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Portrait: Abby Kearns, Executive Director of Cloud Foundry Foundation

“Diversity ensures continuous innovation”

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Abby Kearns, Executive Director of Cloud Foundry Foundation.

Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Abby Kearns, Executive Director of Cloud Foundry Foundation.

Abby Kearns, Executive Director of Cloud Foundry Foundation

Abby Kearns is a true tech veteran, with an 18-year career spanning product marketing, product management and consulting at a mix of Fortune 500 and startup companies.

As the first fellow at Cloud Foundry Foundation and VP of Strategy, Abby was responsible for structuring and executing operational and strategic initiatives, as well as leading the User Advisory Board and Industry Special Interest Groups. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was part of the Product Management team at Pivotal, focusing on Pivotal Cloud Foundry. Previously, Abby led a Product Management and Product Marketing team at Verizon focused on cloud services. 

When Abby was in middle school, there was a class that provided an introduction to both basic and typing (that was a thing back then), where they got to spend the day on computers. This was her first exposure to a personal computer. Throughout school, Abby also really loved math. So, in high school, she decided to take an intro to computer science course at the local college to learn a bit more. Even though it was introductory, she found it really exciting. Years later, when she was choosing her college major, she thought of how much she loved math and computers, so Abby chose to major in Computer Science.

Abby’s love for technology was there all along

I have taken a varied career path. After I graduated college, I wanted a job in technology and ended up working at Sabre as a project manager. I led a project implementing a new email system for an airline. It was Novell GroupWise — if I’m going to date myself. I quickly learned a lot about infrastructure, project and program management, as well as how to lead a team that was large and distributed.

My learnings went on to shape my career. From there, I spent the next several years leading teams, architecting and implementing infrastructure projects, as well as operations.

Operations teach you a lot about what “Day 2” of a technology solution really means and provide perspective on what happens after something goes “live.” You end up having enormous empathy for the user. That role really helped shape how I think about any project, even now. I ask questions like: What happens once this is in production? What is the user experience? Is this something that is going to scale?

I have always loved technology and found comfort not only in what it can do but in its potential to change and evolve.

I have always loved technology and found comfort not only in what it can do but in its potential to change and evolve. I am someone who enjoys learning and will continue to learn throughout the rest of my life. Technology is the perfect outlet for this because I constantly need to learn what is new and different to stay current.

Persistence is key

I was the first person in my family to go to college, and the first (and only) person to have a career in technology. So, I did not really have a role model growing up for this type of career. I just knew this is what I wanted to do, and I persisted. I worked several jobs throughout college to pay for school and then taught myself how a computer worked, and how to put one together. I am really goal-oriented and stubborn, so when I set my mind to something I focus on accomplishing it.

Abby is enthusiastic for the next twenty years in technology because:

For a woman in technology, there is a tremendous amount of obstacles — some of which I have only recently realized. When I first started in my career, there was a lot of acceptance of bad behavior because “it was the way the world worked.” As a woman, you had to work harder and be better than your male counterpart just to reach equal footing.

The world is finally starting to change. We are finally starting to believe the world does not actually “work” that way. I am really enthusiastic for the next twenty years in technology. A diverse group of people can bring so much power to our industry.

Today, I am privileged to have the role of Executive Director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, the open source software foundation charged with holding the intellectual property for Cloud Foundry, an open source Cloud Application Platform. As a foundation, we are responsible for ensuring the continued success of the open source project, as well as ensuring that it has a sustainable ecosystem and community around it.

A diverse group of people can bring so much power to our industry.

This job offers an amazing opportunity to work with a brilliant team, an exceptional board of directors and a community that continues to inspire me with its talent and drive. I’ve worked with incredible people and technology throughout the years. It hasn’t always been easy but perseverance in the face of any challenge has always been my strength. In my current role, I make an impact with our member companies, have the opportunity to learn from an incredible board, solve hard problems, and work with an exceptional team. But more importantly, I am having fun!

Being a woman in technology

Many women don’t receive support, whether they have just made the decision to major in a technical area or have been in technology for years. When you head down any career path, it can be challenging to find mentors who are the right fit and who are open to taking on mentees to support.

Some organizations are old boys’ clubs — with few if any women in leadership positions and it can be incredibly hard to make a cultural shift unless it is from the top down.

There is a lack of inclusion to which men can be blind. I recently heard Kara Swisher speak about interviewing male CEOs who had never experienced this challenge, so they didn’t believe how deep of a problem it is. Of course, there are systemic issues within our wider society, such as a lack of consideration for working mothers or insufficient maternity leave policies. The more challenges women face, the weaker the pipeline becomes. If women lack support, there will be fewer women looking to enter the industry, period. We must continue to improve this.

Women in STEM

It’s a vicious cycle: if more women worked in STEM, they wouldn’t face this same level of exclusion. If they didn’t face exclusion, more women would work in STEM. More diverse perspectives  —not only women’s but those from all types of unique backgrounds— offer up more voices and opinions, and provide greater opportunities to solve problems collaboratively.

Some organizations are old boys’ clubs — with few if any women in leadership positions and it can be incredibly hard to make a cultural shift unless it is from the top down.

Where is the diversity discussion headed?

This is not an easy problem to solve. Fortunately, there has been traction in recent years with organizations that have made it a priority to bring in executives who identify with traditionally underrepresented groups. Diversity is key to moving the industry forward; it helps us foster a sustainable and open community, and ensures continuous innovation.

We focus on inclusion here at the Cloud Foundry Foundation, such as bringing the best and brightest speakers to our events so that a diverse set of perspectives are shared. This year, we actually have more women giving keynotes than men at our upcoming Silicon Valley Summit, which sadly, is not typical in this industry.

Tips & tricks

  • 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.

That is advice I would give to any woman in the workforce, whether or not she works in technology.

 

Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is an online editor for JAXenter.com. Before working at S&S Media she studied International Communication Management at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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