Finding Empowerment as a Woman in Tech: Meet Arielle Allen

"Just so you know, I know nothing about DevOps," I confessed to Arielle Allen, senior manager for service management, spend. "Yeah, I could tell," she responded. "You spelled DevOps wrong in the email."

Bear with me; I just graduated with a degree in communications and work in human resources. I don't know much about computer science and software engineering, let alone the technical aspects of the software technology company where I currently intern. For those also unfamiliar, "dev" and "ops" are entirely separate entities. "Dev "stands for software development, while "ops" is short for IT operations. DevOps is essentially combining the worlds of code and service engineering. What makes DevOps so powerful is that you can't have one without the other.

As a talent acquisition intern, one of my projects is to share our company culture and spotlight professionals. This gave me an opportunity to delve further into this area, so I sat down with Arielle to learn more about her career and DevOps. 


Meet Arielle

Between discovering her love of Rome and California's beaches, to learning that she's an ordained minister and has performed two weddings (what!), I quickly saw that Arielle's passion for tech is what grounds her. When she was young, she always loved playing around with computers and problem solving. At age 13, she fixed her friend's computer with help from her father on the telephone. From there, Arielle found it rewarding to help others and was hooked on solving computer problems.

Arielle's journey as a woman in technology started when she was a volunteer student representative for the technology board at her local school district. There, she met her future boss who offered her a tech internship for that same school district. She interned there for her remaining two years of high school, and, by the time she graduated, she had become the lead intern in charge of training new interns.

After high school, Arielle continued her education at Bellevue Community College, taking online and night courses so she could continue interning. During her second year of college, she accepted a role as a data center operator at a truck manufacturing company, working the graveyard shift and going to school during the day. She finished her associates degree in business at BCC, and did a direct online transfer to Washington State University to pursue her bachelors in managing information systems. She told me that it took her longer to finish her degrees than full-time students, due to the fact that she stayed in her career while working. She said she knew she needed to stay relevant in the tech space and could not afford to take time away for school.

That approach paid off for Arielle. She took a bet that virtualization was the future of infrastructure and involved herself in opportunities to train and learn virtualization skills. This experience sent her to a conference where she met her future coworkers. Halfway through her undergraduate studies, she transitioned to a Washington-based high-fashion retailer as a virtualization engineer. She worked for that retailer for five years, in which time she earned her degree, learned automation, founded the retailer's first technology internship program, and transitioned into leadership within the company. She left the retailer as the manager of their website to join SAP Concur as manager of spend, service management for North America. She has been at SAP Concur for a year and a half managing the service management, spend team.

Arielle's team is an "eye in the sky" as she describes it. It oversees the SAP Concur website from a holistic, end-user view. When something isn't working properly, her team responds. They're the early responders, before customers are even aware of glitches.

When asking some of my more fun interview questions, I asked Arielle to describe herself in three words. She didn't wait a split second to blurt out "empowered." Strong leadership, hard work and her confident, empowered personality are what brought Arielle to where she is today.

Using Arielle's favorite word, "empowered," let's take a look at the ways in which the idea of empowerment shapes life, leadership, and even DevOps.


Empowerment in Life

Being the oldest child, Arielle always felt empowered. Her parents raised her to be independent, navigating the life she wanted to lead on her own terms.

In high school, one of Arielle's tasks was to write down what she wanted to be when she grew up. She wrote that it was going to be in tech working on computer engineering. As a 15-year-old, Arielle felt empowered by writing down her desire and having confidence to see it through in the long run.

Although she always had this dream, there was one obstacle that could have tarnished it. But, Arielle took another route to see her dream come to fruition due to a roadblock that seemed inescapable.

"Going through college, I didn't have average math skills," she explained. Growing up, she always struggled with math due to her dyslexia. Because of that, Arielle tried to avoid math and ended up majoring in something that didn't require the advanced math classes. Although that was defeating at first, she didn't let math stop her from succeeding in the tech space. She received a degree in managing information systems, instead of the more common software engineering degree in her field.


Empowerment in Leadership

As a manager of the service management, spend team, Arielle says that what drives her leadership style is her ability to be empowered. What empowerment does is allow the floodgates to open for her team members to be confident in their work and ideas. Empowerment allows room for failure, risk taking, and vulnerability.

Arielle's team doesn't have to feel micromanaged because they know their manager allows for empowerment to take over. She explains: "If your leaders are empowered, they're giving their team space to be empowered. And what they do with [that space] is true empowerment."

It took a lot for Arielle to become the empowered leader that she strived to become. It took mindfulness training, leadership classes, and learning from her own personal experiences. Arielle explained that her leadership stems from being the oldest in her family and it's something she always loved doing. "I enjoy [leading] because if others can learn from me and not [make] the same mistakes or, better, can have the same successes, I'm grateful," she says. Arielle loves providing value to other people and genuinely wants others to do better.

When asked why leadership empowerment is so important to Arielle, she mentions Mahatma Gandhi's famous quote, "be the change you wish to see in the world." This is a constant reminder for Arielle to empower herself, while giving her team space to empower themselves too.


Empowerment in DevOps

One exciting thing that Arielle's team plans to do in 2018 is combine goals more closely with those of other teams. Arielle explains the current problem and future solution simply: "How is a developer going to know everything that service management knows about operations? And how is anybody on service management going to know anything about development? The how is that we need to start speaking the same language to build empathy and understanding of each other's worlds. We can then partner together to tackle problems faster and effectively."

The goal of this journey is to bring speed in delivering features to customers. By educating developers about how to catch bugs, they can make fixes before the operations teams even have a chance to tell developers about the glitches. This will essentially shorten reaction time leading to issues being resolved quicker for the user.

"DevOps goes hand in hand with the empowerment culture," Arielle explains. While educating each other about how to fix glitches, developers and operations teams will be empowered to make changes quickly and efficiently.

To learn more about careers in DevOps at SAP Concur, click here.

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