GitHub Action Hero: Victoria Drake

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GitHub Actions allows you to automate your workflow. With GitHub Actions, you can deploy to any cloud, build containers, automate messages, and do so much more. Use any tool you know and love, and have more freedom to innovate and be creative. It’s time to take control! (opens in a new tab)

Everyday, there are lots of amazing Actions being built. We spoke to some of the coolest developers building the latest Actions. Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing their stories with lots of tips to inspire you in creating your own Actions. This week, we have Victoria Drake who has created a whole host of Actions.

Behind every amazing application is a developer (or developers) who more often than not have seriously cool stories to tell. Take Victoria for example. When she was a kid she spent many summer holidays with her friends coding medieval fantasy worlds. Victoria says she fell in love with the Telnet terminal and learned a lot about object orientated programming through these early experiences. Fast forward years later and she’s been a freelance developer, works for a big cybersecurity company, and is a core maintainer for the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Web Security Testing Guide (WSTG). Throughout all her experiences she has learned about software frameworks, using APIs, prototyping, and security testing. Victoria says she applies this knowledge when she looks to build new products or features:

“Whether I’m creating an open source tool or leading a development team, my childhood experience still informs how I think about programming today. I strive to create repeatable units of software like GitHub Actions — only now, I make them for large enterprises in the real world!”

Well now you know about where Victoria draws her inspiration from, let’s look at the Actions she has built.

Favourite GitHub Actions built

Like many developers, Victoria is one of those people who doesn’t just do one thing. Instead of creating one action, she made “several”. But she has favourites! One of her most loved Actions is Hugo-Remote. This is a handy tool to let you continuously deploy a Hugo static site from a private repository to a GitHub Pages repository. Victoria says there’s a huge advantage to having this feature:

“This keeps the contents of the source repository private, such as your unreleased drafts, while still allowing you to have a public open source site using GitHub Pages.”

Her next favourite Action is django-security check. This is an easy way for developers to check their django application is free from security vulnerabilities or misconfigurations. Victoria likes to “think of it as your little CI/CD helper for busy projects — a security linter!”

Both these Actions are super useful and available to check out now.

When it comes to creating Actions, you need the time to sit and write the code. Often, if you take the time to write a great Action, you’ll save loads of time in the long run. That’s what it was like for Victoria. She understands developers take on a lot of responsibility when it comes to building security software applications. It’s also in everyone’s interest to help make everyone’s lives easier. Those are the best kind of developers and that’s why Victoria says she builds Actions:

“I’m a full-time senior software developer at a cybersecurity company. I’ve found that I’m [the most] productive when I create systems and processes that help myself and my team make desired outcomes inevitable. So I spend my free time building tools that make it easy for other developers to build secure software as well. My Actions help to automate contained, repeatable units of work that can make a big difference in a developer’s day… I’m happiest when I’m solving a challenge that makes developing secure software less challenging in the future, both for myself and for the technology organization I’m leading.”

Features and Challenges

Many things in life have their challenges. Actions are not without a few challenges. Victoria says her biggest challenges however aren’t really about Actions themselves, but more about a cultural shift. She tell us there’s challenges around company culture and transitioning away from legacy software:

“Migrating legacy software is always challenging, particularly with large legacy applications. Moving to modern CI/CD processes requires changes at the software level, team level, and even a shift in thinking when it comes to individual developers. It can help to have a tool like GitHub Actions, which is at once seamlessly modern and familiar, when transitioning legacy code to a modern pipeline.”

Actions can definitely help with some of these challenges, but ultimately this shift must sit with the company. Actions can’t automate your company culture for you!

If you can sort through this challenge then Victoria says it’s really fun and easy to build Actions as they use “familiar and portable technologies”. Docker for example she says is easy for people to work on and collaborate with:

“In the case of a Dockerized Action, you can use any language your team is comfortable with. This is especially useful in large organizations with polyglot teams and environments. There aren’t any complicated dependencies for running these portable tasks, and you don’t need to learn any special frameworks to get started.”

That’s right. There’s no special frameworks to worry about and anyone, even with little coding experience can start building GitHub Actions.

Automating your work with GitHub Actions

Rarely is software development about building something and walking away forever. At least that’s not the case with good software. There’s always improvements to be made and new features to add. Victoria says she has lots of plans for the use of GitHub Actions and helping it “boost the velocity of technical teams”! As she puts it:

“Whether at work or in my open source projects… I’ve championed the effort to increase automation using GitHub Actions to maintain quality, securely deploy new versions to the web… We’re constantly looking into new ways that GitHub Actions can make our lives easier and our readers’ projects more secure.”

So how will you automate your workflow? Get started with GitHub Actions today. Check out hugo-remote, django security check, and hundreds of other GitHub Actions—on GitHub Marketplace.

Victoria also pointed out how simple it is to use GitHub Actions. Simply check out our Learning Lab course to see how easy it is to get started.

We hope you enjoyed our interview with Victoria Drake. We’ll be back with more awesome Action Heroes.  If you want to see more Actions, check out all the Actions built for our recent GitHub Actions Hackathon.