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"Diving Into The Lake" with Tatiana Gil Lopez from Whitepages

"Diving into the Lake" by DevLake features the stories and experiences ofengineering leaders and experts. Tatiana Gil Lopez, Senior QA & DevOps Engineer at Whitepages, is our first featured community member in this edition. In this interview, Tatiana was asked four questions based on data-driven techniques, decision making, metrics, processes, team health, and other aspects of engineering.

Feel free to give a read, which has been specially handpicked for you! This would undoubtedly enlighten on practicality and provide deeper insights into Engineering.

Diving Into the Lake with Tatiana Gil Lopez

Question #1: "In your opinion, what is the value of taking a data driven approach to engineering?"

My grandmother Oliva taught me that even if it's just having the same drink each morning, limiting the amount of such choices and decisions you make, leaves a lot of more room and clarity for the more ambitious ones. If you have tools to simplify the decisions you have to make on a daily basis, then you'll soon start having smarter more interesting problems, which is the perfect stage to learn something new. Now how do we simplify decision-making? Data! A good analysis of some beautiful data will enable engineers to identify patterns, trends, and correlations that may not be apparent through intuition alone. Having this approach is incredibly helpful to narrow and isolate performance bottlenecks in systems and find areas for improvement. Once you have a bucket of historical data, it gets much much more interesting and fun. So start collecting!

Question #2: "When you think about using data to make better decisions, what advice would you give somebody?"

  • The first thing that comes to mind and heart with this one is, you have to DEFINE. What is our goal? What is happening? What do we know? What do we want to happen? What is our problem? It's super important to have a clear goal. Without a clear goal, looking at data "just because" can lead to some idle conclusion jumping and dangerous abstractions.
  • I like this phrase "A problem well stated is a problem half solved", by Charles Kettering, problem stater. Also holder of 300 patents, including electrical ignition for automobiles.
  • Do you have a feeling that a problem might be related to a certain system? Observe the system, find ways to MEASURE its pulse, take the picture. Once you have the initial picture with enough segments of data, you can take a step back, observe, assert, and then REACT. Now that I have this new information, did I get some answers? What do we observe? Why do we care about it? Were these the answers to the questions I had? Is it time for some new questions? Do we need to readjust the metric? DO we need to redefine our goals? It should be a cycle!

Question #3: "If you had to pick one metric to assess the health or strength of an engineering process or organization, what would you pick, and why?"

I would go with culture. If the organization is generative, performance oriented, there's high cooperation, failure leads to inquiry and novelty is implemented, I'd say that they are doing great and I would love to work there! I like the Westrum survey to measure it: organizational culture is a perceptual measure, and therefore, best measured using survey methods.

Example survey that we use:

  • On my team, information is actively sought.
  • Messengers are not punished when they deliver news of failures or other bad news.
  • On my team, responsibilities are shared.
  • On my team, cross-functional collaboration is encouraged and rewarded.
  • On my team, failure causes inquiry.
  • On my team, new ideas are welcomed.

Question #4: "If you were starting out in your engineering career again, what advice would you share with yourself?"

I'd tell myself "you are a great painter! go with that" just kidding. Start using note taking apps earlier! and remember to approach each task with a healthy amount of curiosity.

Thanks for taking your time and reading through this. Do share your thoughts and comments in our slack community. You can also nominate your favorite leader from the community for the upcoming editions of "Diving Into The Lake".

Happy DevLaking!