Regina Dieteker, Head of DevOps at Zühlke, is regularly looking for a change when it comes to her career. But instead of jumping ship when she gets the itch, she has always found the next challenge where she is. The result is almost two decades spent at Zühlke, in a wide variety of roles that have pushed and prepared her to climb the ladder.
“I don’t always think about the next step and what I can achieve, but I’ve had mentors that have helped me develop,” Regina explains.
Now eight months into her role as Head of DevOps, Regina is navigating her most senior role to date. How did she get there?
“I’ve been fortunate to have supportive bosses. Whenever I’ve wanted to aim for a new role, they’ve helped me bring that to fruition. Your manager can provide a good outside perspective, and it’s important that they feed into your plan,” she underlines. “It’s a risk when you choose a new career path, but I was lucky that I always felt encouraged to make the right changes.”
Three careers, one company
Thanks to a departmental reorganization, the chance to take up her latest role occurred just as Regina was looking for her next change.
After being an engagement lead for several years, remote working during the pandemic took the shine off her work. “I wasn’t so excited about my day-to-day anymore,” she says.
“I knew I wanted a change, but I wanted to stay at Zühlke because I like the culture and the people and that’s really important to me.”
“I talked with my boss, who has always championed my development. He told me there was a reorganization being planned: and they needed a dedicated lead for DevOps.”
Regina points out that, in her heart, she always saw herself as a software developer first, but her character naturally leans more towards being a manager and ensuring people are connected, happy and things are running smoothly.
“My career leaps have always felt like a natural thing,” she explains. “From starting as a junior software engineer and gaining more responsibilities, to working in small teams and organizing around projects, which naturally led to project management. I don’t plan the steepest career climb possible, but I like having new challenges.”
After her first role at Zühlke, she moved away from being a topic expert to a project manager, followed by a switch to client engagements. As an engagement lead, she went from managing a few people to whole teams, which meant mentoring the same way she has been mentored, spotting new development opportunities and career goals.
It also meant connecting more to customers and being involved with sales, a departure from her two previous roles.
Now in her fifth position at Zühlke, her breadth of experience has come together in a job that challenges her and gives her the best of both people management and technical expertise.
“In my current role, I can take a lot of the managerial skills from my previous life, and I have enough technical knowledge, too. But I’m not a product expert. I know who the experts are, and I trust them.”
The space and safety to progress
In order to make a big switch like this, you need more than drive. What has enabled Regina to feel confident enough to progress and fill in gaps in her knowledge along the way?
“I’ve always felt supported by my managers and that gives you a lot of psychological safety,” she explains. “You don’t have to fight for everything, because they always think about what you’re capable of and what a good career goal would be. They always gave me a vision. I now do the same for people I manage.”
As well as regularly setting her development goals, Regina has also taken part in a formal management development program, where she takes part in management meetings. “We’re also encouraged to upskill, so even if you’re busy on projects, no one challenges it.”
Regina also puts her progression down to Zühlke’s unique, open culture. “You can stay true to yourself, you don’t have to pretend to be someone else. Of course we value professionalism, but it’s very down to earth. I have never been more myself than during my last 18 years at Zühlke.”
The kind of people this culture attracts, she feels, is one of the reasons she’s stayed at Zühlke as long as she has. “The people here are really important to me. It’s nice to meet new colleagues in every role and come across some old faces. It’s always great to see them again.”
The amount of autonomy you get in your role is also incredibly important, she explains.
“You can be flexible during your working hours, for example if your child is sick and you need to care for them. Remote working and having that flexibility helps you feel good for your whole career.”
A woman in DevOps
This kind of flexibility is key, particularly for a senior woman in a male-dominated sector. “Where I grew up in Switzerland, I didn’t have female role models who had great jobs and really enjoyed working,” she said. “As women, we were always expected to prioritize family over career commitments.”
But joining Zühlke inspired Regina to accelerate in her profession:
“Although there were a few other female engineers, I didn’t have a senior role model. I hadn’t seen a woman do it, but I felt like I could do a good job.
“When I had children, I thought my career would be over, even though I didn’t want it to be. But over time, as my skills and experience naturally grew, I became the first woman to be an engagement lead, then partner, and now head of DevOps.”
Although more female role models would have helped, Regina felt she was never hindered in achieving what she wanted, which is down to the culture of the company.
“I’m not the kind of person who could have taken all the hardships on my own, so the backing was critical. But whenever I got the chance to take the next step, I did.”
What advice would she give a young engineer looking to do the same?
“You have to find the career path that suits your character. For me, the steepest ladder is not the most important,” she said. “Stay true to yourself and do what you want. Just do it.”