November 14, 2014

P4 Tech Women: From Taking Calls to Building It All


This is part of a blog series designed to explore the stories of our Women in Tech at Perforce. It's been fun and inspiring talking to each one of these women. As they share where they've been and how they came to where they are now, it is my hope that others will be encouraged and inspired too.

Laurette Cisneros is one of our Perforce veterans. She's familiar with many departments here, ranging from Tech Support to Training to Build & Release. She is a supporter of Girls Inc. and facilitates office participation in Operation Letters to Santa every year.

Laurette Cisneros

What was your first tech job?

I took computer science classes in college and ended up teaching as a graduate assistant and then as an instructor for my university.

My first "tech" job was for a small software company in Los Angeles doing Technical Support.

What were some of your first challenges as a woman on that team?

The challenges fell along the lines of the two founders (who were the ones running the small software company) not being used to a strong passionate female who challenged some of their thinking. It was a challenge to me to learn how to relate and work at a professional level.

I was new to both the working and tech world.

When did you realize you loved working with software?

During the second semester of my sophomore year I took one class of each subject area I was interested in which included my first computer science class. I made the Dean's list that semester. But more than that, I was lucky that my first computer science class was a programming class. Each time I wrote a program I would plug it in and get feedback back. That fed my need for instant gratification quite well and I was hooked.

What was your first programming language?

Now you are asking me to date myself! FORTRAN. And we put the code onto punch cards. We had to be sure to include numbers on the cards so if we accidentally dropped them we could put them back into order. It was interesting.

Did you have any mentors that helped you along the way?

There were a few teachers in college that I would emulate teaching and one female professor who was my adviser who I admired and took her advice to heart.

How did you get started with Perforce and version control?

After my first job in Los Angeles I moved into working mostly with databases. I loved it. A couple of jobs later I was ready for my next adventure and someone who I had worked with (they were my boss before) let me know about the job with Perforce. I had worked with CVS (a basic source code management software) and loved doing Tech Support so I guess it was the right combination and they hired me. I thought Perforce was easy to learn and made sense. I still do and I'm still here 11+ years later.

What is your role now at Perforce?

I am the Build & Release Engineering Manager.

What language do you code in today?

Mostly scripting with Perl and Bash. I'm starting to learn Ruby as well.

How did you make the transition from taking tech support phone calls to providing builds?

In my career, I started in Technical Support but I have also gone on to manage two QA teams (at the same time), was a Technical Director for some internal Java QA and Performance services, had a stint as a Database Administrator and found ways to do speaking/training as well.

What I love most about all these jobs is not only the technical aspects but also being able to help others (internal and external). I really like being part of a group that catches issues before it gets out to the customer. I have a strong drive for organizing chaos as well. I didn't think I would go back into Technical Support until I came across Perforce. After I interviewed for a Sr. Technical Support position I realized that they had figured out how to do it putting high level, experienced engineers right in front of the customer (and getting rid of the timely tiers). After a year I moved up to managing one of the Tech Support teams because I have always viewed managing as an extension of helping others out.

But what caught my eye was when the B&R Manager spot came open. I saw a big challenge and wanted to go in and really help move the inner workings forward and help out an overworked team. It has been quite a challenge but we have accomplished a lot, including getting the new build framework in place and getting continuous integration builds going for all the products on all the platforms. And while the goal is to automate everything (think Continuous Delivery), which may sound like we are trying to put ourselves out of a job (not a bad goal to have by the way), there is still a lot of work to do and no lack of challenges. That's what keeps us alive, right?

What resources would you recommend for people interested in build and release?

Learn a variety of coding and scripting languages. Understand how to compile and link for those different languages and learn about the different platforms (Linux, Mac, Windows) and how the OS differences play into compiling and linking programs for those platforms.

Learn how to interface with different groups who are doing different parts of a whole.

What advice would you give to women getting into the software industry?

Be yourself. Relax and have fun. Don't let the company politics get in the way of that.