As part of our cycle “Women in IT”, a conversation with two great and dynamic Product Owners: Gosia Gulgowska-Kowalska and Olga Springer. We invite you to read:)
Where did your interest in the IT industry come from?
My cousin studied telecommunications, after graduation he had a very good job as a Project Manager. He inspired me, so I went to the same studies. As I was studying telecommunications, the boom for telecommunications projects ended and I quickly found a job in IT on software development projects.
Gosia Gulgowska-Kowalska, Group Product Manager, Spartez:
It was a coincidence. I’ve always dreamed of being a journalist. After a short episode in the daily newspaper, I joined Arena.pl, where I worked as news editor. This was my first encounter with the world of the Internet and broadly understood IT. These were very early days of this industry in Poland. Arena.pl had the ambition to become the “fourth force of the Internet” alongside Wirtualna Polska, Onet and Interia. Arena.pl did not succeed in its mission, but it successfully brought me into the world of technology. As the next step in my professional career I was a project manager for Polska.pl website managed by NASK. Then I moved to content management at the Wakacje.pl. I have always been responsible for ensuring that the websites provide users with what they are looking for. I worked closely with developers, helping to translate users’ requirements into the language of engineers.
What exactly do you do and how did you get into the profession?
Olga: I am currently Head of Product at SentiOne. I deal with the management of the development of IT products (strategy, roadmap, cooperation with programming teams, stakeholder management). I started my adventure with IT as a Scrum master at AirHelp. I found my first internship thanks to my activities in the Scientific Circle of IT Management at the Gdańsk University of Technology.
Gosia: I am currently a Group Product Manager at Spartez and I work for our Australian partner – Atlassian. I am responsible, for four products: Jira Software Server and Data Center, Crowd, Bamboo and Fisheye and Crucible.
Moving to Product Management was a natural next step in my career. I have always been responsible for designing the content of websites and when Product Manager role appeared on the Polish market, I was lucky enough to find people who taught me how to be one.
Have you had concerns about entering IT, and if so, which ones?
Olga: I had no worries, I knew that there was a lot of work in IT.
Gosia: I never had any concerns about it. I like a well-structured world in which engineers operate. I also like translating complex user contexts into engineering language. Sometimes working with developers does require patience and courage. I have no technological background, I have graduated from English literature and psychology Although I understand technical jargon, I am not fluent in the subject matter. When I join a new team I sometimes have to refute a few stereotypes and prove that what I bring to the team – empathy, ability to conduct dialogue, communication – is valuable –. Usually persistence and hard work invested into building a relationship, truly pays off.
In your opinion, what are the advantages of women in IT?
Olga: Of course, I generalize a bit, but from experience I can say that we are well organized, professional and able to make decisions. We have highly developed soft skills.
Gosia: The topic of women in IT is currently very popular, but I would not like to only focus on this aspect. In my opinion, it is diversity in IT that is the important i– obviously bringing women to the industry, helps in achieving diversity goals. But it’s not just about women. It is important to build diverse IT teams, in which each team member brings a different value.
Women have natural communication skills and usually present much higher level of empathy compared to men. But I also know many male engineers who do not lack these talents. Therefore, when building teams, I am looking for different characters and skills. I’m not just making sure there is s male-female balance. In my current Product Management team, I managed to achieve such balance – both in terms of gender or experience but also in regards to extra- or introvertism. This makes us a great, productive and creative team.
What do you think can be done to increase the number of women in IT?
Olga: We should spread knowledge about IT in primary schools and high schools. Talk about IT being not just programming.
Gosia: We should be consciously looking for diversity. I know many IT companies that are recruiting new team members looking for people who are just like them. This naturally blocks these organizations from employing women. Nonetheless, if the only motivation to welcome women in your teams is improving the statistics, you should rather not do it.
What would you advise women starting their way in the IT industry?
Olga: It is worth starting from activities in a student organization or a scientific club and building relationships in the industry. It is a good idea to find the first job in your dream job.
Gosia: That should remain themselves. In the world dominated by men, women can lend their hand by helping to solve a conflict , or proposing a compromise. Women do not have to go to IT to prove that they can be like men. We should be in IT, so that this industry becomes more diverse and therefore better.