Using DevOps Principles to Enhance Diversity in Tech


Alston Rousseau is a Senior Cloud Consultant for Foghorn Consulting.

With the soaring need for cloud engineering talent, enterprises are encouraging more and more people, from more and more backgrounds to pursue careers in technology. By empowering more women, LGBT, and engineers from minority backgrounds, IT teams benefit from a diversity of thought and create stronger collaborative products. But the challenge remains. How can we show more people, from all walks of life that careers in cloud design, security and DevOps is the one for them?

Our Chicago based Senior Consultant, Alston Rousseau has been on the frontlines of this conversation and is sharing his insights at this weeks DevOps World in San Francisco.

He’s been kind enough to share some of his experience as it relates to diversity in tech in this blogpost.

Kevin: Hi Alston, can you tell us a little about your background?

Alston: Sure thing! My uncle brought over spare parts and taught me how to build my first computer when I was 10. At the time I really only wanted to play Civilization but it sparked a lifelong curiosity about how these systems work. That curiosity and passion translated into a diverse and exciting career working in tech in the Army and after, with awesome companies like Red Bull and General Electric.

Kevin: When entering the military, what initially inspired your focus on technology?

Alston: Well, I initially enlisted as a mortarman in the infantry – I was shocked at how much tech a modern soldier uses. We used RedHat force tracking systems, sent encrypted communications, fiddled with frequency jamming, and learned to troubleshoot all of this tech while moving 50 miles an hour down dusty Iraq roads. I knew at this point that I was going to make a career out of technology.

Kevin: Can you give us a sneak peak into your upcoming presentation at DevOps World?

Alston: Of course! Using data models I show how and why diversity matters. As individuals in organizations, our unique identity drives our own worldview, and we must strive towards awareness how this worldview impacts team-members and potential hires. Trying to understand each others unique experiences, is a valuable way to supplement our own experiences and enhance collaboration, workplace satisfaction and retention. By asking authentic, well intentioned questions, culture can be improved.

Kevin: Can you share an example of companies that have benefited from placing more emphasis on inclusion in tech?

Alston: One company that really stands out to me is Cisco Systems. Here’s a huge global conglomerate where it could be easy to maintain the status quo. But they started making significant investments in diversity after releasing their EEOC data in 2014 and investing real money into their teams. They’ve taken a very methodical and conscientious approach to improving hiring practices, and as a result: morale, collaboration and retention are up. Cisco has proven that investing in unique perspectives, drives results. They should be proud.

Kevin: What aspects of DevOps can correlate with hiring practices and benefit Human Resources?

Alston: So, Devops Culture relates to accountability, quick experimentation, continuous feedback, and autonomous teams. HR can show their teams how to reduce bias and improve their hiring practices. The key is giving hiring managers ownership over improving the diversity of teams and holding them accountable to the organization’s commitments. I want to help HR teams and hiring managers see how they can enable diversity, so that they can really thrive.

Kevin: Thanks for your service to our Country, your perspective, your time, and your advocacy for more inclusion in technology.

Alston: Man, thank you Kevin – I really appreciate the opportunity!

Kevin: Good luck with your presentation. You’ll do awesome!

For those going to DevOps World you can catch Alston’s 45 minute presentation at 11:30 this Thursday, August 15.

Kevin Fleming is a staff writer and Foghorn’s Director of Communications

Alston Rousseau is a Senior Cloud Consultant for Foghorn Consulting.