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Interview

The Potential of Women in IT  

March 7, 2024 | 6 min

cplace Community

What do you think of when you hear job titles like ‘Programmer’, ‘IT specialist’ or ‘IT systems electronics technician’? Do you also think of women? Female specialists are still in the minority in this sector. According to Bitkom, the Association of the German Information and Telecommunications Industry, only one in twenty skilled workers in IT and telecommunications companies is a woman. In 2023, the average proportion of women employed in the ICT sector was 15%. 

Milena Andreeva is one of those women. Highly competent and highly educated in the IT sector – and one of the power women here at cplace. Born in Bulgaria, she studied software engineering in her home country before coming to Munich, where she completed her master’s degree in informatics. Today she lives in Málaga, Spain, with her husband and five-year-old daughter. As a Backend Engineer she’s part of the cplace Software Engineering Team since 2020. In this interview, Milena shares her experiences as a woman in the IT industry. 

Milena Andreeva

Milena, can you explain in detail what is hidden behind your job title ‘Backend Engineer’?

An engineer is a person who wants to build and maintain something and solve the problems that come on that creating process. The Backend Engineer is just a more concrete domain, and the playground is well defined: it’s what happens after the end-user interacted with the UI. There are many things that happen after a user clicks on a button in the UI. This is why I dare to say that there are many things hidden behind the ‘Backend Engineer’.

How did you come to pursue a career in the IT industry, especially as a software developer? 

Talking with cliches (laughs). I have to say that I was not good at the arts, music, and languages but I was very good at math though. The path from math to programming is very short. And later, this just continued naturally in the university and in my studies.

What is your career path so far?

I started my experience as Junior Java Developer. I had a female team lead and that was very inspirational back then. I continued my experience in Germany later. I worked for other companies before, also developing software products. I came to cplace after my maternity leave. That was an experience that will stay with me: a mother with a small baby going to an interview and applying for a software developer position. Back then I applied for a part-time position because my daughter was just one year old.

What was your experience when you applied for a job at cplace in the situation of a newly baked mom?

That was not an exotic or exceptional case at all at cplace: there were so many fathers and mothers working already at the company. The questions were not that I am a woman or that I have a baby, but they were related to the job: ‘What do I want from the job?’ ‘Do I fit for that position?’. That was really good because from my experience, going to an interview with a certain condition – a small baby, a part-time job – makes me feel uncomfortable: How will the employer take this?’ It was definitely out of scope for cplace. All my concerns and worries and hesitations were not at all relevant for the position.

You are currently working full-time. Is it difficult to care for your daughter at the same time?

No, it is not, because I can rely on my husband. It’s a partner activity to take care of the child and that is how my family does it. My day starts with preparing my daughter for school, bringing her to school and coming back, starting with my activities. I continue working in the afternoon, my husband takes her from kindergarten, here it’s called ‘school’ in Spain. And that’s how my family life works.

Talking about your job as a Backend Engineer and the profile of this job, what do you like most?

In my daily activities, what I really like most is that I can apply the knowledge that I have gained before in my studies. That’s a very rewarding feeling. To feel that it was worth it: all the homework, all the exams in the university, the experience in developing gathered in projects. It helps me in my daily tasks to tackle complex software issues.

What experience have you had as a woman in software development? 

I would step back and first want to make it clear that my experience is similar to the experience that any developer makes in the job. There are certain issues that come from the job itself: we need to keep up to date with the latest technologies, we need to keep our knowledge up to date. And this experience is gender independent. However, what is special as women in IT, is very often to just not see other women in meetings at work. Or to not collaborate that often with them on coding tasks or on designing technical solutions. Looking at the percentage of the women in the IT industry – it’s not surprising, we are simply the minority still. 

As a minority in the industry – are there reactions from male colleagues towards female colleagues?

Very often there is no reaction. It’s because the issues we face in our domain stem from the code – from its complexity and size. The challenges and the issues that we have there are gender independent. They need to be solved by human beings – if we keep the whole AI topic out of scope for this discussion. And this is where women are by far more underestimated than men in their capacity to solve technical issues.  

Why is this the case?

Women are sometimes, I may say, shy in expressing their opinion. Or maybe they get nervous if they don’t know the answer immediatelyJust because there are not so many examples out there – role models that young ladies and girls can follow in the industry. 

Do you feel like being a role model?

I want to be a role model for my daughter. For the rest I don’t want to judge on my own. It’s up to the people that I work with.

There is a very small percentage of women working in this field. What challenges do you face as a woman in IT and how do you deal with them? 

Here I can give you many examples: starting from asking for an equal pay compared to the men on the same position, to recommending other women for the open positions, to proactively supporting other women in the team. The women in the industry already play a huge role into increasing the proportion, to having even more women in the industry. We should actively promote our interests. In addition to that it would be great if recruiters see the talents of the women applying. Even if they are shy in presenting themselves, if they get nervous or if they are unexperienced.

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What could help women to start their career in the tech industry?

It’s about how we can make the job attractive for the ones that are not already in the industry. For those girls that are thinking about what to do in their life. For me the role models are the ones that play a huge role. I had an inspiring math teacher, I had professors in the university that were teaching core technical subjects with huge professionalism. They showed me how to break complex problems into smaller pieces, manageable pieces. What women are good at is also to maintain a view on the big picture, to keep an eye on that big picture.  

Do you ever talk to other women about this topic or attract them for this profession?

Of course, there are talks. Also here in Málaga, there are groups, ‘Women in Tech’-communities. In the university I was also part of such a group. It’s a place where to voice out opinions. When I’m the only lady in the team, I talk with my male colleagues about that and that’s nothing we should be shy about. It’s impressive to hear their opinion and realize that they are unbiased.

What advice would you give to girls/women interested in a career in IT? 

In general, my advice is that the women and the girls should search for a career path. Not just stay at home and take care of the family. They should not just settle. I truly believe it: there is so much potential that the women can bring to any organization. When it comes to a career, specifically in IT, that means that the girls already have some genuine interest in the domain. The question is: is this interest big enough to turn into a career? The answer is to just do it.

How do girls – and boys – recognize a possible enthusiasm for software development?

It is the interest in solving complex problems, in a job where people do not come to tell you ‘Great thing that you have done’, ‘awesome feature’ and so on. Rather they more often come to you to tell ‘Okay there is a problem; it’s not working, you need to fix it.’ This is again the engineer inside: somebody who wants to solve problems. It can be a little one at an early age: to paint something or to stick a few shapes into a certain form – but that’s already the nature towards solving problems.  

Speaking of solving problems: as a Backend Engineer you solve problems at cplace for four years. What is it like for you to work in our company?

Working on the cplace platform is very dynamic. A small code change can have a huge impact on features in the product. This comes with a lot of responsibility. Being part of a team working on a software platform that is used by so many other people, by so many projects, is a very rewarding feeling. It has been worth it – all the time. And there are many other women in different departments and in different positions  also at the C-level. This is not the usual case in many organizations. It simply makes me happy to be part of that strong community, of the women at cplace

About the Author

Julia Gerstner, Content Marketing, cplace

With its Next-Generation Project and Portfolio Management technology, cplace is revolutionizing and transforming the way people and organizations collaborate on complex projects. The flexible software platform enables leading companies to create customized solutions for digital transformation and developing complex products.

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Julia Gerstner

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