DevOps State of Mind Ep. 9: Recruiting for a DevOps Culture

March 23, 2022
Liesse Jones
Liesse Jones is the Director of Marketing Communications at LogDNA. She manages content strategy, PR, analyst relations, and media. She spends her time making sure that the brand is consistent across the board so that the world knows how cool log data really is.

Liesse Jones: Today we're joined by Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee, affectionately known as AMG, who's the Director of Talent Acquisition at LogDNA. She's passionate about mentoring recruiting teams and connecting talent to their dream careers, while fostering a genuine and positive candidate experience.

Today, we're going to talk about how to recruit for a DevOps culture and why it's so important to bring more underrepresented talent into tech. 

Welcome to DevOps State of Mind, a podcast where we dive deep into the DevOps culture and talk to small startups and large enterprises about what DevOps looks like in their organization. 

I'm Liesse from LogDNA. Join us as we get into a DevOps state of mind.

Liesse Jones: AMG, it's so fun to have you here.

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I feel like this is a total vibe and yeah, I feel really good. This is exciting. 

Liesse Jones: For everybody listening, we know each other because we work together, which is a total treat, but also just your energy that you bring to the company, every discussion is unparalleled. So when you said you were going to be in town, I was very excited to do this.

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: Equally excited. This was the first time that I got to meet Liesse in person—pandemic life. It has been such a treat and so rewarding. We get to partner a ton together so it's fun to do other projects as well where we get to collaborate. I'm super pumped. 

Liesse Jones: A lot of the guests that I've had so far, in our humble first season, have been founders and technical folks talking about the more technical and tooling components of DevOps. But there's also this huge cultural component, which I'm excited to talk to you about because you've worked for tech companies and you understand the B2B SaaS world, and what it takes to recruit good people and make sure that they feel happy and excited to stay.

We'll see what comes out of this conversation. I'm sure I'm going to learn something.

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: Why not? Let's dive in.

Liesse Jones: Can you start by telling everybody a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you got where you are today?

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: Definitely. Loaded question. I'm Anna-Marie or AMG. I have been at LogDNA now for all of 10 months, so going on my first year and it has been the best and most wild ride of my life. No doubt. I usually sit in London.

I found out about it from our former CRO that I worked with, Tucker, who is now our CEO. He's phenomenal and a super empathetic leader. I felt like, you know, that's leadership I want to get behind and someone that I feel I can learn a ton from as well. 

I got started in the recruiting world straight out of college. Recruited by a recruiter to be a recruiter. Like wild, wild times. Not to age myself, but we're going on 10 years now, 10 years in recruiting, which, I think of what it used to be versus what it is now and the value on people and DEIB and all of these other really great initiatives. And I'm going to do this for life. I can't imagine doing anything else. I love it. 

What is DEIB?

Liesse Jones: You said DEIB—can you explain that to everybody? 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: DEIB is diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Really important pillars in people ops in general. And you've probably heard these terms thrown around loosely, so definitely excited to talk about more and how that applies here, but I think we went through quite a crazy time just in the world in the last few years. Between, you know, George Floyd, and what we call the racial reckoning. And how that translated to organizations and even a lot of our recruiting initiatives. For something that was so grim, a lot of good came from it as well.

Liesse Jones: What initially attracted you to, what I call, “tech startup land,” this weird little corner of earth that we take up?

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: I don't even know that I was initially super into startup life. I think it just found me honestly. And then once I was in it, it was this chaos that I loved. It was chaos, but organized chaos and chaos. A lot of people think of chaos like it's a bad thing, but there's a lot of really good stuff that comes from chaos, like learning and growth opportunities. You have so much exposure to a lot, very quickly. There's not a lot of red tape. There's just this certain exposure that you get that I fell in love with and this open door policy that I hadn't seen at larger organizations before. You know, your voice I think is valued to a different degree and the impact that you can make and that is possible—for me, that's super rewarding. So I joined and now I guess I'm in startup life for life. 

Liesse Jones: There's nothing about big companies that is attractive?

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: No, I think there is, don't get me wrong. I think depending upon who you are and where you're at in life. I think some people look at startups as a risk that they're taking and depending upon the startup, that can be true. Like if you're a series A, you haven't found product market fit, you're still figuring out life to some degree, absolutely that can be more risky. But I think of where we're at right now—we're series D, we just got another round of funding and we didn't even need it, it was like they came to us. So that puts us in a whole different position because we have plenty of money and time, right? We want to be smart about how we use it, we want to hire the right people, the best people, and we're going to be really thoughtful and sustainable about how we do it. I think as a series A, you just don't have that kind of flexibility. 

Larger companies are great for many reasons. I have been part of them, I've recruited for them, but I just think it depends. I just wasn’t super excited by being another number at a company. I wanted to feel like I was adding value and I didn't feel like that before at larger companies. I found that here and that's why startup life chose me, I didn't choose it. 

What does DevOps mean to you?

Liesse Jones: You do add a lot of value. I can confirm you’re a big value add. 

Let's talk a little bit about recruiting for a DevOps culture. I'll start with a very broad question that I like to ask everybody, which is what does DevOps mean to you? Take that as you will. You can talk about just one component of it or more holistically. 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: DevOps is a beast. I think DevOps in general, depending upon how ingrained in the DevOps community you either already are, or aren't, especially in the SaaS world, you're going to hear this term DevOps a lot. And it does mean probably a lot of different things to different people, depending upon what company they're working for. That being said, I feel like DevOps is really bringing along simplicity to something that is so complex and it is bringing organization to something that can oftentimes feel very overwhelming and very intense. 

I come from a non-traditional background. I am not a developer, I'm not an engineer, I don't work in product, so I come at it from a people aspect. I try to explain this all the time to my parents, who still have no idea what I do or what LogDNA is. So to explain it as if I was your grandma, I say it’s creating the calm to someone's chaos, to an org’s chaos, and putting structure to it and being very thoughtful about how we do that. So DevOps to me is the pivotal pillar that you need, and you cannot ignore, in order to be successful as a scaling company.

Liesse Jones: I love it. This is why I like to ask people because everybody has such a different perspective. For the discussion today, obviously we're going to talk a lot about a culture of collaboration and, what is the term that Tucker always uses? When you come to something with a foundational level of trust you can assume positive intent. Which is really important to the style of work.

How to recruit for a DevOps culture

I would love to know what are the things that are different about recruiting for this type of culture from other places that you've recruited for? 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: I think DevOps in general can be oddly specific. So when you're recruiting talent, it can be very niche and the conversations that you're having are typically people that have been in the industry for a hot minute. They know what they're doing, they've been there, they've done that, and they want to be part of something that they know is going to be impactful for the future. So it's kind of like “cut the BS” is really DevOps culture. Right? Like, don't give me the fluff. They hate hearing, “I stay because of the people,” even though it's true, but they really want the facts not the feelings, because I think they'll figure out the feelings, but the facts are super important. So you have to be transparent from day one. And if you're not, they'll call you out and they’ll tell the whole world on Glassdoor. 

Liesse Jones: “This weird lady. Her name was like an acronym for something.”

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: “She thought she was like a Mercedes. She was infatuated with Mercedes cars.” I'm not, okay. 

Liesse Jones: Is AMG a type of Mercedes? I didn’t know that.

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: I didn't either until one day I was literally on the freeway and I saw Mercedes and it had AMG on the back of it. And I was like, what the hell? So everybody always asks me, “oh, do you have a Mercedes?” No, I'm not not bougie enough for a Mercedes. I don't even have a car. 

Liesse Jones: Me either. I think I forgot how to drive because I've lived in the city for so long and now I'm kind of terrified to do it. 

Support your local Uber drivers people. 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: I'm still waiting for teleportation. If Elon Musk can take us to the moon, I'm waiting for teleportation personally. 

Liesse Jones: Yeah. Shout out to Elon Musk. I feel like he's doing some nice things for Ukraine right now. 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: I feel that. It's good to see people in power using it for good. You want to get on board with that. 

Liesse Jones: Yeah. What are the specific types of things that you look for when recruiting—we'll talk just about LogDNA for today—what are the things that you look for to tell if somebody's going to be successful? 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: Outside of your typical technical aptitude, when we're looking at people we always say that they need to be a value add, which means we don't want them to fit in to current standards of what LogDNA is. We want them to bring something to the table that we might not already have. We want them to add value in a way, or show us a perspective in a way that maybe we hadn't seen or heard before. So for us, we always look for people that have a sense of creativity. They're eager to learn. They don't want to just accept the status quo. They are people that typically go above and beyond. And listen, that doesn't mean they're burning out and they need to give up their soul or their firstborn to be successful. It just means they're really thoughtful and intentional, I think is what it comes down to.

So we're looking for people that are really great communicators, especially as we've moved to a remote-bias environment. We have people all over the world right now at our company. And so being able to communicate over Slack and Zoom and all these different forms is super important. Communication has literally never been more important in our life than it is right now. I mean, hashtag fake news, right? That's a whole thing. 

We look for people that are just generally curious and humble, like good people, people that you feel are approachable and you can have a conversation with. I always hate when different recruiting teams say, “the rule of thumb is would I grab a beer with you?” because I just don't think that's realistic. I also think it excludes a lot of people, especially if you're talking about engineers, who are notoriously introverts—but shout out to the ones that aren't either—they all add such value in different ways.

We look for good people at the end of the day. People that are also resilient. I use this word resilience—they don't give up easily. They don't like taking no for an answer, to be totally honest. They're going to push to figure out how to solve a problem.

Liesse Jones: Why is that important for startups in particular? 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: In startups you're shifting and changing a lot. What could serve as your product roadmap at the beginning of the year could be totally different from what it is at the end of the year. That's also the powerful thing about a startup because you can shift and be so agile and lack red tape, you also get to be part of the decision-making process through a lot of that, which is great as an employee, but it does come with needing to pivot and pivot fast and needing to just shift things around. So I feel like if you're comfortable and excited by that, then startup life is a great environment for it. But it is important to have, I think just as a characteristic, because if you're used to doing things a certain way, just because they've always been done that way, that learning environment just doesn't do well in startup life. 

Burnout in a male-dominated industry

Liesse Jones: You also briefly mentioned burnout and you look for people who are hard workers and ambitious, but that is not synonymous with burnout. Can we just talk about that for a minute? Especially as women, because I feel like the culture of proving yourself as a woman in a male dominated industry usually means that you have a bunch of women who feel like, I have to do this, this, and this. And I have to be able to send an email or respond to something at 11:00 PM to prove that I belong here, which is such BS and we need to get rid of that. 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: Yeah, we do. And I feel like we're on our way there, to be honest, I do. We're not nearly done or where I think we would all want to be, but I feel like we're getting there. We're making progress. And I think a lot of that comes from women empowering women. 

Our women in tech ERG (employee resource group) is so important. I’ve learned so much from that ERG. And just having a place of belonging in your workspace and other people that can vouch for you and have your back is incredibly important because if you're just in an environment where you feel like your voice isn't being heard or appreciated, get out. It's not up to you to prove yourself or your value based on what you can produce. Just as a human, that's a really shitty way of living life. At some point you of course have to produce because it's your job, but if people are coming at you saying, okay, well you need to work at least 9-10 hours to be successful here… like who am I to say? I don't care. If you show up to work and your stuff is done in five hours and you're killing it, who am I to tell you what productivity needs to look like in your life? 

I think there's this micromanagement thing that is going out the window. God bless Gen Z seriously, because I feel like they are the ones shifting and changing the game. I have a few Gen Z’s on my team and I’ve learned so much from them. One thing being how to operate TikTok. 

We have to get better about it, but the ways that I find to be most helpful are to work with people who have been there and done that. I have an amazing boss and leader who has seen some things, she's done some things. And just this buy-in of, you don't need to prove yourself, you already have. You're here. Don't be your own worst enemy or your own barrier to entry. 

Apply for the job. Don't give in. F the patriarchy. 

The Great Resignation

Liesse Jones: I actually feel like that's a good segue into talking about this moment that we're having right now, the great resignation.

Something that you just said made me think of this idea that when you're interviewing for a company now it feels like the company is begging for employees to join. They're trying to prove themselves. And if you do end up joining and then you learn that that is not actually the culture, that feels like a bait and switch. 

And I've heard you talk about how the power dynamic has shifted recently and would love to just share that with the audience. 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: The power dynamic, even when I started recruiting it was a lot of prove yourself, prove your worth, do a six hour take home tasks that we're not going to pay you for, and maybe we'll get back to you in a few weeks if you did okay. It’s shifted and I personally think it's for the better, and this is coming from somebody in recruiting, who sometimes this works against because we have candidates with multiple offers at a time. They have the opportunity to be picky because it is a candidate's market. But I also think as humans, that's really powerful because the ball is in your court to literally choose the best option available to you at any time. So do your due diligence and ensure that wherever you're heading next is a place that you're going to thrive in and just enjoy life. Life is too short, right? These last few years have been wild and you have to reassess what's most important to you. 

The great resignation is a wild challenge right now because we are running in a time and an environment where every company is going after the best of the best talent, but we're trying to compete in our own ways. Depending upon where you're at in life and what that looks like, every candidate wants something different, depending upon your pain point. Maybe you're not getting paid enough, maybe you're trying to figure out how to get into tech in the first place, maybe you're an underrepresented minority and you're just trying to figure that out. I mean, there's so many different challenges. 

And then on top of it, if you have companies that are not transparent with you from day one—you mentioned this bait and switch—they're not going to stick around for it, nor should they. Don't promise people something that you can't deliver on because you're just lying.

Something I really appreciated when I came to LogDNA—Amy, our Chief People Officer, said, “you know what, it's kind of a shit show right now in recruiting and I'm not gonna lie we have some stuff to figure out, but I feel like you can do it and I'm going to give you every resource possible to be successful.” And it was fantastic. I was like, you know, this sounds like an amazing challenge. And she was right, there were some things that were falling apart and there was a lot of good happening, but we needed to shift and change and we did, and there's a lot of good that came from that. But if I had walked in with this expectation that things were sunny and beautiful and they weren't, my perception of not only LogDNA, but even Amy, my boss, you feel like you're starting off on a lie. Who wants that? 

Liesse Jones: I love that you say she told you that she would provide all of the resources to help you be successful. And from an outsider's perspective, I feel like that has been true. 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: Oh, for sure. You know, closed mouths don't get fed, right? So ask, say what you need in order for it to be successful. As employees you want to be successful in what you're doing, but sometimes it's hard to find your voice. And sometimes it's hard even just to figure out what it is exactly you need to be successful. But the longer you do it, the more time you spend, the easier it gets. The more you ask, the easier it gets. And genuinely, if your managers don't want you to be successful then you shouldn't work for them because you're not going to find success that way either. They should be the ones advocating for you and giving you the resources you need, because it's only going to make them look better. It's going to make the company more successful. There's so much positive that comes from that. 

Why isn’t tech more diverse and how we can fix it

Liesse Jones: You touched briefly on how this shift in power has been good for historically underrepresented folks. Let's talk about that a little bit. And, just as a level set, why do you think that tech isn’t more diverse? 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: I think there's a lot of reasons, statistically, even if you were to look into typically underrepresented minority groups are people that don't have the same privileges or resources available to them as affluent neighborhoods would. So maybe their school that they're going to doesn't offer a STEM program or coding classes. I have a niece who’s 13 and part of her core classes in high school is literally coding. And I think that's phenomenal, but you know 10-20 years ago that was absolutely not a thing. So I think first it's this barrier to entry and truly resources and funding and education systems that is lacking, from a very bottom line standpoint. 

I also think that visibility into these types of roles when you come from an underrepresented minority group, maybe you haven't gone to college, which is totally fine as well, you don't need a degree to work in tech. Half of my team I don't think has degrees. And it's not even something that we ask, it's not applicable. Having a degree is not an indicator of whether you're going to be successful or not. That being said, those people that have gone to college are exposed to other opportunities and even classes. But if you don't have the money to go to college, maybe you couldn't even get the good grades to go to college because you were so busy working a full-time job, trying to support your family at home. Forget about thriving, you're surviving.

Honestly the barrier to entry at some organizations can just be really difficult. Even look at stats for internship programs and thank God the times are changing because now a lot of them are paid and if it's an unpaid internship then you get like flack for it, which is great. People should get paid for internships, they're working really hard. But, even in internships 10-20 years ago, they wouldn't pay for it. And if you're underrepresented, you cannot afford to not have a working job or to have an unpaid internship. So again, there's just some barriers to entry I think we’ve gotten better at.

I think it’s also location. We went from, you have to be in an office mentality to now, we're a hundred percent remote or a lot of companies are going that route. So there is more flexibility and opportunity for them to join, even if they might live in states that technology is notoriously not around. Not everybody lives in San Francisco or a Silicon Valley hub. A lot of people might live somewhere like Ohio. One of our best directors of engineering, she's in Ohio. 

Liesse Jones: You were talking about internships—I'm going to get in trouble for saying this because my fiance and so many people that I know went to Waterloo and Waterloo has an amazing program where, if you're on the engineering path, you do internships as well. They pay literally more than I made at my first two jobs when I lived in San Francisco. How does that take away opportunities from other people who aren't in college to even just get their foot in the door? 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: Totally. It does, right? Because there used to be this barrier to entry that you had to have a college degree to even work in tech. I mean, Google was notorious for this. It was only in the last five years where they got rid of this prerequisite that you had to go to college in order to even be considered to apply for a job. If you applied to a job and you didn't have a college degree, they would just automatically reject you. How terrible is that? And that automatically cuts out so many underrepresented minorities in general.

You have to be really intentional as an organization to look at the make of your organization and figure out where the gaps are. Diversity can mean a lot of things. If you want to look at male versus female, or trans or LGBTQIA community, or Hispanic versus Black versus White and Asian, right? There's so many different routes that you can go. But identifying the gaps you have, you have to start there because if you don't at least acknowledge it a lot of people don't see it as a problem. Like if a company is 80% male and 20% female, which is notorious in tech, you are losing so much profitability because you do not have enough diverse minds in the room to talk about different perspectives. It is literally bad business.

The racial reckoning of sorts has really helped encourage these conversations. Because when you talk about giving opportunities to underrepresented minority groups—some of the sourcers and recruiters on our team, even, now actively go after those groups because we want to ensure that we have better representation at our org.

Why? Because it's better business. It makes us better people and at the end of the day it's just good business. 

Liesse Jones: Identifying your gaps is so important. Shout out to Ingrid Who's the DEI consultant that we work with at LogDNA. I remember when we first started working with her and we were in the first stages of understanding where our gaps were, somebody said “well we have a lot of women.” We do have kind of a lot of women for average tech. And she looked at me and said something like, “until you have the right number of Black women represented in your company, I do not care.”

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: It's true. And I love Ingrid because her famous line is, “I'm going to give you two chops to the throat and then a hug.” And it's true. She's going to come at you with the facts, but she's also going to help you figure out how to get to the next stage and like, love you through it. And I think you just need that in general. 

It's also really powerful to have somebody from the Black community come in and talk about how this affects not only them, but other underrepresented minority groups too. And other groups that have notoriously been at a disadvantage in tech. And so I think it is a really important conversation to have. We talked about this last week at our recruiting offsite—you can say we have a lot of women but diving deeper into where are the women in the org? Are they primarily in support roles? How many of them are in leadership? What does our board of directors look like? Right. There's so much more to be done in those areas. Other than if you were to say the People Ops team is predominantly women. Well, that's pretty common in general. But if you look at engineering, it's like less than 10% of the majority of tech groups are female, so we have work to do. 

Liesse Jones: We were also doing research a few weeks ago because it's women's history month and a report had just come out that there's the largest percentage of female CFOs that have ever existed but it's still only, I can't remember if it was 10% or 15% of all CFOs. 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: It's both exciting and then it's also totally deflating because it's 2022, like seriously. 

Ingrid shared at our last offsite that there’s more men, I think with the name of Dave in CEO positions, then there are Black people in CEO positions.

Liesse Jones: That's so crazy. 

Why diversity is essential for DevOps

Bringing this back to DevOps, part of why I wanted to have you on is because DevOps is all about collaboration, cross-team empathy, having that foundation of trust so that you can work to solve problems that are bigger than just the single thing that you do or that you're working on. So with all of that in mind, why is it important to have a diverse group of people working on those problems? 

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: Other than just good business, and what do I mean by good business? Let's unpack what that looks like. First of all, it's super easy to have group-think. If you just have a room full of white men and they're all from the same college or background, their perspective is going to be very limited, which is only going to take your product so far. Any product for that matter typically will impact more than just one gender or ethnicity. You're going to have people that come from all over the world using your product. And so then if you think about that from a business case, and the profitability, and the margins associated with that, if you don't have diverse backgrounds and people in the room being able to talk to that and really add value to those conversations, what are you doing? Honestly, what are you doing? Because it just feels like such a big missed opportunity. I'm sure we've all seen some ads where we're like, that was a total fail, like who was part of that think tank? You really missed the mark.

By bringing those people to the conversation you're just allowing for a better perspective and opportunity to make an impact on your product in a meaningful way. That is also going to have an impact on your customers. Think about who your customers are, they're not all white males. So let's be better people. We have to be. 

Well, okay, listen, you don't have to be, but if you're not, you're going to get left behind and you don't want that as a business. And if you consider yourself a good human, which I hope you do—I feel like generally people that listen to this podcast are probably really good humans.

Liesse Jones: I hope, but, also if you're not, you should keep listening because you might be positively influenced.

Anna-Marie Gutierrez-Lee: It’s just another good growing opportunity as people and as businesses. If you don’t have more voices in the room you’re going to make big mistakes that can come back and bite you in the ass. 

Liesse Jones: Be better people. And if you don't, you might make mistakes that bite you in the ass. That’s a good summary of this whole episode. 

AMG, Director of Talent Acquisition at LogDNA, thank you so much for being here. 

Also in honor of AMG being here, we are always hiring and looking for amazing people. So if anything about the culture that you heard today was exciting to you, check out our careers page or feel free to follow either of us on LinkedIn and reach out, we would love to chat with you. 

Find AMG on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/annamariegutierrez

Find Liesse on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/liessejones

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