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“Girls are critical of themselves” - interview with Chief IT Governance Manager at Raiffeisen Bank Aval

23 April 2020

Is there a pay gap, what about “male” roles and stereotypes in Ukraine -  we disused with Margaryta Sachava, Chief IT Governance Manager at Raiffeisen Bank Aval.

Why have you decided to devote your life to informatics? When did you first become interested in IT? 

While at school, I did not have a specific understanding of willing to devote my life to informatics. In fact, my favorite subject is biology. However, luckily or not, I am an allergic person, thus all professions concerning this area are not for me. Many years ago you had to pass a physics exam to apply to medical faculty, that is why I graduated from physical and technical lyceum, knowing that I was only interested in medicine and biology. My background was good enough only for Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. During the first years, I used to like only a couple of subjects, but later, when I calmed down about my unfulfilled dreams, I started to consider what I would be able to work on for the entire life. Thus, it is the informatics that found me, rather than me finding it.

What things are the most interesting in your work?

I do not speculate about something being interesting or not, because there is a task to be done to solve an issue. In my opinion, it is the performer who interpreters the task. It is up to them whether the task will inspire them or no. A lot depends on the team you are working with. There are people with whom everything can be done with pleasure and fun.

You work with IT in the bank. Both IT and banks are usually described as “male” spheres. Have you ever experienced such prejudice on your career path?

I notice changes in the situation: during the last couple of years the number of girls and women in IT grows, even in the field of IT security and IT infrastructure there are more talented women nowadays. I believe that if the employer invites you to the interview, it already means that the company is looking for a professional.

I can tell from experience that men may need more time to find out, what is his colleague capable of, but they are ready to change their minds and admit it.

Girls are still less represented not only in IT but also in science, for instance. What do you think of the causes of such a disproportion?

It is difficult to speak for everyone, but, in my opinion, when boys do not understand certain topics of math, informatics, chemistry, physics, they are more easy-going and move forward, telling themselves they will dig into it later. On the other hand, girls are more critical of themselves, and many of them think of this kind of situation as a turning point. They choose another way and do not allow themselves to be mistaken or to get adapted to the challenging topic.

Math is tough for everyone, though someone cheers up and moves forward, trying over and over again, while others can be discouraged and blame themselves. It is crucial, before it is too late, to ask for help from your friends, teachers, peers, to find topics and books that are truly yours. And you will have to admit that it is impossible to know everything on the same level. 

The pay gap is still a major problem. Have you ever experienced it?

Dialogue between an employer and a potential employee is the moment where all terms and details should be discussed. Each person negotiates on his or her own, and thus it is their choice whether to accept the offer. As Olga Gutsal said, the business has no gender.

What do you think society can do to combat the prejudice “IT is for men”? A lot of ads about IT courses are still rather sexist.

IT advertisement I get is usually a combination of names and codes. There is almost an equal number of male and female speakers and visitors at the IT conferences in the last couple of years.

I often face another stereotype: that IT only should be doing some cool and innovative things, while the tedious work of software support, version migrations, fulfilling the requirements of IT security is often considered as dreary and banal. It is difficult to build a career with such an approach - both for men and women. If something is not working, everyone is cleaning up the mess, no matter what are their positions, age, gender, whether they want to do it or not, whether they have children and personal plans.

What are the most important qualities for an IT pro?

Those are the ability to ask and listen carefully to the answer, the will to get to the bottom of the issue, to understand, why it is important for the client or for the colleague, to realize the solution. Also, I would add the strength not to give in to despair in case something is wrong, and to try as many times as need.

What do you think of the #STEMGirls movement?

It is a chance for girls to learn and improve, to believe in themselves.

Who are the people who inspire you, push you forward?

I get impressed by people who are able to work even when everything goes nuts and are not avoiding responsibility for the mistakes and faults, not trying to theorize on the cause of such problems.

What can you advise the girls who are only making their first steps towards IT?

Do what needs to be done primarily and do not stop. If you have an idea and you are willing to accomplish it, you only need to convince a single person that your idea is worth support; then there are two of you who are persuading others - and it is much more fun.

If you were not able to convince one person, write your concept down - maybe, its time will come. Something impossible today can be fulfilled in a year with great support.