Interview with Abby Kearns

“The priority going forward is making automation actionable, scalable and intelligent”

Chris Stewart
© Shutterstock / Who is Danny

We caught up with Abby Kearns to discuss her new position as CTO of Puppet. See what she says about the future of Puppet and DevOps, the impact of COVID-19 on how we work, and what key advice she gives to women in business.

JAXenter: First off, congratulations on your new position as CTO of Puppet! Would you mind sharing a little about how you came to your new position?

Abby Kearns: Puppet has been a pioneer in the DevOps space and has effectively shaped the way the modern data center is run. The company has been nurturing innovation in the open source community for the past ten years, it led the DevOps movement and ushered in the concept of Infrastructure as Code (IaC). When I joined the Product Advisory Board of Puppet in early 2019, I quickly saw that this company that was helping drive efficiency through automation for more than 80% of the Global 5000 was not getting nearly the credit it deserved.

The company employs some of the smartest and most driven folks around and I’m excited about joining the team and building out the best infrastructure automation platform to serve the needs of the largest enterprise in the world on everything from configuration management, continuous compliance, incident remediation and continuous delivery/self-service. The direction Puppet has taken over the last few years to invest more deeply in an end-to-end platform rather than a collection of tools got me excited about joining the team.

Puppet is the company best positioned to drive the shift coming in the way infrastructure is managed – from on premise to the cloud, and all the way to the edge. The opportunity to join such an exciting company at a time when massive change is on the horizon was too good to miss.

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JAXenter: Puppet is a big name in DevOps, a field that is still evolving very fast. What’s your vision for your time with Puppet?

Abby Kearns: I’ll be largely responsible for leading the vision and the direction of Puppet’s current and future product portfolio. That means I’ll be actively working to evolve the current product portfolio to introduce a platform approach that better sets up the company to deliver on the promise of helping enterprises modernize and manage their infrastructure, ensuring customers have the right tools and commercial offerings they need to be successful in our increasingly hybrid world.

The priority going forward is making automation actionable, scalable and intelligent. Apart from building on our flagship Puppet Enterprise, we are going to keep on investing in open source Puppet, which is wildly successful and has a massive community of contributors. My focus will also be on bridging the gap between a world-class product and a stellar group of global 5000 customers. Organizations are starting to realize the benefits and cost efficiencies of Infrastructure automation and the incredible agility of Infrastructure as Code. The biggest opportunity for Puppet is to build on and evolve what the company has already started – helping some of the largest businesses around deploy and manage applications, both on-prem and in the cloud, in a single platform.

JAXenter: Do you think COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the way we work and the tools we use?

Abby Kearns: It’s going to be a rough ride for a lot of companies. What the current COVID-19 crisis has shown more than anything is that being too reliant on any one way of working can be costly. Greater flexibility in the ways we work and in the tools we use, will allow companies to navigate through unprecedented and unexpected events.

The virus has significantly accelerated several trends that were already rising strongly in enterprise IT, such as the need to bring a cloud-native mindset to existing infrastructure without significant refactoring of existing applications, the move towards API-driven self-service IT services and the shift towards automating existing processes for operational efficiency.

It is more important than ever that companies are confident that their infrastructure is managed effectively, whether that is on-prem or in the cloud. We believe there is a “new normal” stemming from this pandemic, and the current situation underscores the important role that Puppet plays in helping companies run their organizations more efficiently, securely, and remotely when required.

JAXenter: You’ve had a number of prominent positions now, including Executive Director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation. What have you learned over your career that you think it’s important for others to know?

Abby Kearns: The more things change, the more they stay the same. The remarkable technological shifts we’ve seen in my career are hard to fathom. And yet, the way we work hasn’t fundamentally changed since the internet became the basis for interaction around work. I do think we’re seeing a shift (both generationally and driven, in part by COVID-19) to an even more flexible and expansive approach to how we work. I don’t see us coming back from this pandemic the same as before.

SEE ALSO: The Difference between DevOps, PrivacyOps & AIOps

JAXenter: Looking back at our last feature about you in 2017, have any of your answers changed since then?

Abby Kearns: That conversation was focused almost exclusively on equity in the technology industry. As an industry, we certainly still have a long way to go. But looking back at the results of that discussion, I really think the key advice I gave to women in business (regardless of industry) still stands:

  • Be vocal and speak up for yourself. You bring as much to the table as your male counterparts.
  • Be confident in your own abilities.
  • Know your value and trust your gut.
Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart is an Online Editor for He studied French at Somerville College, Oxford before moving to Germany in 2011. He speaks too many languages, writes a blog, and dabbles in card tricks.

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