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From opera singer to engineering superstar at Cin7

by Doug LaBahn
bergita
In my new role as CMO for Cin7, I’m really excited to showcase some of the incredible team who are working together to make inventory management as seamless and simple as it can possibly be. Every day, I’m blown away by the passion and commitment our team has to this goal. There’s a great new energy at Cin7, and the focus is exactly where it needs to be - on the needs of the customer.

Today I’m pleased to introduce Bergita Rudman, our VP of Engineering. An IT superstar with over 18 years experience, since joining the team in March 2020, Bergita has been focusing on one of the most important jobs in software: making everything work smoothly behind the scenes. Squashing bugs, paying down technical debt, and increasing reliability and response times across the Cin7 software package has been the legacy of her several months in the role - and as we’ll see, she’s nowhere near done.

Hi, Bergita! Great to be here with you today. Let’s start with a fact about you that surprises people when they hear it

Probably the fact that I had absolutely zero interest in IT until I was in my mid-twenties! Up until then, all I ever did was study music. I've got a degree in music, and I qualified as an opera singer, which as you can imagine, is terrifically useful.

That’s fascinating! How did you go from studying music to working in IT?

After I graduated, I was pretty directionless. I was working in a restaurant as a cashier and running everything, but it wasn't particularly challenging. Around the time that my partner and I got serious, he suggested that I do a COBOL course. He's one of those people who pushed trolleys when he was eight years old to buy his first ZX Spectrum (laughs).

In 1999, with the whole Y2K thing going on, COBOL programmers were hugely in demand. So everybody was offering these COBOL courses. I got onto the course. I think it was only a three month course, but I was second in my class, which was very disappointing. But I got recruited straight out of that course, so I finished my course on the Friday, my first job in IT started the following Monday, and that's where I've been ever since.

What’s the best thing about your new role at Cin7? 

Before Cin7, I was working in healthcare. I had inventory experience from my first IT job for a large retail chain, but for me the best thing about this role is the chance to immerse yourself in learning something completely new. 

Tell us about the engineering team that you’re leading

We have several teams that are focusing on different areas of the business, but that all integrate with each other in key ways. We have an entire team working on the EDI and 3PL side of things. There’s another that handles our APIs, which really fits in the integration space. Then there's the omni-channel team, who do the bigger integrations with Shopify and so on. So there's a whole integration side of the development team.

Then there's the infrastructure team, the SRE’s - site reliability engineers. Those are the people that are making sure that we can scale safely, that our customers are having a good experience when they log onto the website. That it's quick, that it's easy, that everything's always up and running, that we get through Black Friday without customers having any problems.

Then there's the pure development side of the team, where we're churning out features and bug fixes and fixing technical debt and doing all of those things.

What’s one of the biggest challenges - or the biggest wins - you’ve experienced so far in your time at Cin7? 

A few weeks ago we were having really bad performance issues. There were a lot of things that contributed to those performance issues, but mostly the way that our database is structured. So I guess a big win out of that was to kind of constrain that poor performance to a relatively short period of time, because there was actually a lot that we had to do to get it back to performing well. 

We upgraded the database, and we refactored a bunch of queries. It was a huge amount of work, and we did it in a way that was transparent to everybody in the organization. So that was a good win. In general, the SRE team, I would say is a winning combination. 

What are you most proud of about the team?

I don't really want to single anybody out, but I think the team's just done really well in keeping focused during COVID, while we were all working from home. I'm a big fan of spreadsheets and numbers and I keep track of everything. I looked back at our data from January through July, and even though we were on 20 percent time reductions and working from home, and there was a lot of upheaval in everybody's lives, we actually have been consistent in what we've been delivering throughout that time. I think that's a huge testament to the team.

When you’re talking to customers about what they think about Cin7, what are they saying? 

There's a comment that I have here, actually, from a customer that I spoke to quite recently. He said that Cin7 is about managing the flow of information for him. So yes, it's an inventory management system, but when he looks at it, it's a system that manages the flow of information and it automates a lot of the stuff that otherwise he would have to do manually. That's what he loves about Cin7. He feels like we're really an expert in our space.

There's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that customers will never see, but that does actually impact them positively without them really knowing about it. I think that's a good space for all of us to be. There's a reason that I'm not an opera singer! I don't like being at the front of the stage, but I think a lot of engineers feel the same way, and helping in the background is a good place for most of us to be.

So it’s a bit like being a backstage manager at a music production! What are the team focused on right now? 

We’re looking to slow down to speed up, and focus on quality. It’s about getting everybody to pay attention to the details, and have a consistent approach to all the different things that we do. Call things the same names, talk about things the same way. It’s really important if you want to deliver things quickly — that we all speak the same language, that we're consistent, and that quality is a focus.

At the moment, the focus is on EDI and 3PL, as it has been for a while. We've made a huge amount of improvements in that area. We've gone from a 15 week median time to go live with new EDI connections in January, to an eight week median time to live in June, which is a great improvement. However, we are constantly getting requests for new connections and we're not going to be able to maintain that for very long unless we change. So we're investing in proof of concepts with third party integration engines or other third party software that we can use to make us go faster.

You’re really passionate about women in tech, and helping young women get into careers in STEM. What are some of the ways you give back in this area? 

Honestly, I should do more. I can help by going out to universities and the tech events we have locally, and talking about the role of women in technology, and show that you can be a woman and be a leader in a technical area. I’ve participated in Shadow Tech, a NZ initiative,  for the past 2 years - an opportunity for girls in years 9 - 11 to shadow a number of roles in tech jobs. 

What’s the advice you give young women who want to get into tech? 

To be really persistent, stay true to yourself and work hard. Balance is important in the workplace. Everyone has something to offer, so look for ways to complement others, rather than compete with them.

That’s awesome. You’ve got a real focus on improvement - how can Cin7 customers expect to see that focus improve their lives?  

In my previous role, I was involved in both engineering and support. In health, when you have problems with your integration engine, it means that your whole operation comes to a halt. When you’re speaking to your customer at that point, you’re speaking to them at one of the most stressful times of their entire lives. When I came to Cin7, I realized that it’s the same for our customers.

When the thing that you're relying on to keep your business running is not doing what you want it to do, then it's a stressful time. So, first of all, what I would like to do in Cin7 is to help our staff realize that. That when they're talking to our customers, they should have a great deal of empathy because you spend a huge proportion of your life at work. When your life at work is stressful, then your whole life is stressful. That's the way that we can make our customers' lives better, and help make the world a better place.

So you think of your role in engineering as running “the department of stuff that works?” 

That’s right. For our customers, I want it to be so when you go to work you have a nice day, because your stuff just works.