It's a well-known fact that tech industry is dominated by men. Event organisers, media and other ecosystem influencers are seen as the voice of the community in a way, and aim to highlight diversity and bring attention to the related problems. In the New East region diversity is a relatively new concept. During EMERGE 2019 we initiated a number of women in tech campaigns and hosted Women in Tech Breakfast.

At Women in Tech Breakfast we talked about transforming doubts into strength, about the journey to tech industry, about unfair treatment and much more. Despite an early start, the room was full with approx. 100 ladies who were hungry to hear real, honest stories.

Response after the breakfast was so overwhelming that we decided to share more real life stories of how women from the New East entered tech industry. We met Maryia Filimonava, Junior Marketing Manager at Apalon, who came to EMERGE to support her colleagues who were presenting on stage and interview conference participants about their knowledge of Apalon. Before joining one of the leading IT companies in the region, she worked in a completely non-related to tech industry. We asked Maryia about her transition journey.
- So, you worked at "Slodych", right?

- Yes, I did.

- What did you do there?

- Let me tell you. I have worked at "Slodych" factory in the department of foreign economic activity for 7 years. My work was directly involved with the export of products, new markets development, negotiations, participation in international exhibitions and etc - everything that is directly related to foreign economic activity. Indeed, 7 years of interesting work. I gained valuable experience, learnt a lot, but then realised it was the time to change something and move on.

- 7 years in one role or …?

- Yes, 7 years. Only the category changed. There were moments, when I worked as head of the department. However, these were 7 years in one position and I was responsible for specific markets – export markets.

- You decided to change the work sphere. Why did you choose IT?

- Why IT? As I said before, I realised it was the moment to move on and start doing something. And when I thought about what to do next, in fact what I really wanted to do was to find myself. I think, finding an interesting job that you enjoy doing is more important than the salary. We have only one life, and wasting it on the job you don't like is very silly and not right at all. Then I came across one saying "Dog on a nail". Have you heard of it?

- Yes, in different variations.

- I will briefly tell you this saying.

When a young man was passing by one house, he saw the following scene: grandmother sits in a rocking chair, next to her there is a grandfather who is also sitting in a rocking chair and reading a newspaper, a dog lies between them and whimpers a lot. The young man paid attention to it but passed by. The next day he goes and sees the same picture: the grandmother is sitting in a rocking chair, next to her is the grandfather sitting in a rocking chair and reading a newspaper, the same dog whines a lot, as if from severe pain. The man thought: "If I go next time, and the dog continues to lie in the same way, I'll go up and ask what the matter is". There comes the third day - nothing changes, the same picture - the same grandmother, grandfather, the same dog that whines plaintively. The young man could not stand it and decided to approach the grandmother and asked: "Your dog whines. What's the matter with it? Apparently, it is very painful." Grandmother replied: "Yes, it's lying on a nail." The young man said: "How so? Why is it lying on a nail? Why wouldn't it get up? "And the grandmother replied:" Well, apparently, it is not so painful for it to lie on this nail just to get up and leave. " That is it, to rise from the spot and start doing something.

I really liked this saying; it put an end to my thoughts. And I decided to go completely in another field of activity.

- There are many other areas aside from sales, but still IT ...

- Yes, I will tell you why. Interestingly enough, I was once invited to work at an IT company. There were several different offers. And before I came to Apalon, I worked in a small startup for 6 months. There I realised that I was very interested in marketing and copywriting, and that I wanted to develop myself in this direction. This is a very deep and interesting field.

And one day I just accidentally went to the Apalon website, and saw a junior marketing manager job there. I read the job requirements of what needs to be done - and I understood that this is it: this is the place that I find very interesting and which I like very much. The company also has values - when I read them, I realised that this is 100% my place for my spiritual development, and that stop should be here. And it was great that it did not require 10/5 years of experience in IT. Frankly speaking, I didn't have any experience in IT, and for me it became a clue that you can just give it a go. Cherry on top was a record on the site that every employee who comes to the company is provided with a comfortable chair from the first working day (laughs). We can say that the company "bought" me with this information on their website, and the information about the chair seemed funny to me. I am very pleased that the company takes care of my comfortable sitting in the workplace. And then, in fact, for me there was a big question, is it possible with the experience in FMCG to move into the IT sector. As you can see, everything is real: a miracle happened - and I am sitting here in front of you.

- Do you do marketing and development?

- No, I do exclusively marketing.

- Is anything developed on iOS?

- We have platforms - iOS and Android - and we do marketing for both platforms.

- Nowadays, there are lots of talks about oppressing women in IT and other sectors, that they have no place in IT, and so on. Have you experienced anything like this?

- The best proof that this is not true is that now I am sitting in front of you.

- Many women sit and tolerate, like the dog in the saying.

- No. I think this is definitely not about me. In addition, I changed my career direction at the age of 30 years old. This is a life changing 180 degrees pivot, when you have to start absolutely everything from scratch. As for talking about the oppression of women in the IT sector, it seems to me that this stereotype is as big and outdated, same as IT is connected only with development. Now girls and boys have equal opportunities.

- Continuing this topic, they say that woman gets a lower salary than a man, although both work in the same position ...

- During all my professional years, salary information was confidential. This is not disclosed anywhere, that is why I do not know how much my male colleagues earned. I think it is important to keep this confidentiality, otherwise this can cause envy in the team. I believe if you are initiative, take responsibility, try to develop your skills and go extra mile, you will receive a decent salary. But if you came just to sit thought the working hours, you are not interested in anything, do not want to look outside the box, then there will be a corresponding result.
- What surprised you the most in the IT sector that turned out to be strange, maybe irrational? Something that you did not expect at all, but it happened.

- I want to admit that the transition from FMCG to IT was very scary, because I left a very good position, reputation earned during the work years, partners, and so on. It was very scary to take such a step. But I have a life motto: "Decide on what is scary." And my mother always taught me: it is not a shame not to know - it is a shame not to want to know. And I wanted and want to know a lot, I want to develop myself and move on. Of course, I was confronted with the fact that I don't know many things, and the people who work here amazed me the most. This is a team of completely different people, and with such a wide range of thinking, with such a non-standard thinking.

As a rule, we think that people do not want to share experience, because they want to be better, they are afraid of competition. Here I did not face this at all. There were moments when I could write to colleagues from the neighbouring department: "I do not understand this and that". Just one minute passed and they wrote to me: "Come to us." Everything was explained in little detail. They say: "If you have questions, ask and come." There was another similar case. I did not know how to work in one software programme - I asked a colleague for help. A minute later she comes with her computer, shows how to work in the programme. The help and support you get here is very cool. This is one of the company's values - community with other. And it works. These values are not just to tick the box, this is what the company lives and breathes. And for me, the most amazing is that the company want to invest in people, they want to raise you. To confirm this, I was accepted for the job this January without any prior experience in the IT field. When you realise this, wings grow behind your back and you want to move mountains.
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