Culture / DevOps

How to Work Your Way to the Top of the Tech Heap

15 Apr 2020 5:00pm, by

Regardless of whatever happens during the next few weeks and months in response to the worldwide pandemic, open-source development and tools will continue to serve as the foundation for what is yet to come. Organizations that thrive in the future will only do so by continuing to operate as software companies. And the smart ones will realize open source development and tools are only as good as the talents of the people constituting the DevOps teams that make the magic happen.

On this newest episode of The New Stack Makers podcast, we speak with Cheryl Razzell, director of platform and live ops at 3D interactive content delivery platform Polystream. As the ravages of COVID-19 continue to take their toll in London, where she is based, Razzell speaks of women in tech, and her career path from tech support to working at Apple, Microsoft, HBSC, DevOps and continuing her high-level IT career tech at Polystream.

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Razzell has been able to apply her innate curiosity and intelligence building a high-level career that began as an entry-level job at Apple in a large part thanks to her network of supporters.

“You ask yourself if you can you really do this and that, and somebody else has faith that you can do it,” Razzell said. “And I think that kind of really puts you forward. So my roles have grown because I’ve had a good network and a good connection with good sponsors.”

This is not to say that systemic biases continue to limit women’s, as well as other grossly underrepresented groups, in the tech field. This bias begins at an early age. Making cultural changes and removing biases against women in tech, for example, is a monumentally “difficult task that exists in all walks of life,” she said. “Schools today still keep computers for the boys and the home economics to the girls,” Razzell said.

“That needs to change.”

As Razzell noted, “people intuitively pick up their technology and use it every day,” Razzell. “They’re much better with technology than they think they are. As soon as you say to them, ‘I’m working technology work in an IT department or an IT company,’ they think they have to be a developer, but instead, everybody uses technology to aid their life daily,” without even realizing it.

Mentors, of course, have played a key role in Razzell’s career track, and she continues to give back in her role as a mentor. “I’ve had some great mentors throughout the years, and those mentors have been from my bosses to outside mentors that I’ve sought for somebody to support me and what I’m doing, and sometimes just to say, ‘am I doing the right thing? Am I bonkers? And, you know, does this sound reasonable to you?’” Razzell said. “And one consistent message I’ve had from my mentors is to aim towards a role where you feel that you’re stretched in some areas and that you still have enough of your comfort zone to be successful within that role.”

At Polystream, Razzell’s role is largely about “talking to customers and strengthening our platform for production.”

“I’ve got a great team behind me and we’ve already done some really cool things,” Razzell said. “I love the agile way of working in a startup because you have to switch direction multiple times a day. So, I’m building out the underlying platform that we’re building for our customers.”

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash.

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