We continue our blog series featuring women at Exadel who have led successful STEM careers. We are proud to say that a large percentage of our employees are women (39 percent) and will continue to find and support women who are pursuing careers in STEM. As the industry calls for more STEM-focused women, we are pleased to honor those who work for Exadel and share pieces from their professional journeys.
Today’s Q&A features Polina Antipova, Delivery Manager and Scrum Master.
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
At school, I liked the exact sciences, because they require much less effort from me to understand them and prepare homework. Everything is clear with mathematics or physics: you have theorems and formulas, so all you need is to put your numbers into formulas, that’s it! Conversely, writing literary essays drove me crazy and stole a lot of my time.
In middle school, we had an elective course called “Basics of Informatics”. This was the time I realized that computers could make my life even easier! If I just write a few lines of code to program the formulas, I don’t even need to manually calculate the results with different numbers. Isn’t that cool? This is when I decided to get a degree in Applied Mathematics.
So, this question about what inspired me to pursue a career in STEM makes me think that I got inspiration from my laziness! Is it bad or good? Well, they say that laziness is the engine of human progress…
How do you use agile development in your daily work?
My daily work now is all about agile development.
When I started my career, the development process was mostly driven by the waterfall approach. From my own experience, I’ve seen many cases that prove the insolvency of this approach. Especially when the sequence of phases (requirements gathering, design, implementation, testing) ran several months-long each. The customers were often not satisfied with the final result because either the requirements changed by the time of user acceptance testing or there were gaps in the analysis. And already, the project budget wouldn’t have a room for a change! If the customers are not satisfied, you are not happy with the work you’ve done.
With the continuous development activities and short iterations in Agile, we are getting customer’s feedback very early and can adjust the requirements and the code. When the customer is happy, the team is happy too!
How would you describe your experience in the STEM field? What has motivated you to stay on this career path?
My experience in the STEM field has definitely not been easy. You have to deal with tons of information on a daily basis. You have to continuously educate yourself. Particularly, in the IT field, every new project is different in terms of client business culture, technologies, work organization, customer needs, development teams, etc. So, for every new project, you have to be prepared to learn more and adjust yourself and your team to gain success.
Oh, and, by the way, when I became an IT manager, I had to improve my skills in writing (the activity, which drove me crazy so badly at school). Fate makes a joke of us… Well, luckily, I don’t have to write essays, just emails!
I am motivated because I am not bored with the routine work as I have to deal with a variety of new challenges on every iteration of a project. Also, I feel satisfied when I see how my team is making our customers’ lives easier by implementing new features and improving the product we are working on.
What is your advice to women who are looking to start a career in STEM?
My advice would be to have strong confidence in yourself, in your abilities, etc. What I can see in my daily work in IT is that, in general, males are much more confident in their skills than females are. And, in my opinion, this is our main weakness in STEM as a career. Don’t let other people’s stereotypes and actions get you discouraged. Don’t be afraid to defend your own opinion and prove your technical skills.
What challenges or roadblocks have you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?
When I was in my fifth year at University, I wanted to apply for a job as a software engineer in a small startup. The answer to me was that the development team consists of only young men, and they didn’t want to spoil the atmosphere and the team spirit with the presence of a young woman. Well, that was very offensive and disappointing. How can people judge by gender and not by the skills? Luckily, this was the only time in my career it happened, but I believe that many other women in STEM are faced with this kind of situation. Actually, I really forgot about this unfair situation until I was asked to answer this questionnaire.
What did I do to overcome this challenge? I just continued looking for other jobs and found the one I was happy with.
Polina’s message is powerful and inspiring when it comes to being a woman pursuing a career in STEM. She is confident, true to herself, and has found a way to turn her passion into her career.
It’s an exciting time to be a part of Exadel. We encourage women looking for careers in STEM to check out our job listings and apply: https://exadel.com/about-us/careers/