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Kubernetes / Open Source / Tech Culture

3 Lessons Cheryl Hung Learned Working at CNCF

Infrastructure specialist Cheryl Hung shares three lessons she learned while working at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.
Feb 16th, 2023 7:30am by
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Photo by Loraine Lawson

Cheryl Hung boasts quite a resume, with time spent at Google, Apple, and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). She’s now the senior director of ecosystem at Arm, but at Civo Navigate last week, she focused her keynote talk on what she learned while working for the CNCF.

Despite her time working with Kubernetes and containers in general, she didn’t have a lot to say about the technology. Instead, the first thing she learned at CNCF was from former Executive Director Dan Kohn. She was waiting for the job interview to start, but when she picked up the phone, the first thing Kohn said was, “Hey Cheryl, I’m Dan, executive director of CNCF. And after you’re done with CNCF, you could be …” and he launched into a litany of jobs she’d be qualified for after working for the open source consortium.

“I did this double-take,” Hung told the audience. “I really had to take a moment when I was like, ‘Did I already get this job and I didn’t notice?’ But I realized over time, that’s how Dan thought about people. He really thought it’s not about what can you do today and yes or no. It was always about how can I set you up in a couple of years’ time so that you can have those opportunities to do what you want to do.”

It’s a lesson she’s tried to apply herself for others, particularly those who are early in their career, she said.

The Second Lesson: Failure is an Option

The second lesson she learned from Kohn came after she had officially accepted the job.

“This is when I was trying to figure out what the heck I was doing there,” she said. “When you start a new job and you’re thrown into projects, you have all these new ideas [about] what to do.”

She came to Kohn with a long list of ideas and asked him to help prioritize it.

“He listened to me very intently and then he said, ‘Cheryl, failure is an option,’” she said. “What he meant by that was there’s no perfect answer to any of this. It’s much better to try a bunch of things and for them to fail than it is to not make any start at all, because you’re so overwhelmed with what’s going on.”

It was an extremely kind thing to say to someone in their first month of a new job, she added. She found it was a relief to be told she could try a lot of things and that it was OK if they didn’t work out.

The Third Lesson: Pay Attention to Timing

The third lesson she learned from CNCF was to pay attention to what people’s interests are and the timing of those interests. The first time she heard of a cloud native model was from a consulting friend who had been working on one and wanted CNCF to publish it. The effort fizzled out, she said, but a year later, another consulting friend mentioned the idea of a cloud maturity model. This time, she conducted a bit of research and found another company had published its own cloud maturity model — that made three different companies, talking about the same problem.

“Three people who are interested in the same business, same time, [it] probably means there are other people who are interested in it,” she said. “A lot of this is just trying to find the right opportunities, in the right timing, and be open to new things.”

Kubernetes vs. Serverless

Hung now works as senior director of ecosystem at Arm, Limited, a semiconductor and software design company based in Cambridge, England. Her team drives adoption of Arm across cloud and infrastructure through partnerships with commercial and open source organizations. The company eats its own dogwood, and recently moved its design analysis of an x86 and onto Graviton in 2019, she said.

It was 60% faster,” Hung said. “It saved a bunch of power and lowered the costs.”

An audience member also asked Hung what she thought was the future of infrastructure — a Kubernetes-based model or serverless?

“I would say serverless hasn’t taken off to the extent that perhaps it was hoped a couple of years ago,” she said. “I certainly see Kubernetes as the default. Serverless will continue to be useful for gluing its applications together, but, for me, Kubernetes has the right level of abstraction.”

Civo paid for Loraine Lawson’s travel and accommodations to attend the conference.

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