Showcasing Female Role Models in Gousto Tech — Miryana (Senior Delivery Manager)

It doesn’t need to be International Women’s Day for us to shout about some of the inspiring women we have in Gousto Tech. We caught up with Miryana Kostadinova to talk about the challenges of being a woman in Tech and what we are doing to support and grow our female talent in Gousto.

Tell us about your role at Gousto.

I am part of our Delivery team — coincidentally also one of the teams with the best female representation! It can be difficult to explain our remit, but in simple terms, we function much like an internal consultancy within Tech, handling large-scale, often cross-domain or cross-tribe pieces of work. What we do can be as varied as supporting the rollout and testing of our tech products when we prepare for a new factory opening or doing an analysis to understand what it would take to move towards much faster delivery to customers, for example. I like to think of our team as a bit of a tech-savvy “SWAT” team that helps break down and solve complex problems.

What are some of the exciting projects you’re currently working on?

I worked on a few very different projects this year, but a particularly interesting and challenging one has been understanding how we can enable our customer propositions for next year. That is, how do we need to change or adapt our tech products and our operations to be able to offer more to our customers on our way to becoming the UK’s favourite way to eat dinner. As the project lead on the Tech side, it has been my responsibility to collect insights from all our teams and then distill those into a simple proposal, summarising what Gousto should focus on in 2022.

What influenced you to work in tech and what is it that you love about working in this field?

I started my career as a generalist consultant in one of the big strategy consulting firms where I could go in a lot of directions — optimising operations for manufacturers or building complex financial models for banks. Granted, I did some of that as well, but I was lucky enough to join the “Digital” family and quickly specialise in tech work.

In my first week on the job, when our recruitment manager asked me what kind of projects I would be interested in, the first thing I blurted out was “tech”. I never considered myself a big “tech-y” although I could do a bit of coding, and I am always the one my mum calls when the printer is out of ink or the wifi is down (still to this very day). And yes, I am a huge fan of science fiction too, but that was never “tech-y” enough for me either. I think the most appealing feature of tech for me was different — it was the intellectual challenge it offered. Tech is clearly the biggest, most powerful source of change we have that can help make the world a better, happier and healthier place all-around. I always found it almost a bit whimsical how some good code can completely transform the way a large corporation works, offering a much better experience for its customers while also streamlining its processes. And while I found value in the work I was doing for banks and telcos, I wanted to be even closer to the well-meaning aspect of tech that can help transform the world and steer us towards a more sustainable future. And this is how I found Gousto, where I am finally a full-blown Tech employee! I love (almost) every second of it, as it allows me to both transform our company to be more efficient while making our customers happy and the planet better off. I am very excited to see what new ways we will identify to use tech to be an even more sustainable business.

Tech has traditionally been a male dominated industry, how have you seen this change and what has the gender balance been like in the companies you’ve worked at?

All the companies I have worked for — both the consulting firm, the big corporate clients I served, and Gousto alike — have not done very well on the side of gender balance. Then if you look specifically within the Tech functions of all those companies, finding a woman has always been a surprise. Believe it or not, very often in my consulting days people kept assuming I was somebody’s secretary — after all, a young woman was a very unexpected sight in a senior Tech leadership meeting. I am happy to say this sort of thing would never happen in Gousto!

But while the lack of gender parity can be frustrating, it is changing and fast. Gousto is a really great example: while we still have few women in leadership roles within Tech, we do have a lot of female talent in more junior roles. There is a whole new generation of strong female Tech talent in the making, and it’s exhilarating to be a part of! It will take patience and some more time, but I genuinely believe gender equality in Tech is no longer just a dream of some distant future.

How are you involved in making Gousto a great place for women to work?

I am part of an initiative we started around inclusiveness, diversity and belonging (ID&B). Our team focuses on empowering and growing female talent in Gousto with ambitious targets around the percentage of our leadership teams in Tech that will identify as female. And before anyone asks why we do not just go and hire senior women: yes, that is important and our hiring should be fair and balanced, so we also attract female talent for senior roles. However, just hiring senior women is not a sustainable solution!

Our team started off by breaking down the problem into smaller and easier issues to tackle. This way we made sure we can progress quickly and efficiently while making the challenge feel a lot less daunting. Within a few weeks, we have already managed to drive a lot of positive change. We started off with a big data gathering and analysis exercise to understand where the key pain points were. We are now planning to have some focus groups to understand deeper some of the issues we identified like, for example, how we can provide better mentorship opportunities for women. We then looked towards our performance review and promotion processes and drafted a list of improvements that would make those processes a lot more inclusive. With the updated processes in motion, we are looking forward to seeing the data and understanding how our changes helped. We also provided tailored mentorship sessions for women in preparation for reviews and promotion cycles and are working towards manager training on how to best support female talent in your team. And finally, we wanted to help build a stronger female community by hosting some great speaker events! So with the initial foundations of our work set, we are looking forward to expanding our team in 2022 and setting a lot more great initiatives in motion.

What are the common misconceptions women have about the technology industry?

I always had the misconception that I would not like working for Tech that much because I would be surrounded by introverted hoodie-clad men and characters like the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. Not that it is a bad thing — I just felt like my extroverted, loud and chatty personality would not fit in, and that I would not be respected because I was a woman.

Luckily, I got it all wrong! Yes, there are a lot of gamers around and people do wear hoodies, but everyone is fun, caring and accepting. And there are a lot of women, too! So my fears that I would be judged and ostracized have all but vanished.

What advice or tips would you give to a woman starting their career in Tech?

Do it. If that is what you love — go after it and put your heart in it. And in the times when the going gets tough, remember that it is never personal and try not to be angry. I know it might not sound like the inspirational advice people expect, but bear with me on this one. As a woman, whatever industry you are in, you will face an array of challenges and plenty of sexism from men and women alike. And yes, it is even more likely in Tech, as it is still a largely male-dominated environment. However, while it is very easy to become frustrated, anger does not solve anything. Change requires patience and perseverance. So the next time you feel mistreated or face bias at the workplace, speak up. Have an honest feedback conversation with that person and talk about how and why their treatment made you feel disrespected. Every time you feel like the world is not fair, try to gather all your anger and channel it into something positive: why not something like our work on ID&B? Complaining and sulking will not help; we all need to act now and be the change we want to see. And if your workplace does not accept that and does not support that — then hey, maybe it’s not the right place for you! And maybe Gousto is a better fit?

And lastly, hopefully an easy one, what are your hobbies and things that you like to do outside of work?

My hobbies generally oscillate between two extremes — from the very quiet and introverted to the very loud and extroverted. There are days when I would like to do nothing more than sit down with a good book and a hot cup of tea. I usually start my mornings with yoga and go for a run every other day. I enjoy knitting, crochet, tapestry, needlepoint… and occasionally taking out my power tools and drilling some holes around the house for yet another DIY project (and, of course, to challenge gender stereotypes).

But then there are also days when I show my loud extroverted side: I like clubbing, dancing to cheesy music and shouting the lyrics (usually getting the words wrong) to a random song. I travel a lot as well, although COVID made that a bit harder, but I still do my best!

So just like with gender parity and pretty much everything else in life, I do believe the secret is in finding a balance!

To find out more about roles in Tech, check out our current vacancies.

To hear about other female role models in our Tech team, check out the last post about Irene our Senior Data Scientist.

And don’t forget to follow our Gousto Engineering & Data bog to hear more about what our Tech teams is up to!

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Gousto Engineering & Data Blog

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The official account for the Gousto Technology Team, a London based, technology-driven, recipe-box company.

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