, in a given timeframe.

Realising that I had a throughput limit was key to my understanding of work/life balance: how to live up to my work commitments without feeling I was shortchanging my family, my friends, my health, or myself.

Once I calculated my throughput limit, I got rid of the fantasy that I could do everything — or some idealized quantity of work that always seemed to be greater than what I did this week — and started getting realistic about allocating my time. 

Q8) What advice would you give other women considering a tech career?

Regarding hard skills, my advice is work that you enjoy. I can share many resources such as courses or certifications, but if you don’t enjoy them you won't be able to take advantage of them.

Having said that, my favorite resources to grow in tech topics are podcasts, YouTube channels, and RSS feeds, which I have subscribed to. My favorite podcast is “Las Voces de la Nube” and “Charlas Técnicas de AWS”.


On YouTube, I am subscribed to Gotopia and InfoQ channels, although my favorite channel is Veritasium, which is more focused on science (it is amazing!). Finally, I use Feedly to keep updated about cloud, DevOps, and SRE topics. 


Regarding soft skills:

  • Communicate! You should be able to make yourself clear and persuasive in written and spoken communication. If you're sitting in meetings without contributing anything, you're not making much of a dent.

  • Make connections: I think one of the key things I see successful engineers do is work across teams and communities. This may be hard, but visibility beyond your core team is essential.


I also strongly advocate being proactive about reaching out to other teams where you can work together. This takes a lot of legwork, setting up meetings, figuring out who is doing what, and learning from each other. It's usually worth it.  


Q9) Let's continue the flow... who would you like to read on the Lovelace Series?


I want to read the story of Ana Medina. She has been an inspiration for me. She was one of the first women to speak about chaos engineering, and she has a beautiful personal story about resilience and self-love.

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