By Alexa Weber Morales
September 3, 2019
She’s got a manifesto she’s not afraid to share. She keeps her presentations in the cloud. She loves testing software and works best late at night. She travels the world and enjoys swapping productivity tips at unconferences with other star developers. Oh, and she’s one of the few Java Champions who is married to another Java Champion (husband Andres Almiray).
Based in Basel, Switzerland, but originally from Mexico City, Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador Ix-Chel Ruiz is a senior software engineer for Karakun and a frequent speaker at events such as the recent Oracle Code Berlin. But unconferences, where the agenda is spontaneously brainstormed by the attendees at the start of the event, are one of her favorite ways to pick up new life hacks.
“I do get to attend many conferences, and I like the unconferences the best, because you get a chance to sit down with attendees and speakers and ask how did they make it and what is their trajectory so far?”
A common denominator among software engineers, she notes, is the passionate quest to solve a given problem. “That’s what has always driven me,” she says. “As a young daughter of an engineer, I was always following my father, pulling apart equipment and trying to put it back together again, and asking questions.”
One solution she has found to the problem of presenting technical demos while on the road is to put her entire presentation in the cloud. “I have my whole demo preconfigured in Oracle Cloud. I can launch a provisional virtual machine and Oracle Database, Express Edition, and run my tests—all from the cloud. I don’t even need my laptop. I’ve done it on an iPad.”
Ruiz is a fan of the “fail fast” concept that pervades the software industry. “You want to get feedback as soon as possible, exploit that data, and convert it into knowledge,” she says. But that’s not always popular with deadline-driven teams. “Testing is super important in our industry, but developers are always saying ‘We don’t have time; let’s postpone this; it’s more important that we focus on production code.’ For me, that’s not a viable compromise—you should always test.”
Her answer to the culture of test avoidance is to “always try to bring new tools and methodologies to testing. It doesn’t have to be expensive.” In the age of containerized applications, she is a fan of Testcontainers, a Java library that mocks up common databases, unit tests, or anything that can run in a Docker container for testing a deployed app in its container with all its dependencies. And a good testing tool is likely available for whatever other languages you’re testing, she says. “The principles and the strategies go beyond language.”
Working with other developers is easy for Ruiz, thanks to her dispassionate self-analysis and recognition of different work styles. When she joins a team, she shares her “rules of engagement,” which explains what works best for her: things such as when she does her most focused work (after lunch or late at night) and how best to communicate with her. “I explain how I work and parts of my personality—I’m at heart very introverted.” She also likes direct communication: “I won’t be offended.”
But how do teams feel about her approach? “The first reaction is, ‘She’s super weird,’” Ruiz says. “The second reaction is, ‘She has a point.’” She’s able to explain herself to others, resulting in open communication and awareness of different work styles that leads to better collaboration.
Examining our own performance indicators and emotional triggers and engineering our way around them may help us all get more done.
WATCH Ix-Chel Ruiz video.
READ more about Ix-Chel.
Photography by Darrin Vanselow/Getty Images