Women can do IT: Team Leaders — The greatest women’s job interview anxiety.
Women Can Do IT is a new project of Software Development Association Poland, in which we want to disenchant the IT industry for women and show that it is an environment with room for anyone, regardless of past experiences.
In the last episode of the series, we are speaking with Kaja Owczarczyk, Agile Coach and Head of Leaders at HTD as well as Aleksandra Trzcińska, Sales Executive for Business Development and Partner Manager at Cloudical Polska.
Did you start your career in the IT industry? What is your background in terms of education and earlier career path?
Kaja: The fact that I work in IT is partly an accident and partly a choice. I moved from Warsaw to Lodz and was faced with two job offers: start working in my learned profession, i.e. do the translations for the Serbian and Slovenian markets in a window production plant or become a Project Manager in an IT company. I hesitated for quite some time. I was thinking it was better to work in a place where I could use the skills I acquired at the university. Finally, I decided that it was worth to take a risk and choose a path that is more demanding at the start, but also more prospective. That is how my adventure started.
Aleksandra: I belong to the generation that often changes jobs and at the beginning of my career path I worked as a waitress, a shop assistant and a salesperson. The industries were the only thing that was changing and that is how I ended up in IT. I also am a person who always said “I am looking for a job”. I like changes and challenges. I got a call from a friend with a proposal to take up a job at a company he was working at that time, and I gladly jumped in at the deep end. I enjoy it very much that I still can learn a lot and that there’s no monotony.
What do you appreciate the most in your current roles?
Kaja: I find it wonderful how receptive and change-oriented the people around me are and how easy it is to implement good practices, how quickly one can change, and how to open one can be about it. At HTD, we have a young team that is very open to learning and to continuous development. This is not only an empty slogan.
Aleksandra: I like the fact that each customer is different. Each situation and conversation is different. I like to figure things out. Even if I have implemented something, I still seek opportunities to optimize it. I like to share my work, I am not the type of person that must do everything by myself. This gives me a sense of accomplishment, it is better to achieve something with someone else than on my own.
What are your biggest successes in IT?
Kaja: I have two such successes. In the first one, which is recent, I was able to introduce the leader role in an organization. It is not just a person who manages a team but is actually implementing the leadership concept. It is a pleasure to see it working in practice for over a year now. The second success covers all agile transformation processes, which more or less worked out. It was a success because organizations started to notice the value of scrum teams and roles such as the Scrum Master or Product Owner. I am very happy about it and it keeps me going.
Aleksandra: I am only 26 and I can say that everyone is a success [laughter]. The fact that I am here, that it happened so fast and that I feel appreciated. I am setting my own bars in life. During the first degree of my studies, the aim was to find a permanent job with which I would be satisfied after my defense, and during my master’s degree studies I wanted to have a better job. It is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What surprised you the most in IT? What differs from popular opinion?
Kaja: When I started working, I was indeed thinking in a stereotypical way about an IT specialist in a flannel shirt. Yet, it turned out that the IT world is not as impenetrable and reluctant to share its knowledge. Those horrible developers really have a lot of satisfaction from the fact that they can show their work and try to translate it into something comprehensible for all. I was worried about whether I can understand this world, and I encounter these concerns in most women during job interviews. They are very afraid that they will be deemed incompetent, but after several weeks of working with our teams it turns out that they are welcomed with great openness. This impenetrability is only apparent and should not be discouraging.
Aleksandra: I see a big difference between technical persons from Poland and Germany. Germans are very open and always ask whether they can help. People from Poland are definitely more withdrawn. I am the one who has to reach out and show interest. I started working when I was 21 and due to the fact that I look very young, I very often had to prove that I am competent at the beginning. It was stressful, but I was able to deal with it quickly.
What else are you aiming at? What are your career objectives?
Kaja: I will graduate from psychology soon and I am already introducing new competencies by teaching our leaders how to speak with people, how to listen, observe them, and what to pay attention to. I am trying to convey the human, “soft” side in the most extensive form possible. I want to be useful and make people’s work easier. I want them to be pleased and feel safe. I am more of a path-oriented person, and I would like the path taken by me and my co-workers to be as good as possible.
Aleksandra: I would surely want to build my own team because my company is committed to development. I am also considering taking up postgraduate studies, but I am trying to assess what field would be an added value for me at the moment.
What is your advice for people who would like to work in IT?
Kaja: Be patient, do not get discouraged, and listen actively to others. Listening is always helpful, it is very appreciated and enables you to soak into this world quickly.
Aleksandra: For me, the most important thing is not to get discouraged, be persistent, and active.