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Interview, C2C Community Spotlight, DEI, Careers in Cloud

Women in Cloud: Erika Bell

By Alex Maksymec | March 15, 2022


Communities grow and thrive when they lift up all of their members to succeed. Part of that undertaking is to recognize structural imbalances and to turn to their historically marginalized members to lead.

To celebrate Women's History Month and the contributions of women in the world of cloud technology, C2C is highlighting conversations with leaders who will guide our future. Every Tuesday this March, we will publish an interview with one of the many women driving change and giving direction in the C2C community.

This interview is with Erika Bell ( @Erika APAC Community Mgr ), Advisor to Google Cloud Partners and C2C Community Manager.


You're in a video call with people you haven't yet met. How would you introduce yourself?


My name is Erika Bell (Rodr�guez Morillo). I am from Peru originally, but have been living in Australia for 30 years. I am a computer engineer who got into IT enterprise systems and most recently into cloud. I'm proud to have recently joined C2C, and am also the organizer of a community called Google Developer Group.

I've worked for myself for many years, am the mother of two boys, and live with my husband and near my parents here in Sydney.


Tell me about your education, your experience, and your tech path. Have you earned any certifications? Are there any you felt like you needed?


I completed my high school here in Australia, went off to university for computer engineering, and after that got into science and technology research for the Australian Department of Defense. Very quickly - about 18 months into it - I discovered that wasn't for me, so I switched to consulting and joined Computer Sciences Corporation. I moved from Canberra to Sydney with them, which was always my dream. 

Once in Sydney I gained experience in what we now call collaboration systems (like Google Workspace). My next few gigs were rolling out these systems for one of the big four banks in Australia, and for big enterprises - oil and gas, transport, and logistics - during a move to London.

Before my husband and I were in London for a few years, we took a bit of a career break to travel the world. The break helped me realize the path I wanted to take within IT for my career progression. It was almost as if I could see the next 20 years laid out in front of me and I thought, "there's got to be more for me here."


How did you get started with Google Cloud?


We came back to Australia about 15 years into my experience of enterprise system rollouts. I had a very fortunate opportunity to leave that behind and join what I like to call this "parallel universe" of Google Cloud. I had been seeing that world moving so fast with all this new technology coming in, and in 2016 I joined a Google Cloud Partner consulting company with a side step into the world of marketing. After reporting to CIOs for so many years on transformation projects and trying to make changes within IT departments, it was an easy transition from an audience and persona point of view that I was now having to develop messaging to speak to CIOs again.


When you think back on your career, what stories can you share that demonstrate what it means to be a woman in tech?


I never really thought about it; my mom and dad were both teachers and they raised me to think I can do anything. I was always very good at math, which is the thing that saved me when I came to Australia because I didn't have English-speaking skills. But I never thought of myself and my abilities as different. The thing that brought it home for me was in university, where I was enrolled in a formal engineering degree. Walking into my very first lecture theater, I just saw a sea of 150 men and only a handful of women.

Automatically, that group of us five women came together. That was my first realization that I was part of a minority group. It was not because of my race; I'm already in one of the furthest places I could go from Peru, and have always felt like a bit of a minority because of that, but never because of gender.

In saying that, everyone was very welcoming. I even met my husband there. He was working through the same degree I was and has been my biggest supporter throughout my career. But the girls, of course, I became friends with straight away, and that friendship is for life - one of them is the godmother of my children! There are valuable things that we bring to the table that we might not think much of since it comes so naturally, but the men see that and think highly of it. In a very positive way, we complement each other, and ultimately we're all in this industry together with so many opportunities ahead of us. 


Have you ever felt "imposter syndrome"? How do you deal with it?


Most definitely. I think that's human nature, not gender-specific. I've always believed that's just the way our brains are programmed. It only takes listening to a couple of podcasts from experts in this field to know that our brain is programmed to pick on our own faults. One of the best explanations I've heard from an audiobook explained it as, "you can have a beautiful garden, but you'll always see that one weed coming through." 

We need to work extra hard to learn to admire the full garden. I give myself reminders for how far I've come, am patient with myself in challenging situations, and lean into the growing pains. You don't feel those pains when you're in your comfort zone, so it's a good thing to know you're putting yourself in situations where you find the courage to try something new.

Find mentors. Chat with others to reflect on your journey and learn about others' stories. Use all these to remind yourself of how powerful you are.


How do you want to change the world?


Ultimately, I want to bring more equality to everyone (not just women) on things we take for granted. Some people in less fortunate situations don't have the same access to the technology we have, whether you're in an emerging economy or in a socio-politically disadvantaged context (like many women are). There's power in tech to allow people with an inclination for solving problems or designing new products to get people and communities involved. I want to define pathways and connect organizations who also want to change the world and make equality their goal. 


Inspire me! What advice would you give someone interested in a career like yours?


When you come into a job, know exactly what's expected of you, what you need to deliver on, and what the success criteria are. Without that clarity, you can't bring the best of you to the job.

Once you have that, get involved in opportunities that may feel like a side step from what you've been asked to achieve. These won't take you away from those goals, but will help take you above and beyond and might help you discover a passion and really get to know other people. Dive into a side project, find social community work, or organize events. I've always found myself in those roles because connecting people is something I enjoy doing.


Can you share one reason why you are optimistic about 2022 and the outlook for women in Google Cloud, in your region and beyond?


I am very optimistic about 2022 because of the last two years we just experienced. If nothing else, it's made us stronger and brought us all more perspective about each other, and we have grown up a lot. There's been growth not only by individuals, but by organizations who have made investments in those individuals. I am also so very grateful that my children were old enough to value and appreciate the benefits that come from this shift. My hope is that this recent corporate culture change will be long-lasting into the future.

We [Australia and the Asia Pacific region] are a hungry, fast-growing region in many ways. There's a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of drive, and I'm excited to see the amount of initiatives and growing talent as part of all the jobs Google Cloud has created in this part of the world. It's a fantastic time to be a woman and to be in the ecosystem of Google Cloud.


Looking for more in this series? Check out these other interviews with women in Google Cloud technology.


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