Deirdre Cleary is a Software Engineer at Evervault, a Dublin-based startup building encryption infrastructure. We wanted to understand her career journey so far and why Deirdre chose Evervault. Here’s what we found…
What is Evervault?
Evervault is encryption infrastructure for developers. We build encryption tools that make it easy for developers to encrypt, securely use, and share sensitive data. As an example, we work with organisations processing credit card information to help reduce the impact of data breaches and the scope and burden of PCI DSS compliance. We store and manage the encryption keys, but never the sensitive encrypted data.
What attracted you to join Evervault?
Evervault’s mission is to encrypt the web, making data breaches a thing of the past. When I first spoke to Shane, the founder, I couldn’t get that idea out of my head. “This makes so much sense,” I thought. “How does it not already exist?”. As a customer, I wondered why I accept that my data can (and does) get breached, and as a developer, I questioned why we aren’t holding ourselves to a higher standard. With those questions in mind, I decided to join Evervault, determined to help provide better answers.
I was also eager to join the company early – when I joined I was the 4th full-time engineer and the first woman on the team. I was really excited about the potential of Evervault, but also about my potential within Evervault. Since then we’ve grown to 25 people and I’ve had the opportunity to work on all aspects of the tool, as well as help to build out our intern programme.
What is one thing that surprised you about working in encryption and cryptography?
Despite being a very technical field, I’ve found that social skills have been instrumental in my work. At Evervault, we are intensely customer focused. We think deeply about what developers need, which requires empathy and strong communication skills. Additionally, teamwork is at the core of Evervault’s success. As a company of 25, we collaborate across teams and work on every project together.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career so far?
I first discovered tech at university when I took a computer science module in my general science course and loved it, prompting me to move into a computer science and software engineering degree. Only about 10% of my course were women, and I felt that imbalance every day. Despite being top of my class, my peers would put any internships I landed down to my being a “diversity hire”, while simultaneously shutting me down in conversations for being too “girly”. For a time the opinions of my peers trumped all evidence to the contrary, and I started to doubt myself and whether I would ever fit in in engineering.
Since then, thankfully, I’ve learned to back myself a lot more and understand that my unique perspective is valuable. This aligned perfectly with Evervault’s approach of hiring people, not roles. My first conversation with Shane and Ben was as much about my experience teaching dance fitness classes during the pandemic as it was my hard technical skills, and since then I haven’t felt the need to shy away from being myself at work for a second. Everyone at Evervault is dedicated to building a diverse and inclusive team, and I’m excited to do my part to make that happen.
In your opinion, how do we encourage more women and girls to get involved in STEM?
Despite technology impacting almost every aspect of our lives, when I was in school, no one ever mentioned computer science to me as an option. If you liked maths, you were told to ‘be an actuary’. I think getting engineers into schools and showing girls what a career in STEM looks like and how to go about it is so important. I work with an organisation called Stemettes to do exactly that, and it’s really rewarding. Secondly, creating inclusive spaces where girls and women interested in STEM can go to connect is crucial. If we fail to do this, we risk losing amazing talent simply because they feel like they don’t belong (when of course, they most certainly do).
What advice would you give to an entry-level software engineer starting out in her career?
Be yourself – don’t go into an interview and say what you think the interviewer wants to hear; people can see through this. Show your personality and be confident in your value. You got this.
Which of your personal attributes makes you best suited for your role?
Persistence – software engineering is all about solving problems, and you must be willing to keep going until you figure things out. I used to be an ardent perfectionist, and getting comfortable being uncomfortable as I sat with a problem was huge for me. This was never more evident for me than when I joined Evervault and had to learn a completely new tech stack. The learning curve was steep, but I learned to show myself grace and, with the help of my colleagues, my skills improved. The key for me is to just keep showing up and trust you’ll figure it out.
What are you most excited about for what’s next in your career?
This is the first start-up I’ve ever worked for, and I am excited to see what happens next. I think there’s going to be a huge amount of growth over the next couple of years at Evervault, and I’m looking forward to figuring out how I can continue to add value and impact along the way.
Interested in joining the team at Evervault? They are growing and want to hear from you. Check out open roles here – https://evervault.com/careers