Breaking barriers for women in IT: Insights from a Data Scientist and Team Captain
We talked to Dynatracer Magdalena about her remarkable career trajectory and breaking barriers as a woman working in data science.
Magdalena Zuschrader is Team Captain and Senior Data Scientist at Dynatrace. She also mentors women who want to expand or refresh their programming skills within regular study groups of the Female Coders association.
How did you become interested in programming and data science?
As a kid, one of my favorite activities was playing “The Sims” on my computer. I spent hours immersing myself in the game, but what fascinated me was the underlying mechanics of the virtual world. I began to question things like: how do you build a house digitally and what’s behind the game’s logic? These thoughts were my first excursion into the world of IT and eventually led me to pursue a technical education.
No one in my family had a job or education in IT. My parents didn’t advise me against a technical career, but they kept asking whether I wanted to do it. Boys interested in IT are often empowered by their parents and friends, but taking a step into IT as a girl took some courage. If you lack role models of the same gender, seeing yourself in a particular role can be challenging. Women who want to enter the IT industry face more obstacles than men.
During my time at HTL Perg, a technical school in Austria, the iPhone was launched, and there was a massive boom in app development. I really liked the idea of developing apps that I could then use on my phone or share with others. I went on to study Mobile Computing at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria and began programming for IT companies on the side. During my master’s program, I took a semester abroad in Ontario, Canada. While I was there, I took several courses in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, which sparked my passion for data science.
How did your path lead you to Dynatrace?
During my time at the technical school and later at the Universities of Applied Sciences, I had the opportunity to do several internships in various industries, including accounting, solar panel construction, public service, IT, and software engineering. These internships provided valuable experience and helped me identify my strengths and interests. After exploring different career paths, my passion for data science led me to work as a Data Scientist at Runtastic for almost three years before joining Dynatrace in 2019. While working at Dynatrace, I had the opportunity to develop my skills further but I also discovered another passion — people management. As a Senior Data Scientist and Team Captain, I can now combine my dedication to working in my area of expertise while encouraging and empowering others on my team.
What does your role at Dynatrace entail?
As a Team Captain, I lead a team of seven Dynatracers. Our goal is to develop smart and performant algorithms to forecast what will happen in the future and detect anomalous behavior. This is helpful in many different areas. For example, we predict when storage will fill up so that we can automatically buy more capacity and prevent outages. We also analyze data to detect system errors and cybersecurity attacks. If, for example, a large number of unusual requests is coming in, our machine learning models can identify it as anomalous behavior and raise an alert. This way, our customers are informed and can take care of it.
My job requires a high level of creativity, teamwork, and strong communication skills. In each of our software projects, we collaborate and consult with others to achieve our goals and solve problems. Additionally, as a team captain, I actively support the professional growth and development of my team members, providing mentorship and guidance whenever possible.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in IT?
I often experienced that women are underestimated when the topic of IT or tech comes up. These patterns are shifting as society adapts, and now many women are accepted and find success in the IT industry. However, there are still deeply rooted patterns of behavior that we need to overcome. For example, when I had fiber optic cables installed at home, the technicians addressed my husband to discuss the technical details rather than me.
How do you empower other women in the IT field?
Many women are reluctant to ask technical questions around men because they have previously been played down. That’s why women feel comfortable learning how to code with us. We also give group members an opportunity to exchange ideas and network with other women in the IT field.
Together with other Dynatracers, I also volunteer at CoderDojo Linz, a club that teaches programming to kids in a fun way. We show young talent how to create their first websites, games, and apps to inspire young talent and spark their interest in STEM.
To advance the tech industry, we must empower women and promote awareness of our equal capabilities in IT. By expanding access to IT education and cultivating female IT role models, we can inspire and equip the next generation of female technologists to reach their full potential.