Women in Tech: Featuring Irina Iskrenova

International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women in Technology.

 

We are delighted to stand behind International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022, and its mission to “celebrate digital advancement and champion the women forging innovation through technology”.

Following on from yesterday’s blog post, this second instalment comes from a collection of stories that highlight the varied pathways our wonderful team members have followed to forge a career in technology. We hope that these stories can and will inspire other women to follow suit.

Let’s get straight to it and introduce Irina, who is our Tech Team Lead (we are so proud that you are a part the IntelliSense.io team Irina!).

 

Irina Iskrenova - Tech Team Lead at IntelliSense.io

 

Tell us a little bit about your educational & career background so far

Since high school I was sure I want to study Psychology, as I was convinced is both quite an interesting subject and also very necessary as a profession. After all, wherever you have humans you would need applied psychology, too! I had to re-confirm this choice a couple of times, while I was moving abroad for my studies, first in Athens, Greece and then in Barcelona, Spain.

It was only after finishing a Master’s degree in Barcelona, that it become painfully clear that in order to work the profession I loved, I would need to invest even more effort and years of studying and preparation. It’s still disappointing to me to see how this field doesn’t get the funds it needs in a systemically problematic and underdeveloped public health service. I faced a really difficult choice at that point. Being exhausted and frustrated I decided to take time off until I figured out what my next steps could be.

It didn’t take long until I started learning something new and refreshing, i.e. web development with javascript. At first, I just wanted to give it a try and have it as a side occupation. I started realising that maybe I can have a career with coding after my partner offered me to help him with some of the front-end related tasks in one of his projects. He also supported me by suggesting learning resources and providing help, when I was not able to solve an issue.

I kept learning and trying to move forward as a freelancer until I joined a local working group. The people there were very supportive as well, many of them being at a different stage of the exact same career transition path as myself. It was very inspiring to meet and work with other women and folks with different backgrounds that are part of the tech industry. I met there one of the organisers and she shared that a position for a junior front-end engineer has opened in her company. She pushed me to apply, telling me that even if I didn’t feel ready, I probably was. I went through the interview process and was offered an initial internship, which later become my first job as a software engineer at IntelliSense.io.

 

What barriers (if any) did you need to overcome on your career journey?

My team, my friends and my family were always absolutely supportive. That’s why I think I had to deal with mostly my own internalised and incorrect beliefs that were blocking me. Not all companies appreciate the diversity of thought and skill set that people with different backgrounds can bring and this makes even applying and going through the hiring process quite stressful, as you need to detach and hide parts of yourself and try to overcompensate for what seems to be more valued.

People also come as a whole to their work, no matter the role. And having a diverse skill set is especially important when your actual job is to solve problems, not to simply copy and paste code.

 

Is there anything you would go back and do differently or change?

One thing I often regret is that I didn’t enjoy the learning process and the challenges as much as I should have. I learnt to do so eventually but at first, the stakes felt very high, I needed a job and I was extremely stressed by that need.

 

What does the future hold for you?

Sustainable and meaningful achievements that are done while part of a great team. More focus on the human side of work and how we balance our personal with our professional life. I would like to make sure we don’t sacrifice our mental health while pursuing our business goals.

 

What is your role at IntelliSense.io?

Currently, I’m acting as Tech Team Lead in one of our Product Groups. I’m a front-end engineer, responsible for work related to data visualisation and data administration, i.e. all our screens and dashboards that our “brains.app” platform provides.

As a team lead, most of the work falls in the intersection between Product, QA, UI/UX and Backend, where I help everyone to be on the same page and contribute as smoothly as possible their piece to the whole picture.

As we’re growing, I do a lot of interviewing of potential candidates, a really interesting aspect of my work.

 

Why did you choose IntelliSense.io?

It was recommended by a friend that used to work here and she motivated me to apply even if I was feeling insecure that I’m not good enough. As someone who didn’t study Computer Science or any other Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) discipline, I’m constantly trying to overcome a self-perceived gap in my knowledge.

Building my confidence comes hand in hand with building my skill set and I suspect it’s a process that will never finish. I started working in IntelliSense.io and I was extremely grateful for the chance the team gave me, it has proved to be a great learning hub.

I continue working here because I learned to appreciate the challenges and most of all I appreciate the great people I work with.

Another important point for me is the business we do. IntelliSense.io’s mission is becoming painfully relevant, as we need to find solutions for sustainability that scale on a corporate global level. The traditional mining industry and resource extraction processes were something that I was intrigued and curious about at first, it wasn’t a trivial sector to be part of. Now it is more than curiosity that drives me, as I believe adding to the efforts for more environmentally respectful processes in this industry and at such scale is an important cause to contribute to.

 

What do you love (and loathe!) about your job?

I love being challenged and working with super-smart yet kind and supportive people. I loathe the feeling I get sometimes that things are moving too slowly, while we still have so much to do. I also seem to fight the idea that hard work means stressful and long working hours. Hard work means being fully dedicated and being professional, that’s it. There’s nothing that can be solved with endless hours of work if we don’t reorganise how we do stuff. We strive for resources and process optimization both for our clients and for us as a company.

 

What advice would you give others thinking of following your path?

One of the crucial comments I got that kept me moving forward was: ‘It’s easier than you think and you’re more prepared than you think’. Most important is to surround yourself with people who care and are supportive, find your community or your team. They will provide all kinds of priceless advice, information and help and will be a source of external push when you need it.

Lastly, find ways to give back.

 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/irina-iskrenova-a9b3ab1b3/

#BreakTheBias #IWD2022