[The Uptake Podcast] Guest Speaker Spotlight: Sonia Cuff

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: New blog articles in Microsoft Tech Community.

This post by Sonia Cuff is in conjunction with the Uptake Podcast episode in Sydney.


Find your tribe in this big tech world


Technical communities have been part of my career since my first day in I.T., but over the years they’ve looked different. When I started in tech, I was part of an IT department inside a national banking brand. Learning on the job, I relied on my peers for their knowledge and for their informal mentorship. They taught me their languages – MS-DOS, TCP/IP, SMTP and as new technologies were released (hello Windows NT Server!), we learned together.


Fast forward to running my own business as a managed service provider, and my community expanded to include a global franchise group and other MSPs. This new community shared the same technical challenges and interests as I did, peppered with discussions about marketing and bookkeeping. We would troubleshoot problems together, share details of new products together, and bond over customer horror stories.


In the present day, I’m sitting alone in my home office, surrounded by online communities. My remote team chats in Microsoft Teams. My Twitter followers and I catch each other randomly as our time zones cross over. I jump into techcommunity.microsoft.com to see the comments left overnight on my team’s blog. And I organise the next call for our WomenITPros APAC v-meetup.


But here’s the thing about the tech industry: it’s really broad.


For example, in a sea of technologists chatting online, many are software developers. I’m not.

I don’t live in GitHub. I don’t speak code and repos and pull requests,APIs, C# and JavaScript. Now, I don’t say this to be divisive, but they’re not my people and I’m not one of them. This is not an “us versus them” argument. It’s pointing out the fact that we’ve had different experiences in tech. I’ve never spent time bug bashing. I’ve never worked for months on a code release before it goes live. I haven’t worked in sprints or agile or waterfall or any other words like that. It’s not my world.


On the flip side – I have worked 48hrs+ to get a server stable again. I have untangled why email flows have completely stopped. I have configured firewall rules, built standard desktop environments and migrated workloads to the cloud.


So I’ve found communities full of ‘my people’ – the IT Pros, the Sys Admins, the Infrastructure Architects. These are the people who love the top new features in Windows Server, talk about the impacts of Ipv6, and share good practices around cloud identity and security. Here I can help in familiar conversations, or watch unfamiliar ones play out as I learn too. Here, I feel like I’m home. My contributions to those communities can ebb and flow around my other commitments and my introverted energy levels. I can reach out to people from the comfort of my phone when I need human interaction. We share celebrations, empathize over incidents and analyze announcements from the same frame of reference.


There are also communities of software developers, DevOps engineers, Site Reliability Engineers, IoT experts, data scientists, AI/ML experts and a bunch of other titles that are also tech roles. All of those things I am not. Those communities exist for others in tech to find their own homes, to add to conversations they are familiar with, orto debate the latest change or practice.


Sometimes there is an absolute value in the overlap. I’ve broadened my tech skills by learning about GitHub, exploring Infrastructure as Code, looking at monitoring from an application performance angle and understanding how to train a machine learning algorithm for image classification. Technology is fascinating and there’s much to be learnt from people who don’t do what you do.


But there’s also comfort in feeling that you belong and that you are understood. It doesn’t mean that everyone always agrees – communities can have the greatest heated debates both online and in person! It can also take a few tries to find a group of people you connect with, maybe even on a different platform. Once you do, you’ll have a tribe cheering for you, crying with you and laughing about the same memes that you’ve honestly lived in real life.  


Technical communities really are the human side of IT, so I encourage you to find a tribe that fits. They’re out there, and they’re looking for people just like you, too.    


Sonia Cuff.jpeg


Connect with Sonia:

Sonia Cuff | @SoniaCuff 

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