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My Experience As a Woman Working in Tech

It’s hard to be a woman in tech and this obviously applies to data science. However, I see myself as quite lucky. I get to work in a fair and supportive environment within a company whose values overlap with mine. And I said this even though I’m the only female data scientist now at Appsilon. Although I am not the only woman in the firm. Appsilon is lucky as well to have me on board.

As a company, we struggle with hiring females for tech roles. I’m hoping that by sharing this story I encourage at least some of you to consider working at Appsilon, because I find it a great place to work.

My Data Scientist career at Appsilon

Let’s begin! I’m a senior data scientist which means that besides programming, doing analysis or building models I’m also a tech lead. Part of my responsibilities is managing ongoing projects for external clients. I have quite a few things on my plate, but I’m able to keep a very healthy work-life balance. I don’t work longer than 8 hours per day, don’t answer e-mails or calls outside my working hours and I don’t work during the weekends. I make a full use of my 26 days holidays, plus going on at least 2-3 weeks uninterrupted holiday every year. You might think that’s nothing extraordinary as that’s basically what employers are obliged to provide under the Polish law. It’s totally true and this should be a standard in every company, but it’s not always the case.

Appsilon has changed significantly since the moment I joined in 2016, but I always felt that my voice is heard and appreciated. Some of my ideas and flags are addressed during company monthly retros. This includes improvements like trash segregation in our offices or suggestions that triggered changes in how we plan resources for projects. Company retro is a meeting of all employees where we discuss tadas ?, ideas ? and flags ? we gathered during the past month. I also make sure that I state my opinion when it’s important – I speak a lot ;). Well, you might think it’s easy for me, because of my personality or current role. That’s partly true, but it’s because of the culture of openness, trust and respect we have at Appsilon. I know my colleagues value my opinions.

Personal Growth

Next thing I want to mention is that I don’t have a software engineering degree. I studied at a Business School during my Bachelors and did Econometrics for my Master’s at Economics School. I consider myself an advanced R programmer although I’m self-taught. I still grow my technical and programming skills at Appsilon within the open tech environment we have here. Before joining Appsilon I hadn’t heard about Docker, I got to know it since we containerize the analysis to ensure reproducibility for R projects. Then, a few months ago, I was building a simulation tool that our client wanted to use via API. I delivered a plumber API hosted in Docker with the custom image. This was a completely new skill I learned, I asked and received helped when being blocked, but at the end, I did it and was very proud of myself. In our daily work, there is always a space for learning new things and asking for help.

The company has supported my ambitions to excel in public speaking. Conferences are an important channel for both business development and employee growth. Employees who want to attend tech events are encouraged to submit a talk. I spoke at the largest R conferences in Europe (useR! and eRum), at this has been an amazing experience for me. The R community has done an amazing job in making these events very inclusive. However, many tech events suffer from a lack of diversity. We pay attention to what events we support as speakers and share with organizers that we care about building a welcoming community for underrepresented groups.

Olga Mierzwa Sulima

Women in a male-dominated tech world

I have worked in consulting for over 6 years now and I got to work with various teams and various clients. I observed toxic environments where more senior people treated juniors with a total lack of respect or swearing was an acceptable part of daily team communication. Male-dominated teams have a higher risk for such ill-behavior to occur. At Appsilon there is no place for such behavior and we pay close attention to any early symptoms that could spoil the company culture.

In the last bit, I want to cover the relationship with my manager. Marek is very conscious about problems that woman face in tech. I attribute this part to the fact that his wife Dominika is working in tech as well :). We have spoken multiple times about how I feel working in a male-dominated environment. Marek asked me whether there is anything that bothers me or company should change. We hold regular 1-on-1 meetings where we discuss things related to my growth within the company, pressing issues and feedback. Other team members have similar relationships with their managers.

Wrap up

My goal wasn’t to praise the company for actually the stuff that should be standard probably everywhere, but to show how it feels for me to work here. I hope you enjoyed this piece.

At Appsilon we are committed to hiring more women, we try to make our job offers more inclusive, we are working on our Code of Conduct and thinking about other ways that could make our team more diverse. If you want to chat drop me an email or tweet me. I’m happy to help.