Women in IT: Breaking gender stereotypes in the tech industry
Despite the great progress that has been made by women in their involvement in the workforce over the past decades, there is still a huge gap between women and men in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and maths).
There are several reasons for this trend – a large proportion of women find these subjects uninteresting, unappealing, and simply harder than humanities and similar subjects. Though the interest of women in the STEM subjects increases, the pace of this shift is very gradual and slow.
The situation at Photoneo is more positive in this respect. We are very lucky to have a number of female colleagues that are an important part of our IT team and who were willing to share with you what it is like to work in the IT sector. We introduce to you Hana Vrbovska, Linda Sabatovicova, Maria Solarova, and Zuzana Chovanova.
Working at Photoneo
The range of positions our female colleagues hold at Photoneo is truly colorful. Hana, who received a university degree in biomedical physics, is a product specialist at the department of 3D sensing. She is responsible for technical documentation and helps the support team solve issues related to Photoneo’s 3D scanners and 3D cameras, communicating difficulties reported by customers to Photoneo’s developers. She also helps with testing SW products and sometimes with conducting feasibility studies.
Maria is a software developer in the Robot Applications team working on Photoneo’s robotic intelligence system Bin Picking Studio. She studied computer science at the Comenius University in Bratislava, with a specialization in data structures and algorithms. Now she helps develop an application that enables robots process and “understand” what they “see” thanks to the 3D vision they are equipped with and subsequently pick the objects from a bin. Maria programs a web interface for the configuration of bin picking, including the design of new functionalities, implementation, testing, and other tasks.
Linda is also a software developer, working in the Vision team. Linda and her colleagues develop software to enable robots recognize objects that are captured by Photoneo 3D vision systems. They develop the part of robot “brain” that is responsible for object recognition. Linda studied mathematics, computer graphics, and geometry at the Comenius University. At Photoneo she helps improve software by detecting and fixing code bugs. Linda works on specific customer projects, either remotely or going to the customer sites personally.
Zuzana is a 3D vision specialist in the team of Robot Vision Operations. She provides technical support for Photoneo’s 3D vision systems and the Bin Picking Studio and offers feasibility consultations to existing as well as potential customers. She evaluates customer projects and together with her colleagues strives to find the most effective solutions according to customer needs and requirements. Zuzana also prepares trainings for Photoneo’s customers to offer them the best tips and trick for using Photoneo solutions. Zuzana studied physics at the Comenius University, and later received a PhD degree in seismology from the Slovak Academy of Sciences.
Now take a peek with them at what it is like to work in the IT sector and why you should definitely give it a try if you are considering to study a STEM field but are discouraged by doubts and fear of stereotypes.
What made you decide to study a STEM field?
Hana: “I’ve always been attracted to medicine but also to technology. When I realized there was a discipline that combined both these fields, it was a clear choice for me.”
Maria: “I liked maths already at the primary school. I took part in various competitions and correspondence seminars. I was lucky enough to attend programming classes from the very 1st grade and at high school my classmates persuaded me to attend an informatics seminar. This was a breakthrough moment for me that set the direction for my future studies.”
Linda: “I’ve always loved maths. I’ve never had a good memory so I struggled with humanities but maths was a different case – I did not need to memorize anything as it was based on logic. In my leisure time I participated in math competitions and seminars, which helped me develop further. Studying my field was therefore a natural choice for me.”
Zuzana: “I decided to study physics as I’ve been captivated by natural phenomena and disasters from my early childhood. I wanted to know more about the processes that cause them, the immense power they have, and the impact they have on the environment. I found seismology most fascinating and interesting so it was an easy decision for me.
What do you find most attractive about STEM and what makes your job so exciting as to recommend working in the sector to other women?
Hana: “The most exciting part of my job is that every day brings new challenges. I can only recommend working in the IT sector and I would never change my decision to study a STEM field. The only thing I would maybe do differently would be to focus more on IT during my studies. IT is not only about programming – it’s much more, merging with other fields and providing countless opportunities to learn new things. And one extra point for the IT – developers are the best colleagues.”
Maria: “IT is exciting in that it allows you to dive into diverse areas and learn a lot about these other fields. In order to develop high-quality software, it is important to understand the domain for which it is aimed. For instance, if you develop roentgen SW, you’ll learn about medicine much more than you’d expect. For me, this new field is robotics as Photoneo develops “vision” and “intelligence” for robots. Another great advantage of working in the IT field is the flexibility it offers you. Currently I’m on maternity leave, taking care of my 1,5-year-old son but working a few hours a day for Photoneo, which is possible thanks to the nature of my work.
Usually people are astonished when you tell them you work in the IT sphere – many of them think that IT is just all about maths and programming. That is not true. IT offers you an immense amount of possibilities and career opportunities, so also the required level of math and coding knowledge varies a lot. There is nothing to be afraid of.
The more women there are in IT, the more new ones will get attracted to the field as they will realize that this is a completely “normal” career path for them. If we take an example from the past, it’s quite common today to meet a female doctor or lawyer but this has not always been the case. We live a modern age and should do our best to accelerate this trend so that it takes less than a number of centuries to get more women into tech. My advice to all women who are thinking about entering the IT sphere – do not think but act. There’s no harm in having proportionally more male than female colleagues at the university. That does not dictate your future success.”
Linda: “Working in the IT sphere is anything but boring. It’s very creative, making you to look for solutions to an unlimited variety of problems – and when you manage to improve something, that’s an amazing feeling that cannot be described in words. I definitely recommend to try the IT sphere to all women who are thinking about it – I would do so again and again. There are many stereotypes related to IT but they are absolutely inaccurate. The field offers a rich palette of opportunities that require different skills – from good communication skills in IT support jobs to aesthetic skills for web design, to name just a few. The field comprises a huge variety of skills and art, and this variety is very beneficial for every team. IT is the future, penetrating all aspects of life. Do not get discouraged by prejudices of others – your future does not deserve it.”
Zuzana: “The IT field offers creative opportunities where you can immediately see the results of your work. You need to use your brain to crack puzzles you come across every day and to solve problems by finding the best solutions possible. I definitely encourage all women to enter the IT sphere – it’s an amazing job that proves that women can contribute to the developments in technology and science and add the same value quality as men. I will never regret my decision to work in the IT sphere and I would never change it. IT is not restricted to “nerds” or “boring people”, as many would think. It is a creative field that offers a huge space for making a positive impact and changing things for the better. The most important thing is – everyone who really wants to achieve something can do so. Try it – it’s really worth it.”