Continuous Integration and Process Management: An Interview with Melissa Benua

[interview]
Summary:

Melissa Benua, a senior technical lead at mParticle, discusses the wide range of topics she will present at the STARWEST conference, including continuous integration, containers, and process management. She also shares details of the projects her team is working on with deep back-end core features, qualities, and dev tools. Melissa also talks about her involvement with Women Who Test, why she made sure to expose her kids to the events at a young age, and how it reinforces the importance of a work-life balance.

Jennifer Bonine

We are back with another live virtual interview at STARWEST before we head into Lightning Keynotes where they'll get to hear you out in there as well. How's it going this week?

Melissa Benua

Really good. It's been really busy. There's so many people here. I feel like I never stopped talking to people for even five minutes.

Jennifer Bonine

I know I saw you over at the Test Lab earlier doing stuff talking to some folks and you're everywhere.

Melissa Benua

Everywhere. I'm covering a bunch of topics this year. So I've got like a crazy spread from CI design to process management to containers. So I did a talk about fuzz testing. I'm all over the map.

Jennifer Bonine

All the things like they keep you busy.

Melissa Benua

Very, very busy. Today, I was helping somebody lay out their Jenkins build pipeline. That was what we're talking about at the Test Lab. How do we make it faster?

Jennifer Bonine

But that's some of the cool stuff of being here is you actually were able to meet with people talk with them, solve some of their problems.

Melissa Benua

Learn some things about problems I didn't even know existed and how other people have solved them.

Jennifer Bonine

Exactly. You know, there's just such a variety of things going on. Now, don't give it away, but any insight into what the topic will be being that you go across all those coming up?

Melissa Benua

I'm gonna say some inflammatory things, and then I'm going to make it all better.

Jennifer Bonine

But if you just take the screencap of when you say inflammatory things and quote her, it'll go badly. So I remember this. After you did this once before, did anyone take that like just the quote and start saying Melissa said.

Melissa Benua

It didn't blow up and go viral, if that's what you're asking. There were a few people who we had to have a little bit of a discussion about it afterwards. But mostly people took it within context, of the spirit in which it was intended.

Jennifer Bonine

And that's what's fun about hearing different people. If you truly understand what they're saying and kind of the context of it versus taking just a statement out of context and then applying it.

Melissa Benua

You can take that statement out of context.

Jennifer Bonine

If anyone did, they were walking around creating t-shirts that said "Melissa said."

Melissa Benua

Not yet. Maybe after today. It's always a new possibility.

Jennifer Bonine

Those things are so fun. So for those of you watching stick around for the Lightning Keynotes, because I think that's one of the fun things is, if there's a talk or a topic that you didn't really resonate with you move on, and five minutes later, it's a different one.

Melissa Benua

Five minutes later it's something else. Everybody's gonna do something attention grabbing. Janna [Loeffler]'s is going to be pretty good.

Jennifer Bonine

Yeah, I'm excited about that. Yeah, you got to watch these.

Melissa Benua

There's usually some good humor and really lots of digestible, insightful tidbits.

Jennifer Bonine

Then this week there's a lot of other cool stuff that goes on even outside the conference around like you mentioned the Test Lab, the networking, just the people you're getting a chance to talk with, Halloween parties. How did that go? Did we survive the Halloween party?

Melissa Benua

We did survive. It was incredible. It was well done. My kids didn't actually kill me. They both fell asleep. It was great. They had a really good time with the Mickey's.

Jennifer Bonine

And kiddos are still here too?

Melissa Benua

They are. They're back at the park today, so I'm free and clear to do tech things, and they can go be free and clear to have fun but over there.

Jennifer Bonine

I think that's a fun thing to mention too, though, is you really do a good job of integrating your whole life, right? Like a lot of people go "Oh, I can't come to a conference because I have kids and I'm too busy and then I can't do all this," but I mean you bring that with.

Melissa Benua

I do and I'm you know privileged enough that I can. Whether it's because my husband can come with me and take a few days and watch the kids or sometimes I brought a nanny or a family member. I've had a lot of support to make that work, because you can't literally give a talk and hold a four-year-old. A baby maybe you can get away with it, but not my son. But you know people are surprisingly supportive. If I'm sitting at the Test Lab with one of my kids, they're happy to explain how does the puzzle work? Let's try the robot. Because they're natural testers. They naturally want to break everything.

Jennifer Bonine

I think it's great that they get exposed to this, and they're involved in it. At a very early age, they see tech, they see people, they see you working, they get exposure to what's happening in people's careers.

Melissa Benua

Yeah, and it's just normal.

Jennifer Bonine

Yeah, it's just normal. It's part of their lives.

Melissa Benua

Yeah, and I love my daughter, especially coming and seeing all these powerful women. My son, too, I think that's really good for him as being a lot of strong very technical, very sharp women teaching and leading.

Jennifer Bonine

On Friday this week, so just when you think Wednesday and Thursday wraps up, Friday is Women Who Test and the Leadership Summit. Are you doing a talk there, too?

Melissa Benua

No, I did one earlier this year, but I don't think I'm doing one this year.

Jennifer Bonine

Are you planning to attend? Will you be there?

Melissa Benua

I will be there. My daughter may or may not be there briefly, but I'll be there. There's a lot of other people who are really interesting to hear speak. Angie [Jones] I think is doing a talk. You're doing a talk? There's a lot of really interesting talks, and I'm like, I don't have to give all the talks. I'm happy to sometimes just listen.

Jennifer Bonine

Isn't that fun? Like there was a conference a couple weeks ago I went to and it had been years since I'd been to a conference and not had a part like where you weren't speaking? So I tried it like a couple weeks ago, I went to one in Aspen, and it was purely something someone else put on, and it was really refreshing to just to be able to participate enjoy and soak it in.

Melissa Benua

I was at I think a dozen conferences this year or by the end of the year will be a dozen something like that. And I can't remember the last time I just went to sessions, hung out, right?

Jennifer Bonine

It's good because you get different perspectives. So for those of you out there that don't speak at conferences that just go maybe it's your turn to speak. So I heard you guys for STARCANADA coming up are doing an Ask Me Anything session

Melissa Benua

Yeah, there's an Ask Me Anything panel about continuous integration and delivery, and there's an Automation Face Off.

Jennifer Bonine

See, I think that's super fun. So were you part of that program committee?

Melissa Benua

Yes. Those were some of our ideas we came up with because, they seemed like fun.

Jennifer Bonine

But I mean, you would encourage I bet folks out there that haven't spoken at a conference or haven't tried it, I mean, submit, right?

Melissa Benua

Submit, absolutely. And if you're nervous about a big conference, submit to one of the smaller ones.

Jennifer Bonine

So that would be a good idea to break your teeth and start on or try one of those.

Melissa Benua

People are happy to stay and to give feedback. I'm always happy to give feedback on proposals, if you hit me up on Twitter or something.

Jennifer Bonine

So that's a great idea. So you guys heard it. She offered. If you hit her up on Twitter, she will help look at your proposal.

Melissa Benua

This is how I end up in twelve conferences a year. I keep opening my big mouth. Always happy to help. I've had a lot of really nice, wonderful people help me to build a speaking career, and I'm always happy to pay it forward.

Jennifer Bonine

I think that you do find that a lot of folks in the industry, if you reach out are more than happy to help or give advice or look at things. So don't think you have to do it on your own without reaching out and getting a lifeline of some kind.

Melissa Benua

There's always a community to help. It's just a matter of finding your community. People are there; they exist. Usually there in a Slack of some sort.

Jennifer Bonine

They're out there. Now, fun thing. So how is outside of conferences, being a mom, all the other things, How is work going?

Melissa Benua

My real job. I have a job. They're luckily very happy that I'm here representing mParticle. I have a couple of teams now in Seattle that I run that span the gamut from deep backend core features to some quality to some dev tools. We're having some good times, good growth, lots of hiring. Life is good.

Jennifer Bonine

I know sometimes when I see you at the conferences, I remember you were doing like interviews in between.

Melissa Benua

Yeah, that's happening tomorrow.

Jennifer Bonine

You're literally interviewing people to bring them on because of the growth that you guys are having.

Melissa Benua

There's only so many hours in the day, and if you need somebody, you can't get out of meeting specific people until you have enough people to spread it around in.

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