#Zoolatechgirls: Inna Mykhailova, Chief People Officer

Women in tech Mar 12, 2020

Inna witnessed IT formation in Ukraine. She has been working in this industry for twenty years and jokes that she would change her occupation only for a year by painting walls in silence. However, nothing changes because Inna has effective methods to cope with the workload — walks, traveling, and silence.

What has changed in IT over the past 20 years?

IT has become known as IT. Previously, no one knew about this sphere as an IT — people just worked "at computers". Female programmers have always been around, but there were far fewer of them. Coding was considered to be a male profession. Women surrounded them checking and analyzing the product or working in admin departments. On top of that, they could hold a leadership position.

Why were there fewer female developers?

Because traditional schools together with the matriarchal society finds math not to be something that girls need. Consequently, girls attend humanitarian schools, visit dancing classes and other art groups, where they learn to be beautiful and elegant. And what about math? Well, they are doing sums and basic arithmetic, but how it can help them when it comes to deciding on their future profession?

Gender division and separation of male and female interests has been ingrained in most people since childhood. It’s only in relatively rare cases that kids can decide independently what they want to do — more often, parents decide for them.

What does influence the increasing number of female developers?

Probably, the fact that industry’s popularity has also increased. In the nineties of the last century, girls used to study accounting, whereas boys used to study banking or law to get a good salary in the future. IT was not familiar to everybody, so people didn’t insist that their children studied internet technologies after graduation from school. But soon, everything got digital, automated and the specialization became more popular. This was the reason that more women appeared in the National Technical University and other institutions of higher education where they could study computer technology.

Alas, I still hear jokes that a female programmer is not exactly a woman, especially when she levels up to a senior programmer and becomes a “big wheel.” In this case, people also say that women have a “male” way of thinking and find “male” traits to be key to success. Fortunately, this happens not that often.

What could help girls work in the environment avoid such stereotypes?

Making the sphere even more popular. The same happens to minorities: if the number of people who belong to a certain minority is not significant within the society, speculations, jokes, and other prejudices appear.

As an illustration, let’s consider people with disabilities. In Soviet and post-Soviet times, there were very few of them on the streets because they could not get outside in the wheelchair due to inappropriate conditions and physical barriers. Therefore, people with disabilities seemed not to exist at all. So, when we become adults and start traveling abroad, we get confused not knowing what to do when such people ask for help. The same happens to women in IT.

We should talk and write more about them, familiarize people with their professional responsibilities, growth, positions they take, the way they influence the product, etc. to demonstrate to other women who are just starting their career that they are not alone and can achieve the same success.

We also should follow the western world as a model. These stages have already been passed there. Although countries with more traditional foundations find the West too tolerant, I find it going the right way. People should be treated equally regardless of any peculiarities.

What is important in terms of working with people?

Same for the whole world: empathy, emotional intelligence, ability to listen and put yourself in another person’s shoes.

What is impossible without emotional intelligence?

Working and interacting with other people is not possible, whereas painting the walls is. I even sometimes joke — if I leave, I would become a decorator and paint walls for a year. When you dive deep into what you are doing and do it devotedly, you’ll end up with a good outcome. Wherever you encounter people, you will not be able to avoid conflicts of interest. People often have opposite views on different things and emotional intelligence is needed to understand that.

What does stand behind the emotions of other people? Why are they acting that way? For instance, fear may stand behind the anger. You should understand that people you meet and have to work with are alive and can feel, just like you do. Don’t just talk about your own desires and needs, but also think about what other people you interact with need.  

Working with people is nerve-racking. What ways are you recovering?

I sometimes get too emotional. It happens that I have disputes with colleagues because I feel tense or fatigued. In that case, I calm down in a couple of hours and express regret for the conflict, offering to discuss everything calmly. Besides, I travel. I perform some remote work devoted to procedural or administrative activities.

When working remotely, I almost do not communicate with anyone, except for a person I travel with. I travel four or five times a year. At this time, I just revel in everything surrounding me and so add to my resources. It is believed that there are introverts who are forced to be extroverts and communicate a lot. Consequently, they need twice as much time to recover all alone. This is all about me. It helps me a lot to take a moment to myself and stop working to understand other people’s emotions.

Is there something you do for recovery daily or weekly?

Sports, of course. I attend personal training at the gym, including lifting weights and training with TRX. Besides, I walk about 60-70 km a week listening to music or audiobooks. I found out about the latter a few years ago. I don’t have enough time to read and audiobooks are a great way to combine several activities and keep on reading.

Who inspires you?

There are a lot of people in the company, like Ksenia Vasianovych and Anna Ginda. Ksenia is incredibly cool. I remember her from my previous job — she was a novice specialist and within a few years grew to become the head of a large department. Anna is a bright example of kindness and humanity. Most of the time, she initiates charity and helps others. Support, sincerity, and humanity are some of her strong points.

My previous manager was also a woman and she inspired me a lot. She’s the only person who doesn’t have enemies or ill-wishers. She always reacted positively to everything that happened or at least took things philosophically. She was a role model for me. In due time, I desperately wanted to be like her. I have been lucky with good role models.

Zoolatech Team

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