KubeHuddle Taught Me That It’s Okay to Be Smart and Hot

Adriana Villela
6 min readMay 10, 2024
Woman wearing a pair of stiletto heels
Me wearing some seriously glam shoes. Photo by Tim Banks.

Let’s face it. Women in in the workforce don’t exactly have it easy. Smile more. Don’t swear. Got kids? Be prepared for the guilt trip. Add to that the fact that if you work in tech, and it’s worse. Because it’s a boys’ club, y’all, and that means that being smart and hot does not compute.

We want to be taken seriously, so what do we do? We hide our inner glam. We dress down for conferences. We sacrifice some of our femininity in order to be “one of the guys”. But we’re not. We’re women, y’all. And should be proud of that, and not hide it.

And now, I have a confession to make: I’ve been hiding my inner glam lately, and it took the nudge of my amazing friend Tim Banks to let it out. But it’s been brewing for a while. Allow me to elaborate…

KubeHuddle 2023

It started at KubeHuddle Toronto 2023, when I was asked to be part of a Women in Cloud Native Panel. I sat alongside Aurélie Vache, Diana Pham, Lian Li, Julia Furst Morgado, and Cassandra Faris. Diana shared that she had competed and won a number of beauty pageants. And she dressed FANCY for the conference. Wait…you can do that? 🤯

Six women in a panel at a conference
Womens in Cloud Native panel at KubeHuddle Toronto 2023: Aurélie Vache, Diana Pham, Lian Li, Julia Furst Morgado, me, Cassandra Faris

KubeHuddle 2024

Fast-forward to KubeHuddle Toronto 2024. I put together a DEI keynote panel featuring fellow Torontonians Renata Rocha and Denise Yu, alongside Diana Pham and Hazel Weakly (also always very glam). We all decided to dress up for the conference!

Five women in a panel at a conference
DEI panel at KubeHuddle Toronto 2024: me, Denise Yu, Diana Pham, Renata Rocha, Hazel Weakly

Honestly, this is what I LOVE about KubeHuddle. It’s not JUST about the tech. It’s about bringing the humanity into tech. And this year, it was even more so.

I was part of this year’s organizing team, and when I pitched this panel to main organizer, Marino Wijay, he slotted us for the keynote. That speaks volumes to me, because it’s a great example of a male in tech who is dong something to amplify female voices. Unfortunately, as Jennifer Riggins states on my podcast, Geeking Out, while DEI has fallen out of fashion, it’s still very much a thing, as minorities in our industry keep getting marginalized. Having a platform for women who also represent diverse backgrounds to talk about these things at a conference that is still (unfortunately) male-dominated tells our male counterparts that there’s still more to do, and that they too can be a part of the solution.

I also really enjoyed Lian Li’s workshop on how to own the stage. I am VERY easily distracted and can’t normally sit through talks (yay ADHD); however, Lian’s session was fun, interactive, and memorable, as she had us all doing improv, dancing, and just generally getting us used to the idea of getting out of our own way.

Woman giving a talk at a conference
Lian at the start of her workshop, before she got us all out of our chairs.

And a real tear-jerker for me was Tim Banks’ talk, A Year in The Life: What I Learned By Doing A DevOps Documentary, as he gave a very emotional talk about the immense impact of the trans community on open source, which featured a beautiful and touching tribute to many of the important trans open source contributors, including the late Kris Nóva, and a call to action to the CNCF to help make events safe for this very crucial part of our community.

To close off the conference, I ran a mental health panel, which also doubled as a livestream episode of the Geeking Out Podcast. The panel featured Tim Banks, Lian Li, Diana Pham, and Marino Wijay.

The idea came to me at this year’s Open Source Summit, where mental health seemed to be a recurring theme. So many of the folks I spoke to were seriously burnt out. One person was just returning to work after a few months of medical leave. Another person was on the verge of burning out. Another had taken medical leave twice. Tim has always been a staunch advocate of mental health, and I really admire how he openly shares his struggles on social media. In fact, that’s why I had him on my podcast for a special mental health episode. Long story short, I pitched him the mental health panel idea, and Marino slotted us in after we had some speakers drop out last minute due to unforseen circumstances.

Aside: If you haven’t been to Open Source Summit, you should go sometime. It’s like KubeCon, but without all the madness, and all the great people!

Like DEI, mental health is one of those things that folks tend to sweep under the rug. Having this panel as the closing talk at the conference meant so much, because we absolutely need to normalize mental health discussions. Remember that if our brains aren’t healthy, then our bodies aren’t healthy either.

Five panelists (2 men and 3 women) at a conference panel
KubeHuddle Toronto Mental Health Panel: TIm Banks, me, Lian Li, Diana Pham, Marino Wijay

And speaking of mental health, it’s only fitting that I should have a mini meltdown before starting the livestream, as All The Tech Things Went Wrong™. You can read up all about it on my LinkedIn post:

I should also note that my 15-year-old daughter (who is also the producer of my podcast) attended the conference, and it was awesome for several reasons:

  • She’s awesome and I love spending time with her
  • She got to see me in action
  • She got to see me normalizing talking about mental health in public
  • She got to see a woman in tech kicking ass

Post-KubeHuddle

After all the madness of KubeHuddle, I decided to take a page out of my own book and mental health day the next day. Being an organizer, running 2 panels, and livestream, and recording 2 epidoes of Geeking Out on site (stay tuned for guests Diana Pham and Lian Li sometime in the future!), I’d say that it was definitely needed.

I went bouldering for part of the morning, and then since Tim was in town, I hung out with him and Diana for the rest of the day. Why am I telling you this seemingly frivolous info? Because it’s mental health related.

When I’m stressed, I boulder. When I feel depressed, I boulder. When my mind is over-active, I boulder. You don’t have to be a bouldering nut like me, but finding an activity that calms your mind/nerves/whatever does wonders for mental health.

Also, good company does wonders for mental health. Most of my friends are spread across the city and even across the continent, so I don’t get to do many in-person hangs unless I’m at conferences. And even then, I’m an introvert by nature, and most days I want to crawl under a rock after work. Or climb one!

All this to say that this hang was super therapeutic. It was very much a treat yo self day.

https://images.app.goo.gl/e8vr9SZmUpbQDccV7

My main takeaway from this (besides 2 pairs of shoes and a clutch) is that:

  • Taking a mental health day does wonders (I must remind myself of this all the time)
  • NEVER apologize for being hot and smart
  • Embrace your inner glam, whatever that may look like for you. You do you…ALWAYS! ✨
  • Don’t be embarrased to wear things that make you feel fabulous

The end result was this Tweet:

Hi, my name is Adriana. I’m a woman in tech, and I’m unapologetically smart and hot.

And all this, because I attended KubeHuddle.

PS: Check KubeHuddle’s YouTube channel over the coming weeks for session recordings!

And now, please enjoy a picture of my rat Buffy, who is usually running away from the camera.

Photo of brown and white fancy rat being held
Buffy stood still long enough for me to take a photo of her!!

Peace, love, and code, y’all! ☮️ ❤️ 👩‍💻

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Adriana Villela

DevRel | OTel End User SIG Maintainer | {CNCF,HashiCorp} Ambassador | Podcaster | 🚫BS | Speaker | Boulderer | Computering 20+ years | Opinions my own 🇧🇷🇨🇦