Diversity Scholarship Series: One Software Engineer’s Unexpected CloudNativeCon + KubeCon Experience

By December 14, 2016Blog

By: Kris Nova, Platform Engineer at Datapipe

Diversity noun : the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.

As defined by Merriam-Webster, diversity indicates the presence of differing elements. Without going too data science on everyone, I suppose there is a lot of things about me that plots me outside of the predicted regression; especially for backend systems engineers who work on Kubernetes. However, there are also a lot of things that I have in common with the larger group as well. Thanks to CNCF for providing me with a fabulous scholarship to CloudNativeCon + KubeCon in Seattle, I was able to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience engaging with this larger group and experiencing our similarities and differences.

Being that I am often the only woman when I find myself in a room of software engineers, I have grown quite used to it. Unfortunately, not everyone I find myself working with is equally as used to it. To be honest, I was a bit nervous about what the trip might have in store.

The scholarship I received gave me an exciting opportunity to not only attend the conference, but to also attend one of the Kubernetes sig-cluster-lifecycle meetings in-person at the Google office in Seattle. I was happy as a clam debating over kops vs. kubeadm scope, and drinking espresso with Joe Beda and the Googlers face-to-face. My gender never once crossed my mind, which was such an unique experience the Kubernetes community gave me that morning. I wasn’t a woman in a room full of men, I was a valuable member of the community who is held just as responsible as anyone else for a careless commit to the codebase. So a big thank you to everyone in sig-cluster-lifecycle and Google Seattle who made me feel right at home and as welcomed as any other software engineer.

Open source software has always been an ideology I keep very close to my heart. In fact, open source software is what helped inspire me to come out as a lesbian in my life. To me, open source software has always represented a wonderful world of science, honesty, and learning. A world where mistakes and failure is encouraged, and growing with your peers is a foundational aspect to success. Walking around the conference the first morning before the keynotes, I experienced the same excitement and wanderlust that has always attracted me to the open source community. The hotel lobby was buzzing with activity, and everywhere I looked I could see and hear fascinating conversation around containers and evolving the Kubernetes tooling as a community.

Having gone through the ringer in a few other open source communities, it was so refreshing getting to meet the people who bring Kubernetes to life. How nice it was to not be scrutinized for my lack of neck-beard. To this day, thinking about the fact that I was able to bring home a suitcase stuffed with t-shirt’s fit for my gender is beyond exciting. Thanks Kubernetes, you guys rock!

The conference was a hit, I don’t even know where to begin. The sig-aws meeting that we were able to attend, thanks to CoreOS, was surreal. Sitting with Chris Love and Justin Santa Barbara on the floor of the hotel lobby having a very effective, yet impromptu kops planning meeting still makes me smile. I still have the original plans for running Kubernetes on AWS in a private VPC scribbled on a cocktail napkin. Getting to meet some of my new favorite people at Red Hat, Atlassian, and Google was even better. The conference changed the way I look at (my new favorite) open source community. This feeling stays with me every day when I open up emacs and start writing code for Kubernetes.

Upon coming home I hung my conference badge up in the hallway proudly. It is still there to this day. A symbol of the amazing time I had in Seattle, and a symbol of pride. The badge holds the name “Kris,” which may not mean a lot to anyone else, but to me represents success. Success in my career with Kubernetes, success of my love of learning software, and success of my gender transition from male to female. The badge is hopefully the first of many with my new name on it, and the first of many Cloud Native conferences to come.

So I guess maybe I am diverse after all. I love Kubernetes for so many reasons. After the conference, I think one of the main reasons I love the community is that I am just another committer to the code base. To be honest, I am so grateful that I can fit right in. I just want to write code and be treated like everyone else. Thanks to the Kubernetes community for the gift of being pleasantly accepted as a software engineer despite being a bit of a black sheep. It’s all I could ever ask for.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation is offering diversity scholarships at both its European and North America shows in 2017. To apply, please visit  here for Europe and here for North America.