Episode #127: Supporting Women in Tech with Kristi Perreault
March 7, 2022 • 54 minutes
On this episode, Jeremy and Rebecca chat with Kristi Perreault about how to support women in tech, the benefits of "squeaky clean code", how her team helps enable serverless developers at Liberty Mutual, and a whole lot more!
Kristi Perreault is a Senior Software Engineer at Liberty Mutual Insurance, where her focus is serverless development and enablement. She has over 4 years of industry experience, holds an M.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering, and has learned, followed, and preached the best coding practices she knows through it all. When she isn’t promoting Women in Technology and mentoring her dozens of new hires & interns, Kristi can be found in the mountains of Colorado hiking, mountain biking, skiing, golfing, paddle-boarding, or doing just about anything else outdoors.
Hi everyone. I'm Jeremy Daly.Rebecca:
And I'm Rebecca Marshburn.Jeremy:
And this is Serverless Chats. Hey Rebecca, you know what I love about this show?Rebecca:
Ooh, the banter in the beginning.Jeremy:
Well, yes, the banter in the beginning is one of my favorite parts, but we have been fueling some conversations or starting conversations on Twitter.Rebecca:
Okay. Say more please, do elaborate.Jeremy:
Well, so we had this excellent conversation with Eric Johnson and we were talking about speaking up in meetings and we've gotten some feedback from Ben Kehoe on it. And a lot of people speaking about that. And I think that is amazing because is that not the purpose of this show to get people thinking and talking about all these ideas?Rebecca:
I totally agree. And honestly, to tell you the truth, I clicked on Ben Kehoe's, opened it up and I was like, "Oh wait, this is me looking at my quote that he put." And I was like, "What's happening here?" And it was both exciting and humbling I think to say.Jeremy:
Yes. So you know what the second best part about the show is?Rebecca:
No. The guests are the next best part of this show. Actually, they're probably the best part of the show. So we have an amazing guest today, would you like to introduce her?Rebecca:
Absolutely. Our guest today is senior software engineer at Liberty Mutual Insurance, Kristi Perreault. Hey Kristi, thank you so much for joining us.
Hey, thanks for having me today. I am super excited to be here, but I do have to say you guys are setting the bar pretty high with the stellar guests that you have been having lately.Rebecca:
Well, you are also a stellar guest, so you're continuing to raise that bar. Jeremy and I actually chatted a little bit. Usually we'd say like, "Hey, tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do at Liberty Mutual," and we're going to get there I promise. But we thought, Jeremy and I thought, that instead of going straight into what do you do technologically and then tell us how you're using serverless and then how Liberty Mutual is using serverless. There's something that you're super passionate about. So we actually wanted to start there and allow you that space to talk about women in tech, in this really powerful article that you wrote called, I gave the wrong answer when I asked how people can better support women in tech, here's what I wish I said instead.Rebecca:
And it's this really great article you end up reflecting on an answer that you had given and you basically break it down into four more discrete sections where you're like, "Hey, build women up, watch the water cooler talk, educate yourself so you can educate others and ask women what they need." And so we wanted to hold this space first for you to talk a little bit about what that meant to clarify that. And you do so much work about women in tech, and we'll talk more about how you're empowering others to be in this space. So will you tell us a little bit about that article and then we'll get into, of course the tech side of things.
Yeah, definitely. And I totally appreciate you setting aside the space to do that right off the bat here. So some background on that article first, which is funny. So the one that you talked about, the titled that one was from, it was picked up from Business Insider. So I originally actually wrote that on Medium where I had just entitled it how to support women in tech. And then it just blew up overnight and I was very surprised. And I allude to this in the article, but I was recently on the Serverless Office Hours and was asked about women in tech and just wasn't super satisfied with my answer. I thought I could take some time to reflect and elaborate a little bit more.
So I just wanted to share a little bit about my story. And I've been hearing a lot from folks in industry, which is awesome, what can we do to help? Where can I step in? What do you need? Those sorts of things, and I thought that it would be really helpful to just put almost a little guide together, at least from my perspective and my point of view, what's helped me in the past and what I've seen help others and some of the things that I need. And I just did not expect it to resonate with so many people, which was really exciting and cool to see. But yeah, women in tech is a huge part of my life and something that I've been really passionate about for a long time now, probably since I started way back in my undergrad degree.
So starting from there, I was part of Society of Women Engineers in my college. And then coming out of it, Liberty has an awesome women in tech program that I've been very involved with from the start. I work a lot with teaching kids in K through 12, STEM for girls. And I'm also pretty huge in the women who code Boulder, Denver chapter out here where I live and connected also to the one who code Cloud Group. So it's something that I'm just really passionate about, I'm always going to be pushing for it. I think that going into the serverless space, we need more exposure there for sure.Jeremy:
Yeah. And so the funny thing is that you said that it resonated with a lot of people and I can see obviously resonating with a lot of women, but it resonated with me too when I read this article. And I have two daughters, I don't want to be the guy that's like, oh, I have daughters. So whatever, but honestly it did, it resonated with me because I have been in tech for 24, 25 years, something like that. So I have seen a lot of the discrimination and of course the bro culture and all these other things that are just so hard for I think a lot of women to overcome or just I guess put up with it is probably the best way to say it.Jeremy:
And I've always tried to be an advocate, when the CEO cuts off someone that's trying to speak or things like that, or people certainly speaking up when it comes to the language they use, you mentioned the water cooler talk and stuff like that. So I think this actually hit a nerve with a lot of people, but I'm just curious, in your experience you mentioned those different ages, which I thought was brilliant, by the way, all these different experiences you had at different ages and that discrimination or just the challenges you faced at that point. I'm just curious, are you seeing a shift now? I know people are like, "Oh, what can we do better?" But are we seeing that shift at all in these companies? Is Liberty Mutual one of these companies that's helping with that?
I would definitely say so. I think it has gotten better. I think that stories started at 10 years ago or so, and I'd say over the course of that, it is getting better, but we still have a long way to go. And it's tough because I've had a lot of people reach out and say, wow, this is great. It's really resonated with me and I hate to say that's great, because I'm like if it means it resonated with you, that means that everybody's having these experiences in-Jeremy:
There's a problem.
Yeah, exactly. So I think that our company's doing really great. We actually just launched an engaging men as allies speaker series and sessions to get more of those conversations going. And we're making sure that our leaders are really educated, not just in the women in tech space, but in D&I overall, which I think has been great. So we're strides, but I definitely see some of those unconscious biases things still and you see some of those comments on Twitter as well, but I like to say for every one or two comments, there's a dozen other really good ones and people behind us supporting us too.Rebecca:
And so I love that you're working with each other, you and Liberty Mutual and then your colleagues. And I think that it sounds like some of those sessions too, I can imagine that they might be predicated on some of these actionable, quick phrases that you leave us with in the article. Where you say, I think I already listed them, but to do it again, build women up, watch the water cooler talk, educate yourself so you can educate others and ask women what they need. And we'll link the article so hopefully people will also go in and read it. But I'm wondering if with each of those sections, if you have an example or a moment where you're like, "Hey, in this scenario, this is how you can help build women up. In this scenario, watch the water cooler talk, this is what I mean by that." So that hopefully listeners can be like, oh, I have heard either myself say that or someone else say that, and I didn't say anything. So maybe there's a few actionable bits that you can drop along the way for us.
Sure. Yeah. So I have to say these things are not easy, they're definitely difficult. And I will even say I have trouble with some of those things myself too. The one that really resonates with me, that stands out a lot that I catch myself with constantly is the you guys statement, using that language because it's just so ingrained in every day and you use it to group things. And I'm trying to be more conscious about catching myself when I say that, which is funny, because here I am writing this whole article about it. And I'm like, "Well, I got to learn from myself a little bit here too." So that's one example for that water cooler talk. Educating yourself so you can educate others, that one's probably one of my favorite sections because I think that it highlights that we're all still learning this. Like I just said, we're all still trying to figure this out together and let's do it as a collective.
Even approach it like you do any new tech that you're learning and stuff like put out what you're learning and put out what you're ignorant about so that you can learn from others and share experiences. And then some of the things for ask women what they need, I'm a pretty loud person. I'm not afraid to step up and say stuff, but that's not everybody. So some people might need more help being highlighted in meetings or for presentations and things, they might appreciate being reached out to more. Others just don't like doing that kind of stuff, so maybe highlighting them in a meeting just makes them more nervous and they don't like it. So that's what it comes up to with just asking what folks need individually, because we're all individuals at the end of the day and everybody needs something different and is looking for help in different areas.Jeremy:
I find that you the you guys thing is everywhere you go, on TV. I'm from the Northeast, so Northeast United States, and you guys is just something that everybody uses. Women use it, men, it's everywhere. And then you are on tech Twitter and there's very much of this push to move away from it, which I think is amazing. And I just find though that it's like fighting an uphill battle and we need to change it, but at the same time, even my daughters. We don't use the term usually in our own household, but my daughters hear it from friends and things like that and it's so pervasive. And I'm just curious a thought on this because you have so many people that push back.Jeremy:
They're like, "Oh, you guys is meant to be gender neutral. It's not really that big of a deal or whatever." But I think to some people it is a really big deal and it doesn't feel like you're including them. But I'm curious your thoughts on the separation between workplace and casual or I guess recreational, that's probably not the right word, but that's the thing where I find the language you choose when you're in a professional environment. And you're communicating with people even on Twitter as part of a professional profile or whatever, and communicating on LinkedIn and within Slack and within company, things like that. I think people get confused in terms of the language we use outside and the language we use professionally. And I think there's a line there, but I'm curious what your thoughts are on that.
Yeah. So funny, one of the things that I love about my company is that you're really encouraged to bring your whole self to work and I feel like I can do that. I feel like I have such a relationship with my colleagues that it's very much like that. I put a daily fun fact in our channel every day to get conversations going and stuff. So I do think maybe that line is becoming less and less clear as we go on, especially because that work and personal isn't as separate anymore with how much remote work there has been. You're screen sharing or video sharing in your house now. You're ingrained a little bit more in each other's lives, which is why I think it's maybe even more important to pay attention to some of the language and some of the ways that we're speaking to people and how we're embracing differences and diversity across the board.
I do think in certain professional situations, of course, formal presentations and some of those things, yeah, you do want to be probably a lot more careful with those things. And I'll say I'm one of the people that I'm not super offended by the you guys thing. I'm happy if you want to say that or use that, but I do know that other people aren't. So that's where the communication really comes into play. And like I said, I'm not somebody who's afraid to speak up and ask or if something's bothering me, I'll say it, and then that's how we can learn from each other. But I tend to really treat my work life and my personal or personal dev life pretty similar really, just because of that whole idea of bringing my whole self to work and being my whole self wherever I am. And I'm lucky that I've been able to be supported in that and that I have a safe space to do that.Rebecca:
I want to add here too, when it comes to gender neutrality about that term or using that phrase, I get it. I get it and I understand, well, that's just like a part of speech, it's like benign, if you will. However, actionably to talk about a small action one can take. Whenever you say you guys to a room of mixed gender folks, just replace guys with ladies and watch what happens. It is very strange. I'll do this I'll walk into a room of a mixed group and I'll say what's up ladies. And it's weird and people will be like, I don't get it. And you're like, well then try to explain to me that guys is gender neutral if you could just replace and say, no, I'm just using it in a gender neutral way.Rebecca:
And people are like, that's clearly not gender neutral. You just called us all ladies, and that's it. So I do think that it's... And I don't mean that to be poking the bear, but just for all of us to just question our own, what do we mean when we say neutrality and is it really? Well, what can you swap out in your language to see if it really feels neutral with the opposing word, boy, girl, whatever that binary is. And oftentimes it's funny, it can be very light and can be very lighthearted. But I think it's been a really helpful almost teaching moment for everyone to say, "Hey, that actually does feel strange." And then it's like, "Okay, how do we interrogate that?" And I think it feels strange because that actually shows you that hey guys is not gender neutral if you could say, hey gals, and people feel confused.
Right. I've tried on the y'all a little bit, but I'm like Jeremy, I'm from the Northeast, I'm not Southern. So I can't really get away with that.Jeremy:
Can't pull it off.Rebecca:
You said it well.
Yeah, because I've had some practice. But yeah, no, I'm more in the wicked cool range not the y'all range.Jeremy:
Ah, wicked cool. Wicked smart from Boston.
Yeah. Wicked smart, yeah.Jeremy:
Well it is funny. Actually, if I have the guts to, I will try the hey gals at the next speech that I make. Well, it's funny too about, again, there's certainly the binary and not choosing that, but even with that, like my wife doesn't like the term ladies. So I was always a girl soccer coach for the longest time. And I always felt weird, especially once they were 13, 14 years old, just calling them girls. But my wife's like, "Don't call them ladies." I'm like, "Okay, what do I call them then?" So hey everyone. So sometimes it's hard when you're trying to be inclusive. So that actually is not a bad idea to have some strategies in place so that you can do that. And I've started this show from day one saying, hi everyone, because again, I want to include everyone. So I do think it's important. And again, even if you're not offended by it, there are people who they might be or they might feel left out. And that is the last thing we want to do, especially in tech.
Yeah, exactly. I fully agree with that. And that goes back to that last point that I had on there too, was ask. Ask people what they like, because if your wife doesn't like the term ladies, I don't mind it. So that's where the differences come into play and where some of this gets complicated.Jeremy:
I'm just not going to say anything anymore. No, I'm just kidding. So actually I have a very-
Please don't talk. It is a podcast, you're going to be silent.Jeremy:
I'll just fade into the background, it might be easier. So I have a long question here, but I think it's a good question because this is one of the things for me where you've been doing a lot of writing and speaking lately at a couple of different conferences and so forth. And one of the things that I love about writing and about speaking is it forces you to formulate and organize your thoughts into something meaningful. And when you do that, you learn a lot about yourself, you learn a lot about how you perceive something, you learn a lot about where your gaps in understanding and your knowledge gaps are. And then sometimes we deal with this cognitive dissonance, where we have two competing ideas in our heads.Jeremy:
Do I say ladies, do I say guys, whatever that is. Whether that's politics or religion or life or programming or whatever it is, we have these competing ideas. And you did something I think really special when you went back and said, hey, I gave a bad answer, or I gave an answer that, not a bad answer, but I gave an answer I wasn't satisfied with. And I had to go back and I had to write that down, I had to clarify what a better answer to that question would be. And you probably learned a lot about yourself or even being able to put all that together. And I think that everybody has faced a situation where you have an answer to a question that you're just not satisfied with, but I think it's a very small percentage of people who have that I guess the, not wherewithal, but the-
Yeah, the discipline. That's a great, yes. So have the discipline to go back and formulate that and write that out. And I think that process is something that more people should do. And so I'm just curious that again, you're a younger engineer and you've gone through this process, you've shared a lot of your learnings and the experiences you've had and so forth. But I'm wondering that this process of you going back, clarifying this, call it a clarification process, whatever it is. Are there takeaways from that that you have, and then what do you think the value of doing that was not just to yourself, but maybe to other engineers, whether they're young or old?
Yeah. So to be honest with you, I didn't think too much about it. I recorded the session earlier in the day and I was sitting in bed at night, I was like, "Man, this is bothering me. I have these thoughts and I just need to get them out." So that's where that originated from. But I think that some of it is just, I've always emphasized just being really well rounded. And that's been a theme throughout my life, my education, my professional career. It's more important in for me to learn than it is for me to be right all the time. And I think that it's important to share those journeys with everyone else around you so that we can all learn from each other.
I went to a liberal arts college for a really technical degree and I made that as a conscious choice just because I wanted those other perspectives and those other viewpoints. And part of that was even encouraged speaking, it encouraged cross team collaboration. It encouraged all these things that we're trying to really emphasize a lot more in industry now that a lot of folks don't necessarily get informal technical trainings. And I noticed a huge difference in that when I went from my undergrad to my graduate degree too, because I went to a very large prominent graduate college and I thought it was like, okay, whereas I really enjoyed my really tiny liberal arts college because it emphasizes a lot of these things. I wasn't really brought up in a way you had to get everything right all the time.
It's more important do you understand what you're learning? Do you understand what you're doing? And I think that it just comes second nature to me in what I've been doing now. So I don't really think about it when I'm putting it out there. But I think it's a challenge for other people to have that humility a little bit and to be that transparent and to go back and say, "Wait a minute, I was wrong. Here it is." But I'd recommend it. I really enjoyed going back and obviously it did resonate with a ton of people. So I'm really glad that I did it. There's never been a point in my life where I've regret going back on something I said and clarify or updating it, or just being a little ignorant because I think if anything, you get 10 more people that message you and say, "Hey, I was afraid to do that, or wow, you made me question that too or I was wondering about that." So you are building a community when you do those things.Rebecca:
So I think this may be the first time this has ever happened, and I'm just going to let listeners in. But as you know, Jeremy and I will type to each other when we're like, hey, I have a follow up, et cetera. And I wrote down, it's more important to learn than to be right all the time, which is something you just said, Kristi and I love that. And Jeremy wrote back, "I also wrote that down too."Jeremy:
Scrambled that on a piece of paper.Rebecca:
So there's something, I think that resonates really with both of us. And I think we are just a small microcosm of the listeners who I likely would guess will resonate with them as well. What a beautiful quote. And I also want to use that as a bridge, because I think that there is an All Builders Welcome Grant, allowing all builders to come and learn. Probably underpins that idea of it's more important to learn than to be right all the time. So will you tell us a bit about the All Builders Welcome Grant and how people can learn about it?
Sure. So that started last year. I really wanted to find my way to re:Invent. I was pretty desperate to go. Obviously I live and breathe serverless in my day to day and specifically AWS, so I was super excited about it. But as we know, travel's been limited with pandemic restrictions and things. So I started getting creative and it was just a Google search and I found this All Builders Welcome Grant, which is AWS's diversity, equity and inclusion grant program for re:Invent. So I applied, it was pretty quick application, just a couple open ended questions about some of your experience, why you wanted to go. And then about a month later, I found out I was accepted, which was really awesome, it was super cool. And it covers everything, it covers your flights, your hotel, food while you're there, even gets some swag and everything. And I actually got credits for taking an AWS exam as well as certification exam.
So I used it as my ticket in, but when I got there, there was some really awesome just programming surrounding it as well with, they have an opening reception, a closing reception. They had some really specific All Builders Welcome events and programming. And I think they even had a track for some of the sessions there as well, where they had some D&I speakers. So it was a really awesome opportunity. I'm glad that I found it, I'm glad that I was able to take advantage of it and I highly would recommend anybody who's interested in, even if you're just a student, if you're just starting out, if you don't really know much, that's totally fine. It was very open, it was very inclusive. It was very much for people who were brand new to tech, who had been in it for a while, who were maybe retooling. So it was just an awesome program and I can't say enough things about it. So I'd highly recommend if you're looking for a way to get to re:Invent, you're concerned about cost, you want that inclusive environment, it's definitely a great option.Jeremy:
And one of the things about re:Invent. So I actually wanted to go to re:Invent really badly as well. I was like, I got to get there. This was in 2018 and I ended up just paying my own way. I just said, "I got to get there. I got to be part of it." And I will say, and I'd love to hear your feedback actually on re:Invent a little bit, but it is such an amazing experience to be there with all those like-minded people when it comes to serverless and things like that, getting everybody into the same room.Jeremy:
So that's one of those things and also, maybe this is something and I think we're going to talk about re:Invent a little bit later, but I'm curious about overall experience where I can see somebody saying, well, I'd love to go to re:Invent, but, well, I guess it was 20,000 people this year, but normally it's like 60,000 people. Was that really overwhelming for you or was it something... I don't want people to be afraid to be like, "That's a giant tech conference it's nuts," but what are your thoughts on encouraging people to go and your experience around that?
I love conferences. So I might be really biased because I go to conferences all the time. I did when I was in undergrad and then I've also been to Grace Hopper, which scale wise is actually very similar. So it's huge like that, it has the giant-like fair with all the vendors and everything. It has dozens and dozens of sessions, thousands and thousands of people. So I had already been prepped a little bit for what it was going to be like. So I was a little prepared to be going into it. And I'm somebody that loves to network so any opportunity for that is huge for me. So that was some of my big draw, but I'd just say go for it. Everybody I talk... I met you guys there, you guys here y'all, I met y'all there.
So I think that it's just taking advantage of some of the opportunities and if you don't have it, then find a way to do it. That's what I did. I sought it out myself and just take advantage while you're there. It is overwhelming, you don't have to do everything. There was some sessions I planned for and I didn't go to, there were some events where I was like, "I'm good tonight. I've been talking all day, I've been around people all day. Maybe I'll just have a chill night to myself." You don't have to do everything that's there all the time, but it's a great thing to take advantage of. Anybody I walked up to and talk to was super receptive, responsive, again, huge lack of diversity there that was very apparent that I was the only woman in most of the sessions I attended. So another tie in there is we have some work to do, and that was pretty blatantly obvious when I was there.Rebecca:
It is so exciting that we met there. And I have another question related to that later, but do you know what time it is now? Can you guess, what are we going to talk about?
We're going to talk about serverless.
In the Serverless Podcast, we're going to get to it.Rebecca:
We're going to talk about serverless and code. Jeremy tell her the question she has won.Jeremy:
Yeah. So you did a talk about Clean Code, and I think it was actually called Squeaky Clean Code. So tell us a little bit about that and the importance of it.
Sure. I think to go into a little bit of background there. So specifically where I work in our company, I'm in the Serverless DevOps team. So my job is to help our 5,000 or so tech employees embrace this serverless first initiative. And we do that in any way we can, there's a lot of pivoting, it's very dynamic. Sometimes we're gathering metrics and data for our users. Sometimes we're working on building out patterns for them, just any way to enable and empower our developers to build out serverless solutions. So the Clean Code talk again, I really just wanted to get my foot in the door with speaking. I have had probably dozens of rejected proposals and things over the years, especially early on in your career, it's really hard to find a place to be a first time speaker.
And I had this really awesome opportunity come up with the Women Who Code group. They put out a Women Who Code Connect Conference, which happens a couple times a year, and they were really encouraging first time speakers. So I thought about the things that I was really confident in and one of those was with Clean Code. And it's funny because a lot of that talk is actually around the code itself. It's a lot of the best practices and things that my team preaches and follows and puts in the practice that we found really useful over the last three or four years. And it has everything to do with how to best document your code from comments, to read mes, to how to handle poll requests and how to use code reviews as a tool to learn from each other because I didn't learn serverless in school.
I came out of school and jumped into the workforce and then fell into serverless. And I didn't know anything about it, I didn't know where to get started, I didn't know nothing. So everything I do today, I learned on the job. And a lot of that is through these clean coding practices that we've set up and we put into place, it's through a lot of this asking questions and not being afraid. And in some of those code reviews to have these conversations and these discussions. So it was a lot around using code as a tool to learn documenting it properly so that others can learn from it and so that others can even contribute to it and understand what you're trying to do.
And that it even had some things in there around some of our team standards and how we work as a developer team. So we have some pretty, not strict, but we have some outlined processes we like to use from tools to plugins to everything else. And we try to go step by step, this is how to set things up, this is how we use it so that everybody has a solid understanding of it. So the Clean Code talk was awesome. I've actually given it two or three times since then, and I think I have it planned for a couple more times. So trying to tailor that to the audience as well has been really helpful. And I've got a lot of good feedback on it. So I think that's also resonated with a lot of folks.Jeremy:
All right. So how do you feel about this statement? The documentation is in the code.
I think to clarify, I don't think you should be over commenting things, but I do very much stand with having a read me right in your repository that has all the documentation. And you can link out to whatever you want from there, but my team and myself in particular, I really love having a description, a document. Usually, we break this down as a description or an overview instructions on how to build, how to run, how to test. And then we link out to external things as needed, but I definitely like keeping that as close to the code as possible. And I think comments have a place here and there in your code, but you don't want to over saturate that either or be too wordy within your code. An intuitive code really should not have that many comments if you're naming things properly.Jeremy:
I always love to get people's feedback or their ideas on that. I've worked with some people who are like, "We don't write any documentation at all, just read the code." And I was like, well, sometimes it's not as-
It's been born from that pain point.Rebecca:
They're like, "Just enter my brain and understand where I was at that time I wrote it." You're like, "It's a little bit harder."Jeremy:
I don't remember. Well, the funny thing is if I don't put comments in and things like that, I'll go back and I'll be like, okay I understand what this code is doing. I just don't know why I am making-
Oh yeah, I even call that out. I was like, I write it down for me. Sometimes I walk away from a project for three months and I'm like, "How did I run this again? I don't remember." This is for me.Jeremy:
I can walk away from a project for three hours and I can't remember why I did something in there.Rebecca:
So something else I wanted to ask about in terms of Squeaky Clean Code is you talk about best approaches and best practices for peer code reviews. So I think we're talking a little bit about that here and I'm wondering if there are other how-tos around, there's one thing around team coding standards and setting it up, setting up your best practice for a dev environment. And then you bring in that peer code review and you try to get this shippable. And in that moment, you're now interacting with someone else's brain. And so I'm wondering if you could share a few more things around, hey, here are some best practices that we found either at Liberty Mutual or in your previous experience that you loved in terms of enabling a consistent best practice around peer code reviews.
Yeah. So one of my favorite things that my team does that is pretty unique is every day we set up and our phone call, we're completely distributed. It's just like a developer working session. So it's a time for us to get together and be like, hey, a status update, but sometimes it turns into pairing, sometimes it turns into architect discussion, sometimes it turns into mobbing. And there's only three of us. So we're a very small team, we're not part of really the big two pizza team model. So it's a little different. So we're really in tune with what everyone else is doing. And we tend to work together almost all the time. So by the time the poll requests or code review comes up, we're all on a good understanding. There's no surprises, we know what you're doing, where you are.
One of the things that I like to do is if I open a poll request and there's something that's funky about it, or I added in a new library or there's something we didn't talk about, I'll go in first and go through the code review and make comments and be like, "Hey, I did this here, I did this here. If you have questions, let's bring it back to our working session and talk about it." Sometimes it's good to have really good conversations in there. One of the things in my presentation actually was a screenshot of a code review that had over 100 comments in it. And I will say that it's not every single poll request is like that, but we had some good conversation going and we just were generating things, we were talking a lot and it was really valuable.
And clearly it was three years ago and I still remember it, so it had an impact. So I would say ask ignorant questions if you want. I don't think any question is ignorant or silly. Ask me, I'm not going to know you don't understand, unless you ask. And half the time you ask me and I'm like, "Oh, I don't really know the answer to that either. I got to look that up too." And then I found that that's really helpful when you're mentoring junior folks as well, because then they realize, oh okay, the senior person also doesn't know. That makes me feel really good too, because we're all learning with this. So there's a lot of ways to use code reviews and poll requests as a learning tool. And I just think having a lot of really open communication between your team and finding those times to work together and pair and mob and do those things has been really helpful for us.Jeremy:
So you mentioned a little bit earlier about you went to a small college for a technical degree, then now you've got your masters and then you went from college and then you started poking around with serverless and now you're a senior engineer. I'm curious though, what was that learning process besides just poking around to learn serverless? What were the resources you used or how did you get into it? What was it about serverless even that excited you, and then what was the path that you took to really educate yourself?
Sure. So my undergrad is in computer engineering and it actually had quite a focus on multiple different disciplines as well as more robotics. So I'd actually worked with autonomous vehicle technology and a lot more hardware. And then I met Liberty at a conference actually, and ended up working for them as an intern and just really loved the environment, the people I was working with and the experience. So I accepted a full-time offer. And then I bounced around a little bit. So I did some work with some image recognition, I did some work with Java and micro services. And I ended up on again, a small team, a project working with databases and we actually built out this solution using CloudFormation templates. And I was like, "This is cool. It's different than what I've done."
And then over the past just two or three years, it's just been constant. I work off of a cloud guru to learn some things. I did take the cloud practitioner, AWS certification right off the bat, reading the well architected frameworks, especially with the serverless lens. And just generally going through different workshops, reading blogs as they come out, just really ingraining myself more in the community. And then at the same time, I decided to go back to school for my master's degree, which I had always wanted to do, but was debating on if I wanted to stay technical or be more product or management. And I decided that I really love engineering. So I went back for electrical and computer engineering and I focused a lot on data analytics, IOT, cloud computing and AI machine learning work.
So that was a lot of my course load and I did that while I was working full time through the pandemic. So it was quite the experience definitely a blessing in disguise in that sense where I actually had time to sit down and do all of that because nothing else in the world was happening. So I finished that about a year ago. So obviously a lot of education and learning throughout that process as well. And it was pretty cool to see some of the overlap and the parallels. I brought Lambda functions into some of my school projects and there were a couple tidbits from some of my classes that I was able to bring back to my team. So it was really a fun overlap.Rebecca:
First of all congraduations.
Thank you. Congraduations, this is great.Rebecca:
Congraduations. So quick aside, I used to as a 12, 13 year old, make handmade cards and then I would send them to Hallmark and I would be like, "You should make this into a card." And I kept hoping that one day I would see congraduations, on a Hallmark card. So
So you've been sitting on this for how long?Rebecca:
You know what, no, Hallmark has been sitting on it, but three years ago I did see a congraduations card. And I was like, "Could this be?" And now I'll never have any proof because they basically said, don't send us designs. We're not going to attribute you. You're not going to get... But I was 12 and 13 I was like, "This is the best idea ever." And so I'm really hoping that two decades later Hallmark really cashed in on that. So yes, congraduations. This episode to me is like a bunt cake, it comes out and you actually have to flip it over. So we started from usually we'd go from let's talk serverless, and then move into other things that you're passionate about. But we started about what you're passionate about and now we're getting to the end where we flipped over the bun cake and we're talking about serverless and then we're going to talk about Liberty.Rebecca:
So you talked a little bit about you're at Liberty now, Liberty Mutual has been a long time believer in serverless. You mentioned a serverless first mindset, and I believe I was at AWS at the time when we had hosted the first serverless first function and Jill spoke on behalf of what Liberty Mutual was doing. And Verner used Liberty Mutual as, highlighted them as a customer doing incredible things. And so I'm wondering how you've seen serverless evolve in your time there. Certainly it was serverless first mindset early on, especially for such a large company. And then over the years that you've been there, even how it's changed from how you heard about it when you arrived and how people are talking about it, to how it's being used across the organization now. And then if you have future plans at Liberty for what serverless might be to Liberty in the future.
So you're spoiling my next talk idea a little bit here. So I'm literally putting together slides very similar to this, but I'll give you a little crash course, I guess in it. So when I started it's, and it still is, sometimes people think Lambda and then they're like serverless. It's just synonymous with the two of them. Whereas we're trying to get more to the mindset of no it's event driven architecture. It's not just this one tool or this one service, just because you use Lambda function doesn't mean you're serverless. I will say the adoption has been fast. Even in the two or so years that I've been on the Serverless DevOps team, we've really made a huge jump from CloudFormation templates to everybody's just going a CDK immediately. We're doing, I see folks are getting started with Dynamo, with Lambda, with API Gateway.
Even with the release of CDK V2 happening in November, it was like the next week people were like, "Are we ready for this? Can we do this yet?" It's like, hold on, we got to get the infrastructure up and ready. We got to bootstrap the accounts. We got to do all these things first. But there's just a lot of excitement around it, which I think is awesome. And it's actually one of our company wide objectives too, is serverless. Adoption of serverless growth is part of our tech wide goals this year, which is great to see. So that's our job is to enable these folks to hit that goal and to see some of those metrics, but we're pretty all in, there're some teams in our company that are really great with serverless.
They're really mature with it, they're building Greenfield apps, they're excited about it, they're doing it all the time. And then there're still folks that are maintaining legacy systems. There's 5,000 tech employees here and we've been around for over 100 years. So we definitely have some codes sitting out there that's harder to transfer into the serverless model or is a much larger effort or just we need to figure out education across the board, scaling cloud education and helping people power our developers to deploy serverless code. So it's interesting. We definitely still have challenges ahead, but from what I've seen out in the community and from what I've been working on, I think we are very mature and we're definitely getting to a point where we can spread this even further into all corners of the company and to work our way up to serverless first.Jeremy:
Yeah. And I love this idea of changing the mindset a little bit away from just serverless and moving to the event driven architecture, because that is huge. And I think there are so many people who hear the term serverless and they conflate it with a number of different things where they think it only has to do with Lambda, like you said, when there're so many other pieces to this puzzle. We've got the API economy that's part of this, you've got distributed systems and the understanding and the engineering and the architecture that goes around with that. So that's really interesting. So I'm actually curious on your thoughts on the term serverless itself, or maybe not the term serverless, but is that something you see when... Not everybody in Liberty Mutual is full on serverless yet, there's still I'm sure legacy that is still being built out and whatever. Do you get pushback internally if you start using this term serverless first?
Really not at all, actually. Our senior leadership is really on board with this whole idea of serverless first. I think the harder part is understanding what serverless first means and then prioritizing that work, because it's like we're picking up systems and we have to make them serverless. So fighting for the value of that is probably more difficult because it's not a new feature that's immediately available to our customers. My customers are our developers and we're trying to make their processes and their performance and their things better. And cost is a huge one too, make it more cost effective. So making that use case and finding the time to do that, because then you also have to add on top of that, the ramp up time and the education.
That's why we have, it was spoken at re:Invent that we have a marketplace of starter patterns, so people can get going right away. But we need to work on that day two part where they have something out there, but they're like, "Well, I don't understand how it works. Or I need to add X, Y, Z resource, how do I do that? Can you show me how to do that?" And we have a lot of internal ways of doing things that need to be adopted from straight serverless docs and AWS documentation. So it's part of our job is to get those things out there quickly so that we can enable those developers. So we haven't had much pushback at all on actual serverless and embracing it. I think as a company, we're pretty on board with this being our go forward. It's just a matter of what does this look like and how do we take it from here?Rebecca:
And speaking of that, serverless is not static. There are so many ways that we keep adding to, let's say the toolkit of what it means to build an event driven application. And so to circle back all the way to re:Invent into you coming last year and us meeting there. I'm curious if there are any launches from re:Invent that you are currently using today and how you're using them. Something that came out where you're like, oh, great. This actually adds to the toolkit and what we want to do at Liberty Mutual.
So I think the first thing which I alluded to was definitely CDK V2 work. I think that everybody's very excited, we're just getting ready to be support for that. So I think everyone's really excited about that. That one I think is one of the biggest ones that came out of it. I did attend Julian Wood, did a really great one on advanced serverless usage and serverless best practices. So I did bring some of that back to my team. Funny, a lot of it we were actually already doing, there's maybe one or two small things I think in there that I mentioned that we had talked about potentially adopting and doing across the board. So mostly the CDK V2 work though. I would like to see more serverless sessions now that we're saying that because-Rebecca:
Us too. I think Jeremy and I are in agreement.Jeremy:
Julian's talk was fabulous. I didn't go to it in person, but I watched the replay of it and it was very, very good. I will say it's a bit overwhelming, because you think about what teams are doing. A new team getting into this, it's like going from, I don't know, 60 miles an hour to 70 miles an hour is one thing, but going from zero to 60 or zero to 100 is a lot harder. And I think that's part of why we need a larger serverless community, why we need more people talking about this, why we need to start thinking of it more broadly as EDA and things like that, because there are a lot of working parts in here and it is a long journey, I think, for some companies to get through that serverless first mindset.
Yeah. It's just a mindset shift too. There's some teams that are still on Prem and it's like you're going from that to CDK. That's a huge jump and that's a mindset shift even around redesigning for cloud in general, not just CDK or serverless. So it is definitely a large gap to bridge and a large mindset to change and to teach. But the willingness is 100% there, it's just getting those tools in place and figuring out what folks need.Rebecca:
Kristi, guess what time it is.
Oh, is it closing time already?Rebecca:
It's closing time, man.
Man, come on.Jeremy:
Yeah. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.Rebecca:
Ooh, [crosstalk 00:49:02]. Yes, Jeremy earlier, you said-Jeremy:
Right. Oh, there you go.Rebecca:
Yeah. Nailing it.Jeremy:
I know. Yeah. I'm very old.Rebecca:
Kristi, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your knowledge with the community. Before we go anywhere, how can our listeners find out more about you? And of course, we'll put all this in the show notes, but are there a few articles that you really love or talks that you really love too, that you'd say like, "Hey, if you're going to learn more about me, these are my favorite talks or my favorite articles," and then we can make sure to link those as well.
Yeah. So definitely I'm very active on Twitter, you can also add me on LinkedIn. Those would be probably the two best ways to reach me. My blog site currently resides just at my name, Kristi Perreault on Medium. So there's some information there. I will say I have a lot more speaking engagements coming up on the calendar that I'm very excited about. And I do want to call out real quick too, I'm on the committee for CDK day and we will be opening CFPs on March 9th and they'll be open for about six weeks. And the date of the conference will be on May 26th. So if anybody's interested in that, I highly encourage you to submit a CFP.Rebecca:
Yeah. Submit those CFPs. Thank you so much.
Yeah. Thanks for having me. This was great.Jeremy:
Well, listen, it was wonderful speaking with you, gals. I thought it was an excellent conversation. I'm going to have to try to use that, I'm going to see what happens. Just the look on people's face could be absolutely amazing.
I need a full report on how that goes.Rebecca:
Yeah. This has been great gals.
Ladies, it's been fun.Jeremy:
Anyways, Kristi, thank you so much. This was awesome. It was great to meet you at re:Invent. We didn't even mention the wonderful pictures you took for us. Again, always willing to help people you just were like, "Oh, I'll do it." It was awesome. So thank you again for that, but this was great. Thank you so much for being here.
Yeah. Thanks for having me. It's been great.