The tech industry has long been perceived as a male-dominated industry. This perception, at the same time, frequently overlooks the significant contribution of many women in shaping the IT world. Contrary to popular belief, women were at the forefront of the early days of programming. Fortunately, Bulgaria is among the EU leaders in terms of gender diversity in the IT sector. That's why today we're excited to talk to Elena Alexandrova, Senior Full-Stack Developer in the News UK team at Questers.
Read what she shared with us about her career path, challenges and excitements at the workplace.
1. Hello Elena! You are currently a Senior Full-Stack Developer at News UK team at Questers. Tell us how did you get here?
I started as a Full-Stack Developer with emphasis on React Native. Every task I took on became a learning opportunity, so I was expanding my skills with each one. Our team handles a variety of projects and that diverse collective experience helped me learn a lot. Gradually, I found myself comfortable with our whole tech stack and kept pushing to improve my skills even more.
2. What was your previous educational and professional experience?
I discovered my passion for coding back in the 9th grade, mostly after diving into programming competitions. The process of crafting algorithmic solutions to complex problems became a beautiful and creative endeavour that I fell in love with. I firmly believe that programming, when approached with the right mindset, can be considered a form of art. I knew early on that programming was my thing, so I enrolled in Computer Systems and Technologies at the Technical University of Varna. During my first year, I started working as a graphic designer, leveraging skills I'd picked up over the years. Then, I moved into landing page development, a role that bridged design and programming. From there, I shifted to Angular JS briefly before settling into React. Now, I'm a Full-Stack Developer handling primarily React Native, NodeJS, Java, AWS, and Terraform. It's a dynamic role that keeps me on my toes and constantly learning in the ever-evolving tech world.
3. Can you share a little bit about your responsibilities? What does a regular work day for you look like?
I spend a lot of time helping my colleagues and working together. I really enjoy the friendly atmosphere, and my typical day is all about teamwork and supporting each other.
4. What do you like about working at News UK team’s team at Questers?
The team is fantastic. I cannot stress this enough. My colleagues feel more like friends and even though we mostly work from home, we gather at the office almost every week, sometimes even twice.
Another great aspect is the Questers team. They make our workspace stand out by focusing on making everyone working here happy, and they're really good at it.
5. What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I'd say the main challenge revolves around dependencies on other teams. Since each team has its own sprint goals and quarterly challenges, relying on someone with different priorities can be quite challenging. Luckily, this doesn't happen often, as we generally have minimal dependencies on other teams.
6. Who is your role model in the world of software engineering?
My role model in the world of software engineering is constantly changing based on what I observe. Since no one is perfect in every situation, my choice of a role model depends on the specific context. In general, I look up to people who consistently pursue excellence, using their advantage of tech knowledge to create a better future for themselves and others. I typically avoid using labels, but if I had to, I'd describe them as entrepreneurs.
7. How do you think more women could be attracted to the tech sector?
I believe fostering a more inclusive environment in the tech sector should happen organically, rather than solely focusing on a narrow sense of diversity. When companies prioritise creating a diverse workplace, that creates the problem of labelling individuals, which can unintentionally lead to division among team members. Instead, the emphasis should be on cultivating a culture that welcomes and values the unique contributions of individuals from all backgrounds, allowing diversity to naturally thrive.
8. Do you think there’s an improvement in terms of diversity and inclusion in tech over the past few years?
My perspective is based on Bulgaria and I've observed a positive shift toward more diversity in the tech sector in recent years. However, I attribute this change not to companies artificially creating diversity, but to the increasing popularity of the developer profession in Bulgaria. It used to be that people entered the tech field based on pre-existing interest, naturally resulting in a higher representation of men. Now, with the growing popularity of tech as a career choice, even individuals without prior tech-related interests or backgrounds are considering it. This not only brings more people into the field but also naturally boosts the number of women in tech, as a more diverse range of individuals are exposed to the opportunities within the industry.
9. What advice can you give to women considering a career in IT? What do you wish you had known?
Get ready for a journey of constant learning in the dynamic field of IT. It could be challenging, but it's pretty fun!
And here's something I wish I knew earlier: don't let impostor syndrome bother you. It's okay not to know everything in the vast world of programming. The more you learn, the more you might feel like there's always more to learn. Just remember what Socrates said: "I know that I know nothing." When impostor syndrome kicks in, tell yourself that and keep on learning.