#176 April 14, 2022

Language, Learning and Leadership, with Divya Mohan

Hosts: Craig Box

Divya Mohan is a Technical Writer with SUSE, a CNCF Ambassador, co-chair of Kubernetes SIG Docs, and a mentor to new contributors. Learn how her love of language and learning led her from production support to the core of the community.

Do you have something cool to share? Some questions? Let us know:

News of the week

CRAIG BOX: Hi, and welcome to the Kubernetes Podcast from Google. I'm your host, Craig Box.


CRAIG BOX: Sorry, I'm running a little late this week. Got myself a spot of COVID. I wasn't going to mention it, but I'm pretty sure you can hear it in my voice. I have to assume that I'm quite late to a fun experience that many of you have already had. I've had three shots of Her Majesty's finest mRNA, but the mailman visits each of us in turn.

I'm not saying it was the mailman, mind you. We happen to have a good contact tracing system, which is called “she only went to one place and then she got sick.” Pro tip, please ask your hairdresser to leave the windows and doors open. I managed to test negative for a few days longer than the rest of the family. I guess I'm made of stern stuff.

Thankfully, it's the OMG-icron variant, which for us meant mild cold symptoms and a few days of delay to plans. Anyway, how are you? Doing anything nice for Easter? Let's get to the news.


CRAIG BOX: Cloud native batch project Volcano has been accepted as an incubation phase project by the CNCF. Volcano brings microservices patterns to big data, AI, and HPC, offering lifecycle management for batch jobs and optimizations for high-performance workloads. Two years after it first joined the sandbox, it has grown from 70 to 350 contributors with a large user base in China's hyperscalers.

The Linux Foundation and Google Cloud have "twisted paired" up, to form Nephio with a "p-h", new open source project to enable and simplify cloud native automation of telecom network functions in the Kubernetes world. Nephio allows users to express high-level intent and provides declarative automation to set up cloud and edge infrastructure, render initial configuration for network functions, and deliver those configurations to the right clusters to get the network up and running — all that to give you one more G.

Google's open source security team has made the idea of securing the software supply chain a step more attainable, this week releasing a recipe for reaching SLSA Level 3 for projects built using GitHub Actions. Using a combination of GitHub reusable workflows, OIDC, and Sigstore tools, a tamper-proof build can be generated and provenance safely stored all without distributing or saving any keys. The release includes a prototype for building Go binaries, and a 1.0 release is expected in a few weeks.

Continuing the security theme, Docker has announced a new SBOM command line utility to show the software's bill of materials of a container. The integration was built with security vendor Anchore — An-chore, An-chor-e? — using their engine Syft with a Y. Clearly a visual company. The tool will save the SBOM information locally for a BuildKit build. The eventual goal is to have the SBOM stored along with the image, and the Docker team is now asking for feedback on how best to achieve that.

Talos Linux has reached 1.0. Talos, as we learned in episode 159 with its creator Andrew Rynhard, is an API-driven distribution without pesky things like SSH. New in V1 is the ability to add extensions to the OS — things like gVisor, or the Nvidia drivers — or to add extension services for things like storage or network configurations. Congratulations to Andrew and his army on Reddit.

Grafana Labs has raised a $240 million series D round. Coming just seven months after their series C, CEO Raj Dutt says the money will be used to continue to release new projects and road map updates like the recently announced Mimir. The round was led by GIC, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, and the company didn't share a new valuation.

Tanzu Application Platform, VMware's developer platform based on Kubernetes, has brought out version 1.1 this week. The new release includes improved multicluster support, installation profiles, and better security support for apps that are not built using the platform.

A note on the upcoming Kubernetes 1.24 release, a bug in the new Go 1.18 has caused the release to be pushed back by two weeks. I told them not to rewrite everything using generics. But would they listen? You thus now have two more weeks to fret about whether or not Docker is actually going to be deprecated.

Finally, the news that keeps on giving, a small boat has come up alongside the big boat that's still run aground in Chesapeake Bay and is currently unloading containers one at a time. Make your own joke. I'm under the weather here, remember.

And that's the news.


CRAIG BOX: Divya Mohan is a technical writer with SUSE, a CNCF Ambassador, and co-leads the documentation efforts for the Kubernetes and LitmusChaos projects. Welcome to the show, Divya.

DIVYA MOHAN: Thank you for having me on, Craig. I hope you're doing well in these strange times.

CRAIG BOX: Have you always been a writer trapped in a technologist's body?

DIVYA MOHAN: I would like to think yes because I've had a fascination for words, writing, and reading ever since I was a child. So I'd like to think that was the case. But it's always in retrospect that you get to connect the dots.

I never thought of myself going into this profession as a writer. I was very much a technical person. I really didn't think of writing as something that would be possible as an option when I came into the IT industry. But here we are nine years into my career.

CRAIG BOX: You are doing all this work here in English. Is that your second language?

DIVYA MOHAN: No, it's actually one of the many languages that I speak. English, Hindi, Marathi are three languages that I have been taught in school ever since we were in the KG, in kindergarten. I've been taught these three languages. Malayalam is my native language, which is basically the language that I speak at home. I'm also well-versed in a couple of other Indian languages and also in French.

CRAIG BOX: Substantially more than me. I always look at people from Europe and from the subcontinental areas and so on and say, gosh, poor old me growing up over here with only the one language. I'm very jealous.

DIVYA MOHAN: I think it's just a whole thing of getting integrated with the other parts of our country because I'm not originally from the place where I live right now. So it was necessary for me to find a medium to communicate with other folks. In the end, Marathi came about because of that. My native language, Malayalam, is basically the stuff that I speak at home. It's just like a very multilingual thing on account of the place where I'm at.

CRAIG BOX: When you were going from kindergarten through school, how did technology become something that you thought you could study?

DIVYA MOHAN: Technology has always been a really interesting space for me to explore as when I was in school I always used to be the person that was interested in physics and math as opposed to chemistry and biology. My entire family curses me for being interested in that. All of them were like, you should become a doctor.

Actually, my cousin-sister is a doctor. So they're like, you should follow in your sister's footsteps and stuff like that. And I was like, no, I really don't want to do that. I am more interested in the physics and math.

CRAIG BOX: I thought that was a stereotype, the Indian family wanting their kid to be a doctor?

DIVYA MOHAN: It's really not a stereotype. But it's also pretty much the reality for a lot of folks growing up. I won't criticize folks there. But it's just something that happens in every family.

I was not forced. But it was like, you should follow in their footsteps. I was like, no, I actually like physics and math better. And I'd rather do something related in that space.

I wanted to do a physics PhD back when I finished my school. I ended up diverting myself to IT because I found it a little more interesting, so to say, because after doing a bunch of stuff on electronics and hacking away on PCBs and stuff like that, I thought that IT would be a much better option as compared to going over and doing a doctor's degree from scratch.

CRAIG BOX: I will say that of the people I went through university with, the ones who thought that they were going to go on and do PhDs almost certainly didn't and dropped out and went into IT. And the ones that said that they were just going to do the short degree, they're the ones who ended up with the doctorates.

DIVYA MOHAN: I wanted to do a PhD so bad because I was like I really love physics at that point in time. And I'm definitely going to go ahead and do that PhD and probably write a thesis or two. But I never ended up doing it because I don't think I have the patience for it after I saw the amount of work that went in. You're pretty much right about that.

CRAIG BOX: That said, though, there's a lot of writing involved in doing a doctorate. For someone with a passion for the word, that wasn't something that you thought might be inspiring?

DIVYA MOHAN: The writing part was not what actually deterred me. The part wherein I got a little scared of it was that another cousin sister of mine was already doing a PhD. She is a PhD. She works with Cambridge University as of today.

When I spoke to her, I really understood the ground reality that it's not even just about writing and learning stuff. You have to spend like a lot of hours just learning and hacking upon stuff that's not yet concrete. That scared me because, what if I actually went wrong? What if I actually never got to the end of it? Failure is something I am actively trying to avoid.

Given the longer span that it takes to complete a PhD, I would be a better fit for it. I even dabbled with the idea of doing a PhD three or four years ago. But I was like, I don't think I have the patience to get through to the end of it should I actually not succeed in the very first couple of — I wouldn't say attempts because I know it's a longer span that you have to complete the PhD — but it's like, I really have to get it right on the first try. Otherwise, it's going to be really bad. And from what I've heard from my sister, it's not a sure shot, hit-and-miss thing.

CRAIG BOX: There have been a lot of people on the show who have come in from the physical sciences and have decided that IT is the thing that they wanted to go for because the results they could see were so much more tangible and so much quicker.

DIVYA MOHAN: I agree with that. And also by the time I had this discussion, I realized that I like having a job. Of course, PhD and masters will give you stipends and stuff like that. But having a job is like so much more, a lot of financial freedom. And once you get that, it's difficult to stop earning.

The monetary aspect was one thing. I won't deny that. But the major, major thing is that I'm a little scared. If it doesn't work out the very first time I do something, it's scary because I might not have the motivation to try it again because I'm a finicky person when it comes to that. I have to get it right on the first try.

I practice a lot before I actually do anything so that I get it right on the very first try. When it even comes to my writing, I ensure that all of my stuff goes through reviews — not just from me, even when I write stuff on the blog or on the newsletter or whatever — I actually ask my mom and my dad to proofread it. I am that kind of person. PhD would entail a lot of writing, sure. But getting that right on the first try was not like a very sure thing

CRAIG BOX: Now you finished your university degree. You decided that you want to work in IT. Where did you go from there?

DIVYA MOHAN: Basically when I finished my degree and I decided I wanted to work in IT, like every other Indian student does, I got placed in an IT company which was named IGATE and was acquired by Capgemini later on when I left. All of my foundation was strengthened right there, primarily because I had a lot of training. But even after the training, I extensively worked in an environment where Linux was the operating system.

I knew nothing about Linux at that point. I just knew it was another operating system when I started off. When I started using Linux, I'm like, why wasn't this introduced as an operating system earlier on? It's so much more easy.

I realized that I had this knack for troubleshooting systems and understanding where the flaws were. I was a middleware system admin. All throughout my career up till January, I was working in the middleware space only. I did not go out from there except to explore Kubernetes, that foundation that I built, because I had to learn stuff from scratch, learn it well, because all of the things that we dealt with as a system admin was in production for a financial company. So I had to ensure that whatever I did was not going to affect the client. I could not "rm -rf" everything there.

I ended up learning a lot on that job. From there, it just basically came into picture because I interviewed with them. And then that's where I got a lot more in terms of middleware technologies — not just middleware technologies, but other stuff like Kubernetes and containers and stuff like that — all of that came into picture at HSBC. Credit IGATE for giving me the foundation, or at least the opportunity to build that foundation. When I realized that I could do a lot more was when I started exploring more in HSBC. I built upon that foundation in HSBC, is what I wanted to say.

CRAIG BOX: There's a little bit of the past and the future in these technologies. We talked to Bruno last week who worked at IBM on WebSphere. There's a lot of WebSphere technology here. But the path forward for everyone is obviously Kubernetes.

DIVYA MOHAN: Yeah, absolutely.

CRAIG BOX: Did you see the companies you were working with, when you were at IGATE — or for, obviously, at HSBC — did you see them modernizing their middleware stacks based on WebSphere towards Kubernetes?

DIVYA MOHAN: At HSBC, yes. But when I think I was at IGATE, it was very, very early stages for even Kubernetes. I don't think Kubernetes was around when I was at IGATE.

With respect to modernizing, I think the shift at the time I joined IGATE was more towards cloud rather than cloud native, in the sense that people were very interested in what was going on in the sphere of, what's AWS coming up with next? What is Google coming up with next? That sort of thing. I don't think Kubernetes was in the picture at the time I was in IGATE. It came around seven to eight years back if I'm not mistaken.

And when I was in IGATE, it was not a known technology at that time even if it was there. The focus was more on the different clouds and what they could bring to our infrastructure or our applications. But there was nothing concrete. No movement as such was there.

But with HSBC, as there was a lot of movement from — movement in a very short span of time really — from on-prem to cloud and then to cloud native. So yes, with HSBC I can definitely say it was there. But with IGATE, I'm not so sure about that because I wasn't there for too long. I was there for barely two and a half years. I didn't have much time to really see if there was a shift. But when I was there at least there were talks of cloud, but nothing concrete implemented yet.

CRAIG BOX: A lot of the work you did in open source was while you were at HSBC but not necessarily for them. Was Kubernetes something that you were exposed to through your work? Or was this solely a community thing that you got to learn about these projects?

DIVYA MOHAN: Fun fact is that I actually started Kubernetes because my team had onboarded this admin support for Kubernetes. We were starting to actually take more and more people to support them. So I was like, I might as well understand what this is about. Then I realized that Kubernetes was open source.

At first, I broadly knew what open source meant. Then I started reading into what exactly Kubernetes was, and I could actually see what decisions were being taken and what went into each release. I started reading up a lot on Google. I think I want to be a part of this community and this project primarily because having worked on these proprietary products — if I can put them in that category — middleware products are typically proprietary except for maybe the Apache suite.

All of them, I never had any visibility into why a feature made its way into a particular release. I had to obviously connect the dots at the end from a user perspective. With Kubernetes, what happened is I read up a lot. And I was like, this is something I probably might be interested in given that I actually will be able to understand how a feature makes its way into every release and how the release process works and how the positioning works within the project.

That's what got me started within the project. But of course, it didn't start off as simple as join release team directly. That is not what happened. I started making minor documentation edits, because at that time I was not really proficient in programming. I started making minor documentation edits, then signed up for the release team. Then that ball was rolling for a really long time. Nearly one and a half years, I served the release team in different capacities.

CRAIG BOX: Is this something that you did because you wanted to be better at your day job? Or was this something that you did because you were looking for a technical community outside of it?

DIVYA MOHAN: I think it was both to be honest. It also really helped that the community was welcoming, because the whole concept of a community is to help each other and build along with each other rather than being competition. That was extremely novel to me coming from corporate.

And I don't mean it in any offensive way, but it is really a breath of fresh air when I don't have to compete with someone to get somewhere, or to do something, or to learn something, really. I really like the spirit of the community, and I love the way in which they actually welcome newcomers with open arms, really welcoming communities there in the open source space. Not just Kubernetes. That was what drew me to contributing.

And of course, there were perks that I got better at my day job. I took back a lot of my learnings from the community to my day job in terms of assuming a leadership role after I joined the community and stuff like that. That was just, I guess, one of the benefits. But overall, there were many benefits that I did not foresee, I ended up getting as being a part of this community.

CRAIG BOX: A lot of people get into the Kubernetes community through what starts out as small documentation changes and then quite often leads through the documentation teams or the release teams. You moved up to a leadership role. You're currently a co-chair of the SIG Docs group. Is the journey you took something you see new contributors still doing today? Do you think the path to getting involved — especially for people who are interested but not perhaps programmers — remains the same?

DIVYA MOHAN: One of the things that open source allows us to do is to choose your own adventures. As far as I'm concerned, I think a lot of people I have seen as new contributors in the community after I joined. They've had brilliant ways of contributing even though they are not programmers.

So a lot of folks I met during the Community Days that were held in Bengaluru last year and the year before that, those folks actually got into Kubernetes via those Community Days and then started making contributions in the contributor experience field. A lot of them have become new contributor ambassadors. They've been writing blogs and stuff.

I think that what I did was one of the ways. But there are definitely a lot more avenues that I hope open up for people who are not into programming, really, because I know Kubernetes as a tool requires people who know coding and development. But our community is designed in a way that members are supposed to learn from each other. So you need diversity in thought and experience. I do hope that a lot of people actually join in and help us build more avenues for more non-code contributions to be made to the project.

CRAIG BOX: One of the ways that SIG Docs helps that goal is that they've separated the role of chair from the role of technical lead.


CRAIG BOX: What is the day-to-day responsibility of a chair of SIG Docs?

DIVYA MOHAN: If I go on a day-to-day level, one of the things that we actually look at is the overall health and the overall coordination and facilitation of any sort of efforts towards bettering the experience, not just of the new contributors, but of all contributors within SIG Docs. So that's a very broad umbrella of things.

It could mean that you come up with new rules so that new contributors feel more welcome. Or you can one day be working on, say, the annual reports for the year, or the next thing that you could be also helping scheduling the localization stuff. Although we have a separate theme for localizations right now.

It's a very broad umbrella of tasks, really. So there's not one set of specific tasks. Most of it deals with our management side of SIG Docs. We also chip in as PR wranglers, which is like our term within SIG Docs that we use for the people who are assigned to review and approve PRs every week. Those are like the broad things. But it depends on a case-to-case basis, really, because anything to do with the management aspect of SIG Docs and anything to do with bettering the experience of contributors within SIG Docs and helping the special interest group become better at what it does is what we do as the co-chairs.

CRAIG BOX: You were involved in the creation and review of the KCNA certificate, the Kubernetes and Cloud Native Associate. Is that certification something that would have been beneficial to you when you were starting your journey supporting customers running on Kubernetes?

DIVYA MOHAN: Yeah, that would have been. That's also one of the reasons why I actually ended up wanting to be a part of it in some way. When I started off, I found everything about Kubernetes intimidating. It was not intimidating in the sense that I could not understand anything about it.

But it was intimidating because there was a lot of stuff that was related to Kubernetes. If you're learning Kubernetes, it's not just Kubernetes that you're going to be learning. You are going to be learning an ecosystem along with it, because Kubernetes fits into an ecosystem. You have to learn about associated. YAML was something that I had to learn. I had to learn about Helm. I had to learn about the different logging and tracing stuff.

When I got an opportunity to help with KCNA, I really took the opportunity. I wanted to just ensure that people who are taking up that exam have a good overview, or are tested for their knowledge of a basic foundation in the cloud native space, because that, I believe, is extremely essential because you can come from different areas within the IT ecosystem. You could be from the management side of things. You could be a developer. You could be a security person. You could be someone like myself who was into operations and site reliability stuff.

What we aimed to do was to provide an exam that was catering to all of these, but at an entry level, and would help them gain a basic foundation. That, I believe if I had it two years back, it would have been extremely great. I think this was my small way of giving back to the community that I could think of.

CRAIG BOX: You're also involved in a number of other informal mentoring initiatives to help lower that barrier to entry for new contributors. Tell me about some of those.

DIVYA MOHAN: They are basically initiatives wherein I have these one-on-one conversations with folks across the ecosystem. It's nothing that's part of a wider mentoring initiative or something. But last year, I had opened up a few slots over three or four months for folks to get in touch, for me to ask if they needed any help in getting into the open source ecosystem, not just within CNCF. Because nowadays the open source movement is getting a lot of traction among the student population, and they are extremely interested in contributing.

And they don't know where to start, because unlike folks who are more into the IT ecosystem in terms of their career, the students don't exactly know because they have like DevOps, they have cloud native, and they have Kubernetes and everything flung at them. And most of them are actually not really sure of where to start. Now, of course, a lot of folks are doing really good work in this space in terms of educating them. But last year there was a need for this in January. And I had just started an informal thing wherein I helped folks understand what it is to navigate.

That is also how I got a lot of folks involved into the various programs that are in the open source space, as well, like Season of Docs, Season of Code, outreach-y stuff like that, because for students I think those are excellent avenues given that they are within structured time frames, as opposed to open source contributions that run indefinitely without having like that structured time frame format. Those were like things that I did early last year. But then even within the community, if folks ask if you can mentor me — and I know that by saying this I might invite a lot of such messages on my DMs.

CRAIG BOX: The floodgates are already opening as you speak.

DIVYA MOHAN: Yeah, if I actually say this, I know that I'm inviting a lot of stuff. But if folks actually end up asking me, I do help them out because I think that a community is supposed to thrive in that way. There are obviously times that I cannot really do anything because my hands are full and my plate is full of commitments.

I do try and redirect them to people who would be able to guide them better. And that's also one of the reasons we came up with the new contributor ambassador role within SIG Docs. It was not just my idea. It was a collective decision that we made.

And it was like a eureka sort of a thing that happened when we were having these discussions internally that new contributors often come in and ask, what can we do in SIG Docs? Even though the messages are pinned right at the top saying that this is a good first issues link, this is the help wanted link, there's nobody actually they can speak to.

This was a role that is already there in the Kubernetes community. We didn't do anything of it. It was something that we thought of. I'm glad to say that we're formalizing it this year. Arsh is one of the first new contributor ambassadors who got nominated last year. I believe that's how a community thrives, and there's really no better way than a human actually guiding you. You can have a number of links. You can have a number of guides. But there's nothing better than an actual human guiding you and telling you that this is the way you navigate an ecosystem.

CRAIG BOX: You've talked there about the ecosystem of projects around Kubernetes, and your involvement does not just end with Kubernetes, obviously. You are a docs lead for the LitmusChaos project. How did you decide to get involved with that project?

DIVYA MOHAN: That was actually a very funny story because chaos engineering was not on my radar for a really long time. I did not know it existed back in 2020. The reason I got introduced to it was via a community that I helped organize for AWS. So I met a lot of people who were involved in chaos engineering.

And I realized that that's not something that I immediately get to do as part of my day job because, like I said, we were slowly transitioning to Kubernetes. But we were not there yet. Chaos engineering in the context of cloud would probably take a lot of time. And chaos engineering in terms of cloud native would definitely take a little while.

I decided that I'll search for an open source alternative, or at least if there was something in the open source space related to chaos engineering. I spoke to a bunch of people to understand if that was possible, to understand if there were any projects. I stumbled upon Uma Makkara and Karthik's chat on GitLab about an issue related to chaos engineering.

It wasn't a docs issue. I committed to helping with that. Fun fact is that I had overcommitted then, because the pandemic had just started when I actually said I'd help with this. And I didn't realize what a toll it would take to fulfill that commitment because everything shifted right after the pandemic started in terms of our work-life balance and everything.

I didn't end up working on that issue. I ended up telling them, I'm sorry. I won't be able to help you here. But if there's anything related to documentation, I'd be glad to help.

I started off as a contributor there as well by helping with qualitative modifications in the documentation, then furthered my knowledge in that sphere, then eventually became the docs co-lead at the end of the third quarter in 2020. That was my journey there. But it didn't stop because I obviously continue to learn about chaos engineering, not just in terms of LitmusChaos, but also other products as well.

I think it's a fascinating space because coming from a production support background, it's something that was really needed. I have been witness to a lot of outages. I certainly never cherished my on-call duty. Chaos engineering, I hope, will help future on-calls or help reduce the number of outages that we have as an industry, but I don't think that's happening anytime soon. But I hope that is the way we are headed in.

CRAIG BOX: There seem to be no shortage of people who are willing to get involved with release teams and SIGs around the Kubernetes project explicitly. It is by far the largest project, perhaps the largest community there's ever been of this type. Do you think that people should consider maybe getting involved with a Kubernetes-adjacent project rather than Kubernetes themselves? Do you think there's more opportunity for people to show leadership? Or do you think that people are still more interested in being a small player in the big space that is Kubernetes?

DIVYA MOHAN: It all depends on how you approach the journey. To me, if you're approaching it as a learning journey, if you are taking it all in as learning different things across the ecosystem, then it doesn't matter at which level you are in any project. But if you're specifically targeting a particular leadership position — say, if you're targeting, for example, again documentation co-lead position — you obviously have to fulfill a set amount of criteria when it comes to a bigger project, because that is more well-established. It has contributor ladders.

It has those because it's experienced in terms of the number of contributors that it has right now. They all are bringing in their diverse experiences and are contributing to the betterment of the project. When you're talking about a smaller project, it's easier to grow up the ladder without actually having the ladder because you are there from the formative stages of that project. You easily can assume a leadership position.

And I don't mean to say that you go in and say, I want to pick up this and become that. It's not like that. If you dedicatedly start contributing, it's easier for them to gain trust in you. As opposed to in a bigger project, it is easier for you to gain experience and, over time, maybe over a couple of years, that would be possible.

It obviously depends upon what is your intent going into this journey — whether you want to learn the different things around the ecosystem or whether you want to gain leadership, because leadership in itself is a different ballgame altogether, primarily because with leadership, you also have to think about the different things that you're managing at that point in time. It's not just about your contributions, your learning journey. You have to think about what benefits that particular SIG or that specific area in the project.

It's not a small thing. If leadership is what you aim for, you obviously have to think from that mindset as well, that what you bring to the table in terms of leadership and how you can contribute. That's a fair ambition to have to want to hold a leadership position in a project. But when you talk about a contributor wanting to just start off, it also depends on his or her or their learning journey, because they might just want to know one particular aspect of the project.

There are a lot of people who are very happy getting a byline on their resume, saying that they have contributed to so-and-so aspect of the project, or they have been on the release team for so-and-so project. That's all they want. Probably, they don't want to do anything more other than just having that byline on their resume. But if you aim to assume a leadership position in the project, that's a completely different story. It all depends on the individual, I'd say.

CRAIG BOX: One thing that a byline on a project like this or experience demonstrated can do for a person in the community is open doors in terms of new work.

DIVYA MOHAN: Absolutely.

CRAIG BOX: You have been a full-time technical writer at SUSE since February. How did that transition happen?

DIVYA MOHAN: That's actually a very funny story because I actually saw my current manager Hayden's tweet on Twitter. I was actively looking out for work in terms of changing roles, not because I didn't enjoy my leadership role at HSBC, I was leading a team of 11 people.

Also, there were a lot of things on the personal front that necessitated my move in terms of staying at home and stuff like that. So I wanted to work at home and I wanted to work remotely was one of the main reasons that I started looking out. It's something I actually conveyed to my previous managers, so there's no bad blood there.

The thing is that when I saw Hayden's tweet, it was mentioned that it was a remote job. The very first thing that I was like, it's a technical writer position. I'm not an experienced technical writer, but I've worked on Google seasonal docs and I'm like the SIG Docs co-chair. Does this fit into your bucket of what you're expecting?

CRAIG BOX: It seems like it must have.

DIVYA MOHAN: Yeah, he just ran through my GitHub profile and my LinkedIn. Then stuff happened. It fell into place. I basically wanted to get into something that was in the open source space and was remote.

HSBC afforded me the opportunity for helping with open source and I am extremely thankful to them. But with all the experience that I had in open source, I just think that I really wanted to do something that was embedded in open source rather than just contribute from the sidelines. Those two reasons combined, I think that was the thing that propelled me to get in touch with Hayden. As they say, the rest was history.

CRAIG BOX: There will be a lot of work to do on SUSE's open source projects, Rancher and Harvester and so on. But do they also let you carve out time to contribute upstream for generic community work?

DIVYA MOHAN: When I actually interviewed with SUSE was that I want to be contributing to the existing projects that I'm contributing and also retain my CNCF ambassador role, and stuff like that. So they were very happy to allow me to do that. They, in fact, encourage their employees to get involved in open source and participate, because SUSE in itself is an organization embedded in open source. So they are very encouraging of this. My manager, in particular, is extremely encouraging of me doing the kind of stuff that I'm doing right now, whether it be participating in conferences or co-chairing the documentation efforts and open source projects. They're pretty encouraging and supportive of those endeavors.

CRAIG BOX: Has it been better for work-life balance? Have you been able to free up your evenings in the kind of work you used to do outside of your paid job?

DIVYA MOHAN: Because of that, yes, there's been a 180-degree shift in the way I manage my work. Because it's remote work, I'm also able to flexibly adjust my schedules. I tend to medical emergencies if any within the household and stuff like that. It's been a blessing.

I'm also enjoying the fact that I get to work on more open source projects. Previously, it was just Kubernetes and LitmusChaos. Now I get to help the documentation across a bunch of projects within SUSE. So we have a rotation schedule. I work on a bunch of Rancher Lab products like kubewarden, Rancher Manager, and stuff like that. So I get to work on more open source projects. And it's honestly been very enriching in terms of the experience that it gives me.

CRAIG BOX: You also started a newsletter back in November, the Friday Four. What inspired that?

DIVYA MOHAN: I'm a voracious reader, but I'm also an equally good procrastinator. So that's not a very good combination to have, because at this moment, I have six or seven books that I'm juggling. My reading depends on my mood, and it's very similar to how I read articles online.

If it's a really long-form article, I save it for the weekend and then forget about it. But this newsletter was an accountability tool. So basically, even if I saved stuff via Pocket app or my browser or however I do it, I ensure that I read it by Friday, then sort out through all the interesting stuff that has happened in this space, and put it in the form of a newsletter. So that was the idea behind starting the Friday Four newsletter, that I had to at least be accountable to myself because then I was like, OK, people are actually subscribing and are interested in the stuff, I have to be accountable to them as well.

So that's how it went. And in the middle, of course, because I contracted COVID, I had to tune it down for a bit. But other than that, I think I've been fairly consistent.

CRAIG BOX: Was it the Friday Two for a couple of weeks?

DIVYA MOHAN: [LAUGHTER] It was Friday Zero, actually. I did not publish the newsletter for the entire fortnight that I had COVID, and it was a bad one. I ended up putting out a tweet in advance saying that I could not do it. I'm really sorry because I felt like I was accountable to the people who were subscribing. And it was really terrible of me to not actually send out an issue when people had actually subscribed. So when you hold me accountable, I actually do stuff, is the moral of the story, or I think.

CRAIG BOX: As someone else who also produces something on a weekly basis, it is good that you do feel that kind of accountability. But it does handcuff one to feeling that you have to put something out every week.

DIVYA MOHAN: I actually want to feel that pressure, not because of the fact that I feel compelled or obliged to do it. It also serves a dual purpose of me reading through all the tabs that I have open on browsers across all my devices and on the Pocket app. And I have links on my Gmail right now that I have to read through.

So I will never get to them if I do not have any sort of accountability. I have links dating back to 2013, by the way, which I have not opened. If I do not have accountability, I realized that I do not do things.

I know it's a very horrible thing to say on a podcast that probably might go public. I think it's a wonderful accountability tool for me, personally. But I don't know. It's like a double-edged sword, I guess, wherein you have to balance and play the fine balancing act between actually overworking yourself to deliver an issue and staying accountable to those who subscribed.

CRAIG BOX: Well, if you wrote something back in 2013 and you don't think Divya has read it yet, that's why.

DIVYA MOHAN: [LAUGHTER] Yeah, I didn't write that back then actually. I wrote on a bunch of newspapers back then. I covered the general elections here back in 2014 for an online publication.

But I have not written anything techie back then, at least not anything that I can remember. The last thing that I wrote about tech was my project report back in 2012. After that, I've not touched tech writing up till lately. I don't think you'll find anything there.

CRAIG BOX: In all of the reading and research that you do, what's the next big thing that you think that you want to be a part of?

DIVYA MOHAN: I've been pretty vocal about it. I do think, in my opinion, WebAssembly is one of the biggest things that is there on the landscape right now. Not just the cloud native side of things, but also from the perspective of server side and browser environments. I've been really vocal about this. I've given a bunch of talks.

I do think it's one of the best things, if I can say so, to have come out, because I've been witness to a lot of issues with JavaScript-related apps as part of being a production support admin. So I do think it's one of the things that is going to make inroads, if not in this year, in the coming couple of years. It's still very nascent, even though the MVP was released in 2017.

I think it is making inroads, but I think the entire effect of it will be visible in the coming few years. That's one thing that I really do think. And even in terms of it being more of a technology for edge and IoT devices, I think we'll see the true effects of WebAssembly in that space as well in the coming few years. I think that's something that I'm going to go big on, and I've already gone big on. That's one thing.

And I also think I'm very interested in the Rust framework, because I've personally been learning both of them. So I decided to learn those starting last November, at roughly the same time I started the newsletter. Those are the two things that I think are going to be "the thing" in the next couple of years.

CRAIG BOX: All right, right, well, thank you very much for joining us today, Divya.

DIVYA MOHAN: Thank you so much for having me.

CRAIG BOX: You can find Divya on Twitter at @Divya_Mohan02.


CRAIG BOX: This brings us to the end of another episode. If you've enjoyed the show, please help us spread the word and tell a friend. If you have feedback, you can find us on Twitter @KubernetesPod or reach us by email at kubernetespodcast@google.com. You can also check out the website at kubernetespodcast.com, where you will find transcripts and show notes as well as links to subscribe. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next week.