Women in Tech: Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling

I have been working as a tech analyst in IT companies for ages. Nowadays, I work as a Technology Analyst at MobiDev. My previous experience includes front-end development and management, which allows me to clearly understand clients’ needs and requirements. Besides a daily routine, I pay attention to my hobby – writing about the IT area, career paths, and promising technologies that will drive businesses in the future.

In my career, I met many women who were top-notch specialists in different areas – from programming to project management. But I never thought about their career path. Moreover, I could not imagine that anybody meets gender discrimination in the IT area. All these rumours about the glass ceiling made me doubt the rationality of my vision. So I decided to find out whether my colleagues, who are obviously experts in their field, felt the influence of injustice while moving up the career ladder.      

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. ” – Confucius once said. These words are the most accurate description of al people including women who work in Tech and have chosen this profession. But how they got into the job, what challenges they faced along the career path, and which of their projects and experiences they consider the most significant can inform others who want to get into the Tech industry. 

Before giving the floor to our heroines, we should take care of some concepts when considering the influence of gender on a career. There is such a thing as a glass ceiling. This metaphor describes the invisible barrier which prevents women from advancement in their profession. Do we have an unacknowledged barrier that is an obstacle for women in Tech who are indeed skilled and experienced but can’t get a promotion?               

Info

Dariia Bondarieva, QA Engineer

I have a high profile education. I graduated from the University of Radioelectronics, Faculty of Computer Science, with honours. 

In the beginning, my family didn’t understand my choice because many generations of my relatives worked in other areas. They are geologists or mechanical engineers and fond of natural sciences. Therefore, they tried to dissuade me from my choice at first. My relatives were afraid that there was nobody who could give me advice or help. It’s notable that I didn’t have acquaintances or friends among the programmers at school. So nobody could tell me about programming and algorithms or show me examples. Anyway, mathematics, physics, and informatics came naturally to me; I decided that it was mine and wasn’t wrong.

I have been working in IT for seven years, most of the time in QA. This direction allows me to reach my full potential. From time to time, I hear that becoming a QA is the simplest way to enter IT. Also, some people are sure that QA might be the simplest work. It is tedious and monotonous, so even a monkey can meet the challenge. But actually, this is a myth. QA engineers can have even more activities and responsibilities than software developers. The longer I work, the more challenging are the tasks that must be solved. This is the reason why I like IT. All who are involved in this area must always learn and look for something new. There is no possibility to be trained once and become a professional for the next five years. 

You have to explore something new because everything that is learned today soon will become the past.    

Once, we had a project with Augmented Reality that was an emerging technology. You couldn’t be prepared to work with it in the university or on the courses. We had to find out the essence of AR, its opportunities, and challenges. To test the functionality, you had to understand – what was right and what was wrong. There was a lot in common with the standard QA approaches to which we become accustomed. 

At the same time, there were new challenges in testing the AR app. It was our first experience of work with the natural environment. We didn’t know how the transparent, glass, or wooden table could influence the application work. The other great challenge was testing in motion while moving at different speeds – we walked, ran, rode in the car and train, and even flew the plane. I read a lot of articles and watched conferences’ reports. Also, I avidly read books about Virtual and Augmented Reality, namely: Handbook of Virtual Environments: Design, Implementation, and Applications. Kelly S. Hale, Kay M. Stanney. Augmented Reality: Principles and Practice. Tobias Höllerer, Dieter Schmalstieg. Handbook of Augmented Reality. Furht, B.         

I felt a great responsibility because my experience was unique! Besides successfully finishing the project, there was another task. This key challenge was to share our experience and knowledge with colleagues who were bound to face similar tasks in the future. It would make it easier for them if I shared more valuable and detailed information. We conducted tech talks at which the department’s employees talked about their work or the particular technology. 

I used my experience with Augmented Reality when I began to work with Mixed Reality. I started the new stage with the confidence that I had already been prepared for anything, so it must be easy. 

You can’t be 100% sure you know everything

That is the second rule I am following now. The development team and I, as the QA engineer, plunged into the magic world using the HoloLens helmet. That world was full of new challenges. 

In that time, besides placing virtual objects in the real world, we tracked the sound source and broadcasted it correctly in the helmet. It allowed the user to hear how the engine, which he placed on the right side behind his back, worked. The sound was heard only in the helmet, so it didn’t block the real world’s sounds and didn’t disturb others.     

Another challenge was to get used to the helmet because you could see everything that was going on, but the active zone for managing, installing, and moving objects was limited. It means you could manage your hands and gestures inside that active zone. How often do you manage objects using gestures? It was the first time for me. 

It’s an invaluable experience that you can’t get just by watching some videos or reading articles. You have to go through it and realise it. 

If I weren’t in Tech, I wouldn’t have the possibility to be involved in such advanced technologies.         

Info  

Elena Suvorova, QA Engineer’s Team Leader

I can safely say that I have entered IT accidentally. At the same time, I am not the typical switcher because of the college and the line ”software engineer” in the diploma. 

My primary higher education is Economics Cybernetics. While visiting profile subjects, we were taught to describe economic models and report them to Excel. Also, we created websites on Joomla and WordPress. I knew nothing about testing at that moment. Saying “nothing”, I mean totally nothing. All around me said that it was a great time to learn Java. I did so without much success.    

Everything changed when my colleague from the private joint-stock company where I worked noticed my approach to handling daily tasks while sorting and organising сontracts.    

He looked at me and said, “Lena, you can be quite a good QA.” After that, a little project allowed me to find out – what kind of “beast” Quality Assurance is. It was the same beginning. Then I finished courses and worked on projects in different companies. Nowadays, QA has been a part of my life for six years. When I say, “part of my life”, I am not exaggerating for a second. 

My perfectionism has found its way into a non-destructive path assiduously studied English, diplomacy skills, and time management came in handy. The only thing missing was the hand that encouraged the action. And such a hand appeared in my company. I was taught, supported when I felt any difficulties, and allowed to make my own mistakes. These mistakes helped me to learn new lessons. And I appreciated the possibility to grow up in the direction I liked.

Nowadays, I’m the QA Engineer’s Team Leader. My team consists of wonderful specialists who make me happy with their everyday successes and achievements. My relatives are satisfied with my achievements even though 80% of what I do here they don’t understand, but they know it’s certainly important and useful for developing a new product. But it took a while.

The company where I worked before wasn’t interested in anything besides performing current tasks. The workload was high, so I rarely could improve myself as a professional. QA was treated almost like a transmission link, not a stand-alone unit on the project. I didn’t feel that somebody put a spoke in the wheels, but, at the same time, there was no support, and any comments on the process caused a harsh reaction. Once, I realised that I stopped at self-development, and I decided to move further, looking for a new company. I do not regret it for a second, as now I have something to compare it with, and it is priceless.

One of my main tasks as a Team Leader is to light up new stars in QA and support the already formed specialists. I enjoy seeing burning applicant’s eyes during a job interview, as well as the promising first steps that force me to believe in the correctness of what was done.      

In society, many underestimate the role of the QA engineer. In general, this is considered the easiest way to enter IT, because people think they can do it themselves. But this is not true. Quality Assurance is the permanent process of developing and improving your own techniques, your own approach to work, and searching for unique, new scenarios and tools, thinking about the relationships in products and variations of usage. Sharp eyes and creative thinking are mandatory. This is the constant search for new, untested paths and scenarios. QA engineer’s work can be compared with the glue that connects the team because of the intensive communication with everybody. As usual, QA engineers are the primary carriers of knowledge about the system. After all, who else but them, right?

Projects are always different, with their highlights. They vary from trade platforms to crypto-projects and CRM systems. Each project is a challenge for skills that are tested and improved. Being in different roles – from an average QA engineer to Tech Lead, from mentor to Team Lead – I can confidently say that each position gives a new view on the project and processes. Therefore, when I change positions, I can offer something new and something better. Of course, it couldn’t be accepted each time. There is a strong possibility that I will be contested, postponed, or ignored, but it cannot be a reason to give up. I just think of it as +1 in a jar of knowledge and experience.               

The monotony of the project and the lack of interest in improvements or in something new among the team, related to the difficulties of implementation or banal fear, can easily become an obstacle to development. This is neither bad nor good. We are all different. The main thing to remember is not to give up. 

IT differs from other spheres in which standard enterprises in our country work. There is no strict division between superior and subordinate, but still, there is respect and subordination. There is no work under a strict scheme and inability to step aside, but there are processes and best practices that can and should be modified for yourself and your project. There is no atmosphere of work from 9 am till 6 pm, with a lunch break. Due to the absence of most of the restrictions and limitations, you can show yourself off. After all, the main things are learning and self-development, regardless of gender. All efforts will be noticed and appreciated.

Previous advice for women in IT not to listen to fables that women are not respected in IT and not to underestimate their knowledge isn’t enough. All that is needed is learning ability, a good mentor, and a desire to achieve something, and then the rest will follow.

As we can see, the glass ceiling concept is applicable to women in tech. In the IT area, the person moves forward through knowledge, skills, and experience. Professional prosperity here is based on these three pillars. That’s more than fair, isn’t it? 


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About the Author

Mykhailo

My name is Mykhailo Shveika. I am a technological analyst in MobiDev. I'm interested in new technologies related to AI and deep learning. Also, I cooperate with our QA specialists who have a rich experience in this area. Therefore, I keep my ear to the ground trying to overview relationship between QA and AI products.
Find out more about @mykhailoshveika

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