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Changing the ‘stigma’ around women in technology

Spicy Mango's head of engineering discusses her role, and why attitudes around women in tech need to change

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, TVBEurope talks to Spicy Mango’s head of engineering Angelika Podlinska about the importance of encouraging younger generations, especially women, to pursue a career in tech.

Tell us a little bit about your background before joining Spicy Mango

Before leaving school and starting an apprenticeship with British Airways, I had never come across coding because my sixth form didn’t even teach IT. So my first role as a junior software engineer was my first introduction to coding, and it was a bit of a jump into the unknown. 

In sixth form I completed Biology, Maths and Geography A-Levels. Although I wasn’t sure which career path I wanted to take, university didn’t feel like the right path for me because I didn’t want to commit to four years when I wasn’t fully certain of which subject I wanted to study. The apprenticeship at British Airways for two years seemed a great alternative, and when it finished I joined Spicy Mango.

What was the beginning of your time at Spicy Mango like? 

I came to Spicy Mango as its first employee, which was just over four years ago. I started as a software engineer after deciding it would be best to explore other engineering opportunities. It was great timing because Spicy Mango was just hiring and after a few interviews and technical tasks, I was thrilled to be offered the job. Being the first employee made it both an exciting and challenging experience – something I have loved about Spicy Mango since the outset. 

How has your role evolved over time?

As the company has grown, I have grown with it. We now have a great team of front and back-end developers and this year I was incredibly pleased to be promoted to head of engineering. My role now involves managing the engineering team, planning projects and completing new project estimates, taking responsibility for the timelines and requirements this entails.

What are your favourite aspects of your job?

One of the best parts of my job is all of the interesting projects that I have had the pleasure of working on. Most of the projects are innovative software solutions that we develop for our clients. Working from home is also a bonus because I believe I am more productive and it is a benefit saving the time travelling back and forth from an office. It is always thrilling when we go live with software solutions. I love being able to see the solution develop from an idea on a piece of paper through the development cycle, testing and then going live. I feel very proud, as it’s a huge achievement in itself!

What are the biggest challenges you face specifically in your role, and within the tech industry as a whole?

Sometimes you have to take risks and evaluating if it is a good risk or a bad risk can be difficult, and having all the responsibility to make the choice is sometimes daunting. Another challenge I have found is that people are often surprised when I say I am head of engineering because of the stigma that surrounds women in technology, despite the changes of the 21st century with women moving into traditionally ‘male dominated’ career paths.

In regards to the tech industry as a whole, it’s amazing how many aspects of life now rely on the technology industry compared to twenty years ago. It is therefore crucial that we keep up with all the technology changes on a yearly basis, which can be overwhelming at times. 

Do you have any future goals that you would like to achieve within your tech career?

I would love to experiment with new programming languages and tools, which can be tricky when we have tight deadlines to work against, although I am hoping to do more of this next year. My current role is mainly involved in back-end engineering, project planning and the design phase and I would like to get more hands on with front-end engineering in the future. I would also like to get involved with the security side of software products, for example white hat hacking.

What advice would you give others who are looking to make a career in tech? 

The most important piece of advice I could give is do not be afraid of any challenge. It is essential to remember that you don’t have to go to university to have a career in technology. Apprenticeships are a great alternative and they provide the opportunity to get practical, hands-on experience with real projects and earn while you are learning.

For anyone looking to begin a career in technology, a great place to start is the wide variety of online resources available, from coding to security, project planning and such for all levels. There is a wealth of resources available nowadays and you can begin learning whenever you want online.

What are your views on ‘women in tech’ initiatives? Why do you think it’s important to highlight women in the tech industry? 

From my experience the technology industry is still unfortunately viewed as largely a ‘male dominated’ sphere. But everything today revolves around technology in our daily lives and tech is an exciting and important sector to be involved in.

For this reason I think it is so important to teach IT/STEM subjects in early education years and throughout school to make sure every individual has access to all the different opportunities ahead of them from an early age. This will be so important to breaking down the barriers and increasing the amount of women involved in the tech industry.