A positive environment is crucial for growth – that’s the case for all living organisms, but especially for us humans. But a positive environment is, sadly, not a given for everyone.

Many years ago, I dabbled in the STEM field and studied IT before I’d chosen my current career path.  And let me say, it was quite a tough time for women who wanted to make it and be successful. Obviously, I could acknowledge how far we’ve come regarding the IT space being welcoming to women, but it seemed like the road ahead was three times as long.

Now, when I work for GetResponse, an IT-based company surrounded by many women who are valued and fulfilled IT experts, I can see that a lot has changed. And we might be further down the road than I’d realized.

The challenges are still here, but many more companies now strive to be the perfect workplace for women in IT.

Many challenges are still here

Some of the challenges are a tale as old as time and (hopefully) on their way out. But some of them are recent – for example, the remote work model the industry took upon two years ago is said to have worsened the work/life balance of women in tech. And researchers are saying that it made them consider quitting the workforce altogether.

Here are just some of the areas that need to change:

Discouragement and lack of representation

Women still face discouragement and are still being bullied away from STEM programs and pursuing IT-related jobs. Some of it concerns the “brogrammer” culture that can push away any feminine qualities. As Girls Who Code pointed out, “about 74% of young girls express interest in STEM fields and computer science”. And only 18% of undergraduate computer science degrees and 26% of computing jobs are held by women. Worse, women hold only 5% of leadership roles in tech companies.

Gender inequalities and biases

Men are assumed to be more capable. They rate themselves better when asked about skills and are more confident than women in the IT industry because of the status quo. Old and tired stereotypes are still prevalent in IT culture. Plus, the gaps reported in the US do nothing to boost confidence in women – there’s still a pay gap, an employment gap, a leadership gap, a culture gap, a degree gap, and so on…

A Pew Research center poll says that 50% of women experienced gender discrimination at work, while, in contrast, 19% of men reported unfair treatment.

Also in contrast to 54% of men, only 25% of women report any likelihood of being promoted to a senior leadership position. The pandemic has left women with more burnout than their male teammates. 44% of women reported taking on extra responsibilities at work and home (like childcare), making them struggle with work-life balance. Women were also twice as likely to lose their job when the pandemic struck and less likely to ask for a raise, promotion, or more flexibility around work location, schedule, or hours.

The pitfalls of non-inclusive language

Language can marginalize groups, and so can it gatekeep careers. In the tech world, people often use outdated stereotypes and overuse jargon to keep women out of the loop. Then there are also the small, seemingly insignificant jabs. For example, using the not gender-neutral “guys” when talking to teammates assumes the default human is male. Or using “he” and “man” when describing a neutral person (e.g., “when the customer opens the app, he wants to see the menu”). Men calling female teammates “girls,” no matter their age and expertise, is a way to infantilize women in tech.

It’s important to be careful with the language you use. It affects others negatively in many unspoken ways, and being a decent human should be the norm! Learn more here.

We can change the landscape, one successful woman at a time

Here at GetResponse, we are dedicated to creating a more inclusive tech culture. The fact that our employees and colleagues reflect on their workplace in an overwhelmingly positive way is a point of pride for us. We interviewed six women holding various positions in our IT teams, and, in a minute, you’ll have a chance to hear their stories. But we need more role models. That’s why we want you to consider following in these women’s footsteps and join us on the journey to break the glass ceiling once and for all.

So, let’s see what paths they’ve taken, what roles they hold, how they feel about working here, and amplify their voices even louder.

1. Sandra Ambroziak, Machine Learning Specialist

Besides being interested in AI and IT, Sandra is a huge language nerd. She says, “I’m especially interested in Eastern Slavic languages, the culture, and the history of the region. This year, I deeply dived into Old Church Slavonic, and in my free time, I analyze the development of Slavic languages.” (Some of her other passions are making candles, traveling, and painting Warhammer 40k and Lord of the Rings miniatures.)

These interests played a massive part in Sandra’s choice of career path.

When I was a teenager, I thought about two career paths. The first was becoming an artist because I loved to paint, and the second was IT. I chose IT because this job was better for me, and it’s easier to start in this field. While studying, I wanted to become a graphic designer – something in the middle between an artist and the average IT, but later I discovered AI and its’ branch – natural language processing. And that’s how my career started.

Q: What knowledge, education, and skills are needed to perform your job?

Well, I finished computer studies with an engineering degree, but to be honest, most of my skills I developed during professional work, attending conferences, or through online courses. The most important thing is to be curious and interested in the topic. When it comes to AI, it’s nice to think wider and develop multidisciplinary skills because AI is not only about the programming.

Q: What obstacles did you have to overcome when pursuing this career, and how did you do it?

To be honest, I didn’t have any big obstacles on my career path. Maybe, during my whole career, I’ve had a few slightly heated discussions on code review with my coworkers, but it wasn’t a huge drama or something like that. I think there’s always a place for constructive discussion and feedback, which is valuable for developing skills.

Q: What do you do daily? And how do you organize your daily/weekly tasks?

I always do thousands of notes, which are my to-do lists, to split a bigger task into subtasks. It helps me organize and prioritize things that have to be done. Also, in my team, we have sprints which are really helpful in defining weekly goals.

Q: What do you like the most about what you do? What does cooperation with other people and teams look like?

I like that my work isn’t only 8 hours of programming. Machine learning is now one of the fastest-developing fields in IT, and there’s always a place to learn something new. There’s no place for boredom. I can also work with more experienced people than me, and their feedback and way of solving tasks allow me to be a better programmer. In our daily work, we discuss and consult our solutions to find the best one. To be honest, I like to work in a small team where everyone is good in their field.

Q: What is your dream (career-wise), and how does working in GetResponse help you make it real?

I think GetResposne is a great place for someone who likes to work in a nice atmosphere with very experienced people. I like experimenting with some brand-new machine learning approaches, and GetResponse is a good company to do it in. That is turning my dream of becoming an AI Master into reality.

2. Marta Reszka, Front End Developer

Marta got fascinated with computers in elementary school. She started learning HTML and creating websites, and her passion turned into a full-blown career.

When asked about her next dream (career-wise), she says:

“For now, my career-wise goal is to raise my skills in React so I can be fluent in it.”

Q: What do you like the most about what you do? What does cooperation with other people/teams look like?

Right now, it’s the flexibility of remote work. We have excellent relations inside our team.

This flexibility also means more opportunities to follow other passions, of which Marta has plenty.

In my free time, I ride a gravel bike, run 10k distances, do freediving with friends, and travel whenever possible.

3. Danuta Gola, Junior App Tester

Danuta, as she says, “picks holes in our app” daily. She’s responsible for ensuring the quality of the software by catching any errors.

Q: What made you choose this career path?

I decided to become a tester because I wanted to:

– be able to use the skills that I acquired while working, among others, as an auditor,

– work in a place that gives me more flexibility in terms of hours and place of work, which makes it much easier for me to achieve work-life balance,

– develop and learn new things – the IT industry offers endless possibilities in this respect.

Q: What knowledge/education/skills are required to perform your job?

When it comes to technical skills, I believe that you can learn everything during work or by participating in various types of IT training, of which there’s currently a vast selection on the market. However, when it comes to soft skills:

– ease of learning,

– resilience in achieving goals and solving problems,

– a “can-do attitude”,

– logical thinking,

– ability to work in a group.

These skills are beneficial and sometimes harder to acquire.

Regarding education, I observed a huge variety in the IT industry, in terms of completed levels of education and courses of study.

Q: What obstacles did you have to overcome when pursuing a career in your field, and how did you overcome them?

I have been working in IT for a short time, so it’s hard for me to write about major problems I encountered in my current job. Undoubtedly, one of the most difficult things was the decision to change the industry itself. I researched, took part in technical courses, read a few books, and consulted people in the industry. It helped me ensure that I was going in the right direction. The courses I took and recommend are: [Testelka.pl][Udemy]

Q: What do you like the most about what you do? What does cooperation with other people/teams look like?

I am most pleased with the fact that I am constantly developing. I can use my natural predispositions at work. I work in a place where people are open and positive. And, together with the team, we see tangible results of our work, which gives us a kick for further action. We work remotely, so we contact each other mainly online using Slack or Teams. Contrary to my original fears, it turned out that communication in this form is not restrictive. We have daily meetings where we discuss the progress of our work and look for solutions to problems we have encountered.

Q: What is your dream (career-wise), and how does working in GR help you make it real?

My main goal is to develop constantly, to be better at what I do. Daily work at GetResponse allows me to gain competencies and knowledge to achieve this. My goal is the growth itself, not a specific, set point in the future.

Besides being a person focused on growth and development in the tech field, Danuta loves creating art – her passions are handicraft in different techniques, photography (especially children’s portraits), and interior design. She’s an app tester, a mother, an esthete, a plant lover, and surrounds herself with colors.

4. Agnieszka Gutowska, Application Tester

Agnieszka started as a math teacher before realizing the IT world was drawing her in. Her path began with a Test Coordinator + Manual Tester role, and Automation was the natural progression.

Q: What knowledge/education/ skills are required to perform your job?

The key is attention to detail so that we can find problems with applications we test.

Q: What obstacles did you have to overcome when pursuing a career in your field, and how did you overcome them?

Initially, as a Manual Tester, I did not have much experience with test automation. I decided to start weekend Java courses that took more than half a year to improve my skills.

Q: Tell us what you do daily. How do you organize your daily/ weekly tasks?

Together with my team, we test our application so it won’t have defects on Production. We also write automated scripts, so the manual activities do not have to be repeated. Scrum activities dictate the pace of work and help us organize the tasks.

Q: What do you like the most about what you do? What does cooperation with other people/teams look like?

Being an Automated Tester allows me to break stuff and be creative simultaneously. We have frequent meetings and chat channels and talk to each other about work topics. Sometimes we have integration events after work 🙂

When asked what Agnieszka’s career dream is, she says, “I am happy with my current role as I continue getting valuable experience in test automation areas.”

Agnieszka enjoys not only picking apart the app to analyze it but also loves creating new things – crochet masterpieces, delicious meals, and new lasting memories from traveling. The only thing she doesn’t have is much free time, as, she says, “the kids dictate how she spends it.”

5. Hanna Andrzejewska, Product Manager

Hanna describes taking a role in an IT company as a “sheer coincidence” and that she owes it to her experience in writing and translating.

Quite quickly, I realized that this is an industry in which I feel comfortable yet challenged at the same time. I love the creative, innovative character of my workplace and company, and I love the fact that every day, I learn something new from inspiring people for whom nothing is impossible, and there are no unsolvable problems. After a couple of years in a marketing team leading position, I knew it was an industry that I wanted to belong to, yet I also learned that I feel better in an expert, not a leadership position. Product Manager’s role is a role that perfectly blends my previous experience in teamwork with the urge to develop and learn new things all the time.

She says that gaining knowledge and experience is inevitable when you submerge yourself in an IT and scientific environment.

Q: What knowledge/education/ skills are required to perform your job?

I’m a living proof that you don’t need IT the education to work in IT. However, it helps and lot, but also – you acquire it “from air” when you submerge in an IT and scientific environment. It’s inevitable. Skills you need the most in a product manager’s position are empathy and the ability to put yourself in a completely different pair of shoes – when trying to deliver both the best value to customers as well as business perspective and understanding of customer scenarios to development teams.

Q: What obstacles did you have to overcome when pursuing a career in your field, and how did you overcome them?

My biggest obstacle was my lack of IT education and expertise. I overcome it every day by actively listening, asking, and translating the language of code and science to a business perspective.

Q: Tell us what you do daily. How do you organize your daily/ weekly tasks?

Daily, I go down the user paths time and again, test, and test and test, compare, measure, and analyze the existing solutions and try to find long and short-term optimizations to make the experience the best and most valuable for our customers. On a strategic level, I plan out new features and improvements, which take a lot of talks, meetings, consultations, and research workshops.

I don’t have a routine that I strictly follow. My job is largely about meetings, so those are the fixed positions in my timetable that I organize my working day around. I try to make sure to have enough time during the day for deep work by blocking some slots in my calendar but I am also open to ad hoc changes of plans.

I prefer not to keep a strict routine; being spontaneous about my time organization is refreshing and keeps me creative. I like the flexibility of my agenda and embrace change easily.

Hanna says that learning new things and cooperating to resolve problems are the most exciting parts of her job.

I like how at the end of the day (at the end of every project), all pieces are finally in the right places, and everything starts to work. We have some, but not too many, internal organizational processes that make working in multiteam projects effective so that we don’t have to think what’s the right way to proceed on a daily basis. But what I like a lot is that all those rules are flexible, and cooperation and communication with other teams and team members are quite informal and spontaneous. I appreciate informal rules such as “no meetings Wednesdays” and how everybody respects it; I like that in the world of remote, we found a way for asynchronous communication to work.

We choose to believe that Hanna’s fondness for her job is not a “sheer coincidence” after all ;).

6. Zuzanna Badziąg, Application Tester

Surprisingly, Zuzanna also mentions starting out her career “by accident.”

When I was choosing my studies, I did not know what I would like to do in the future. I decided to do biomedical engineering, which combined many fields of science. After two years of studying, I had to choose a stream. I already knew what I was good at and picked IT. Initially, I thought about becoming a programmer. I did my first summer internship in this position as well. But a few months later, I got a call from a friend. His company was looking for an intern who could start asap and help with testing documentation. I sent my CV and sat at my desk a few days later. Finally, I worked there for several months and gained a lot of experience related to manual testing and the maintenance of automated tests. This job shows me that the IT world has much more to offer than just programming, and testing was something that really interested me.

Q: What knowledge/education/ skills are required to perform your job?

I would say, first, knowledge of technology and the ability to learn quickly. Technology is developing so fast that, to keep up with it, you need to be willing to learn and be flexible to adapt to the current market needs. Also, as we work in teams, communication skills are important.

Zuzanna says she can’t think of any obstacles she could have encountered on her journey.

But what does her daily work look like?

As a software tester, my main duty is to verify what has been created by developers. At first, I test it manually to check all scenarios and dependencies. If I find bugs, I send them back to developers and test the changes again after they fix them. At a later stage, these tests are automated to improve and speed up my work. Automated tests also let me check if the application is doing well. The first thing I do every day is a health check. If everything works perfectly, I grab one of the tasks waiting for tests.

Q: What do you like the most about what you do? What does cooperation with other people/teams look like?

I like that my job is various. In addition to manual and automatic tests, I participate in application development discussions, help solve customer problems and watch over the successful deployment process.

On a daily basis, I work closely with developers and product owners. Every morning we have daily updates to exchange the information and tasks statuses. Apart from the development team, I also cooperate with other testers. We exchange knowledge, support, and work together on improving QA processes.

It seems that Zuzanna’s dreams (both career-wise and “bucket-list-wise”) have come true while working at GetResponse. She says,

My dream was a remote work to be independent of the place I stay. In GetResponse, I had the opportunity to work two months from Spain, or a month in a camper van standing next to the beach.”

“I love spending time in nature – biking, trekking, or camping. But the thing that brings me the greatest joy and has always been in my life is traveling. Formerly crazier, hitchhiking, and budget-friendly, nowadays slower and with more awareness. Last year one of my biggest dreams came true – I bought a camper van. So, from now on, I can merge both passions.

Key takeaways

It seems that each of the interviewed women from our IT teams has had a different path to get to where they are, be it coincidence and accident or being dead set on their career since childhood.

The obstacles they had to overcome were either insignificant enough not to recall or have come from within – “gaining experience” being the most frequent response. It’s great to see that none of the responses mentioned “being held back by the industry itself”.

Each description of daily work routines and tasks was positive and detailed. The easy conclusion is – these people love what they do and are definitely where they’re supposed to be. They’re able to develop their skills, gain experience and education, and grow while spending time on their other fascinating passions.

To be frank, these women are an inspiration to me, and I hope for many others. They enrich the company in surprising ways, and we, as a company, couldn’t have grown without them.

As I mentioned before, we still need more role models as we strive for a more inclusive tech culture. What can you do to become one?

If you’re not in the tech world yet: start with courses. There are plenty to choose from, as there are many different streams in which you can specialize. But each of them opens doors to millions of opportunities. Carefully select your studies, but remember that there are fields for which you don’t have to have an IT degree. Take part in open days in companies to learn more about their culture and if the environment they create for women is safe and nurturing. And, of course, look out for internships!

If you’re in the tech world already: join us! We’re waiting for you!



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