Girl in IT, or 5 Tips for the Ambitious

In this post, I will not specifically speak separately about the “recipe for women,” because I believe that the success pattern is the same, regardless of gender. The differences and the specifics of the “women's path” will be at the end. If someone is only interested in this part, feel free to scroll to the last section.

At the end of last year, I was invited to speak at the Worldwide Conversation on Women's Higher Education and Equality in the Workplace event at the HSE Faculty of Computer Science. This is a conversation about how in the modern world a woman can build a successful career in the field of science, education or information technology, what difficulties she faces at the same time and how she can overcome them.

I was a speaker “from the IT side” and told, as it seems to me, quite obvious and self-evident things. But, sharing my impressions of the event with friends and colleagues, I found out that the topic is very interesting to many and they relate to it very differently. It was after this that the article was born. In it, I will talk about my experience in developing a career in an IT company and what I consider important to do, and what, on the contrary, to avoid in order to become successful in my field.

How to succeed in a modern IT company?

So, here is my list of actions for a successful “building” career:


Of course, this is not about when you are lying on the couch, dreaming about how you organize your company and live happily ever after. You need to think proactively. Decide in which particular area you want to develop and continue to act: independently study specialized literature, attend courses, etc. Many motivating articles and books have been devoted to this topic. We have been told about this since school — there is nothing new to add here. For reference, a couple of examples of books that were personally useful to me:

To communicate

This is about those same soft skills. I know from my own experience that when you stop “doing everything yourself with your own hands”, the ability to build a dialogue, to accurately convey your thoughts to your interlocutor and to substantiate your point of view sometimes becomes even more important than your own professional skills.

I know several examples when the most experienced employee from the group was appointed as the head, and after that the work of the whole group went downhill. A person could not clearly explain the task and motivate colleagues to complete it. As a result, he spent extra time himself, redoing tasks for his subordinates, and they suffered on the sidelines, seeing that their work was simply going to landfill.

Further, various scenarios are possible. I will give a couple of them:

  • disappointed subordinate quietly quits and the company loses a good employee,
  • or he tells HR about an unhealthy situation (by the way, soft skills are also needed here!) and they solve the problem by competent replacement of the leader.

In start-up companies, when one person combines several positions, the lack of soft skills among the “tops” is especially acute. So, a familiar CEO of an IT company told me that they almost lost a major client due to the inability of the service station, which acts as a pre-sale in this project, to conduct a dialogue. He had to urgently connect independently and agree with the client on the terms of the transaction, including technical aspects.

Therefore, developing communication skills is important and necessary. Teaching helped me a lot in this. While still a student at the faculty of innovation and high technology at MIPT, I worked as a tutor in mathematics. When a student sincerely does not understand what you are asking for, you look for other ways to explain to him what is required of him. And then you try to find the right words, telling parents about the current successes and abilities of their child. It helps a lot to learn how to patiently communicate with different groups of people.

Now at work I need to communicate with developers, other Product owners and managers, foreign colleagues from Sales and Marketing, partners and customers. People from these groups have completely different technical levels, so they have to speak in different languages. But most importantly, they have different expectations from the conversation. For example, the seller is not interested in hearing exactly which ML algorithm is used in our SDK to search for lines in the image. It is important for him to understand whether this technology can be applied to solve a specific problem of a client. And to the developer, on the contrary, technical details are important. Past teaching experience has helped me a lot to learn how to properly build a dialogue with both.

Believe in yourself

You should not expect that everything will always be cloudless. Firstly, everyone can make mistakes, but this does not mean that one miss will be followed by others. In any situation, you need not be afraid to act, believe in success and make every effort to achieve a result.

Secondly, innovative ideas are not always immediately supported - therefore, they are so scary to offer. It’s also difficult to understand that things that seem obvious to you do not occur to others (all people are different!).

For example, it was very difficult for me to overcome myself and begin to boldly express my ideas in general meetings. It seemed that since no one had proposed such a thing, then this is definitely some kind of nonsense and everyone will only laugh. But no! It happened that people simply did not think “this way” and a fresh look helped to find a solution faster.

"Believe in yourself" sounds easy, but learning this is very difficult. I was greatly helped by the support of friends and relatives, who always gave an honest assessment of actions and opinions, were ready to listen and support. It is important not to be afraid to openly tell people nearby that you need their help, and to tell you what exactly. However, one must be prepared for criticism. There were situations when they directly told me that I was doing wrong. Basically, this was when I myself realized that I was doing something wrong. Therefore, after adequate criticism, I boldly changed course.

To plan

To achieve something, you need to set a goal and build a plan to achieve it. Otherwise, it is simply impossible to assess the degree of your success.

At all smart training in goal setting, they are usually advised to write 3 plans for themselves: for a year, for 3 years and for a longer period of 10-20 years (here the indications diverge). While you write this, you put your “head in order”: you evaluate how much the things that you want right now will help to realize what you have outlined in the farthest future. At this time, you understand what you can refuse, and what is really important.

If you look at a smaller scale, you need to start with a plan for the day: a clear list of cases with priorities helps to correctly allocate time and disciplines. Then it goes into the plan for the week and so on. I really like to write by hand, so I make up work plans for the day the old fashioned way - I write a to-do list in a notebook. But it doesn’t work out with longer periods - it’s more convenient for them to use electronic tools (for example, boards in Trello).

For planning time, a calendar is simply an irreplaceable thing (no matter how trite). Moreover, it is important to use the same calendar for both workers and personal meetings and events. Otherwise, you risk never getting to training or to the theater.

Be prepared for change

In the last decade, flexible development methodologies, in particular agile, are very popular. Exactly the same thing must be applied in ordinary life and always be ready for change.

You can plan everything well and clearly, but there are things that do not depend on us. At one point, the situation can radically change, and you need not be afraid to throw out your old plan without too much thought, sit down and write a new one. For example, when I was a 2nd year student at MIPT, I dreamed of becoming a developer. That's why I entered the Department of Image Recognition and Text Processing, supervised by ABBYY, and then came to work in the company. However, after a year and a half, I realized that I was much more attracted to the work of the analyst, and decided to change everything. It was not particularly difficult for me, because at the lectures, we were told in detail about the process of managing product requirements in general and the specifics of this process in ABBYY. But still, the changes in daily activities are significant - instead of writing code for a particular feature,

Of course, there are much more unexpected retraining: a pathologist who is tired of his job and decided to become a programmer, or a physicist who started playing in the theater. These are all stories about how a person realized that the previous choice was not so good, and decided on the changes.

“What is wrong with women?”

This question is asked to me by many familiar men. And then they add: “On the contrary, it’s easier for you! I went smiling and all the problems were solved by themselves. ” But that doesn't work!

It’s easier when the company values ​​you for a professional level, regardless of gender, skin color, nationality, etc. When they respect human relations in work and trust each other. In ABBYY we have exactly that.

In our world, everyone has already learned to soundly assess the professional level of colleagues, so a single smile will not help. On the contrary, a person will be more biased if he is used to solving work issues in this way.

Unfortunately, such prejudices in IT are common not only among men. For example, when I, as a programmer, registered for the conference, the girl writing me the badge asked me to give my name, surname and position. I joyfully said: "Olga Titova, a programmer." In response, she laughed "at a good joke" and again asked to name my position. When I repeated the word programmer, she was very surprised and noticed that I did not at all look like a programmer. She couldn’t explain why.

Another story happened recently. Discussing with a friend who also works in an IT company, the appointment of a relatively young man to a top position, I lamented that at such moments I was upset that so far I had achieved so little. And in response, I saw her surprised face with the question: “How long have you been measuring achievements with men ?!” It was even embarrassing to say that from birth. In my experience, often in the initial stages a woman needs to work at least 2 times harder than a man, proving to others her abilities. And only after the woman has earned authority, they begin to communicate with her on equal terms.

I want to summarize my story by addressing everyone - both men and women.

Do not be afraid to develop and do what you are interested in, regardless of whether you are “like a programmer” or not. And do not hesitate to change the world around you and explain to others why the phrases from the series “Why should a woman build a career?” and “Why explore uncharted areas and take risks?” not appropriate.

Only together can we help each other overcome such prejudices.

Good luck to everyone on the road to success!

Olga Titova,
Product owner Mobile SDK

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