How did you become a woman in tech – what is your background?
Emese: I am originally from Romania and 7 years ago I moved to Germany. I am currently working as a network engineer for an IT service provider company. My inspiration was someone I’ve met more than 10 years ago and in the meantime we became good friends. She was one of the few people who encouraged me to pursue this path.
I have a bachelor degree in economics and a diverse background. I’ve had administrative jobs, I worked as a bank teller and my first job in Germany was at McDonalds. The seed of me pursuing a career in IT was planted by a friend. She suggested that I should consider this option, check out an entry-level certification and see if I like it. I already knew English; I had a flexible schedule at McDonalds so it made sense! I ordered the official guide and my analytical mind mesmerized with the information.
The transition to the IT industry occurred 4.5 years ago, when I was accepted for a 3 month Trainee program by my current employer.
What obstacles and fears did you have to face on your way of becoming who you are today?
Emese: My obstacles were my fears. A big one was the fear of failure; I had to push through it. But it was worth it. I thought that my experience will bring me no use anymore. My organizing and communication skills turned out to be a great asset. In my former project, facing a challenging time, I agreed to be the acting team lead for a period a time. My performance brought me an internal company award.
Do you see differences between your home country and your current location regarding gender equality?
Emese: Gender inequality is a reality that women have to face in their everyday life and Romanian society makes no exception in this situation either. But I have to say that in the tech sector things are different. Eastern European countries are more inclusive when it comes to women in tech. In a study from 2018, Romania ranked 2nd place with almost 30% of the workforce being females. The first 4 places were occupied by Eastern European countries (1st place being Bulgaria).
What was the reaction of your personal environment?
Emese: A career change in my 30s, in a foreign country and working at McDonalds at that time was regarded with skepticism by many. A quote that helped me was: ”When you think of quitting, take one more step”.
What would you do differently the next time (on this path)?
Emese: The one thing that I’d do differently would be to start sooner to work with a coach or a mentor. At the moment I have some extraordinary human beings by my side and I see the difference. The decision to learn and take the exam for the certification on my own was good. I still remember as my interviewer said that this shows him ambition and discipline and although I have no background in IT he is sure that I will pass all the required exams to finish the program.
Do you have any recommendations for young women who are interested in a career in tech?
Emese: I learned that great people are always willing to encourage you and share their knowledge and experience. They don’t care about my age, my gender or why I changed careers in my 30s. The only things important for them were my commitment and my willingness to learn.
I would recommend seeking out a coach or a mentor (or both). I cannot recommend it enough. You can get where you want by yourself but it will take longer. It’s important to make yourself visible. Don’t put your head down, get the job done and hope that someone will notice. Hard work alone is not enough. Start to ask questions and to speak up in meetings.
If anyone is interested in a career in tech, I would strongly encourage pursuing it. What matters is your curiosity and perseverance, not other people’s opinion.