Anais Urlichs

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I grew up both in Germany and in the UK, and then went on to study information management at the IE School of Human Sciences and Technology (HST) in Madrid. In my second year there I worked part-time for a digital fashion start-up. I enjoyed that so much that I decided to drop out after two years and instead pursue a computer science degree online at the University of Hertfordshire. I worked whilst completing that course part time for the past four years.

I began working in crypto before transitioning into DevOps, working at several start-ups before I found my place in the open-source team Aqua Security. At the same time, I’ve built an online community focused on sharing my learning journey. I have a successful YouTube channel, and I run a monthly newsletter.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, I try to be proactive in planning my career, at least the aspects that I have control over. I think the beginning of your career should be a lot about experimentation and learning, to gain a better understanding about yourself.  If you can find the things that you enjoy the most and build in that direction, you’ll build a much more fulfilling career. It’s important to me that I see where I am going throughout the next year and am able to envision that path. Part of the planning process is about identifying opportunities and skills that you must develop to access those.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

The main thing I struggled with was my communication skills.  I used to do a lot of contract work, including for US and Israel based companies; the communication style of both could not be more different from each other. While Israel-based teams preferred written reports, finalised ideas and proactively completed projects, the US teams wanted to discuss every action as a collective and preferred rough proposals. Navigating those situations was challenging at times. Looking back now, what helped me to manage and even excel in those situations was proactively asking for feedback and input. Only by creating the space for that was I able to improve.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Transitioning from the emerging cryptocurrency space to the cloud native space! Whilst I already had experience in Developer Advocacy, the transition required me to get started with and comfortable using multiple different tools. It was a very steep learning curve, but I managed to gain a lot of skills in a very short amount of time – whilst also building my online following.  Nearly two years later, I’m in a role I love, and have a YouTube channel with 12k subscribers and a twitter account with 18k followers.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

My goal is to be comfortable with not knowing something or owning a skill rather than living the quote: Fake it till you make it. This can give you more credibility and authenticity in the long term as you advance your career. Additionally, it sets you apart from other people when you are creating content. There is nobody out there, who can showcase tools in the same way as me or similar. Meaning, when people watch my YouTube videos, they don’t just watch it because of the content but also for the way I present it. Similarly, people will not just engage with you because of your skills and knowledge but also because of the way you own your work.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Try to find a niche that you can add value to and then build your skills in that area. Building your career in tech is a lot about exploring new tools and showing curiosity beyond your daily tasks. If you find something that sparks your interest, you can use it to advance your career further.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Women are definitely not encouraged into tech in the same way. No one ever took the time to talk to me about tech and potential career options, and I was never encouraged to try out activities that would encourage my interest in STEM subjects.

I think that’s something everyone can do to make a difference: talk to the women in your lives about technology. Simple encouragement and open communication is the crucial tool that has for too long been overlooked.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Businesses should take the time to ask women what they would like to see done differently. At the moment, women in the industry are really in positions with large amounts of influence. They know what they’d like to see change, but too often they don’t have a voice. Organisations that are serious about supporting women need to actively challenge this, and offer women a space to provide feedback on the business’ gender equality initiatives.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

This really depends on what kind of technologies someone is working with. I generally suggest that people look up communities related to the skills that they want to practise or advance in. There are lots of meetup groups in most major cities. If someone cannot travel, a lot of youtubers have Discord Servers for people to connect, exchange ideas and advance their skills online and as a community. Otherwise, I would suggest people to read books; especially if they do not have access to a mentor who can help them advance technically.