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“THE SELF IS NOT SOMETHING ONE FINDS, IT IS SOMETHING ONE CREATES” – AN INTERVIEW WITH OANA, AKVILE, MARIA AND IRBE AT JETSTACK

Steve Dalley recently spoke with some of the incredible team at Jetstack, a Cloud Native technology services company, to chat about their beginnings, struggles and successes. Oana Garnett, Akvile Marciukaityte, Maria R and Irbe Krumina all had very inspiring, and insightful stories and ideas when it came to increasing diversity in technology.

It was also incredibly interesting to hear how they all got into the wonderful world of IT, proving that there is no right or wrong way to go about securing a career in our industry.

This is certainly worth a read/watch and we’re sure it will inspire others to pursue a career in tech or make that professional jump to enhance their current career!

Thank you Oana, Akvile, Maria and Irbe for your time and sharing your thoughts and strories with us ?.

Tell us about your Jetstack journey so far?

Akvile – I joined Jetstack just under 2 years ago as a Scrum Master then transitioned into the Culture and Operation Lead overseeing employee experience from the moment a new Jetstacker joins us to the moment they leave.

Maria – I joined Jetstack just over 18 months ago and work directly on various Kubernetes projects.

Oana – I joined Jetstack just over 3 years ago starting out as Head of Support, in charge of shaping our Kubernetes subscription offering. As of October 2020, I have become Head of Service taking over all of our customer delivery team, working towards improving our customer services, operational performance and our ability to scale as Jetstack grows.

Irbe – I joined Jetstack around 6 months ago and work on our opensource projects as a Software Engineer.

How did you get into the world of IT and Technology?

Oana – I actually got into IT purely by accident. Having done Politics at University I was looking at doing an internship at NATO which I unfortunately didn’t get. A friend of mine mentioned they had a role at Rackspace which was an introduction into IT and thought I would give it a go. To be honest, I had no idea what it was about originally but once I got there, I loved it. I first started in service delivery and then moved my way into tech management.

Akvile – Mine too was a bit accidental. I started a consulting program with a focus on IT and completed various projects. I ended up getting into Agile and Scrum and I just loved the environment and the openness of the environment. I ended up working my way up and now currently at Jetstack.

Do you think Degrees are essential or even help you get into IT?

Maria – I think Oana is a good example to prove you don’t really need a specific degree to get into IT. I know a number of people who are brilliant and don’t have specific IT related degrees. I think you are able to take a course in a specific subject and rom there you can start to learn and practice to develop further. Personally, I don’t think you need a degree. Universities help develop skills and start people off but the main learnings happen from experiences.

Irbe – IT was a big career change having done Arts previously. I don’t think it’s necessary to study and IT degree to get into the industry but I do think it is good to study as it gives you a lot of transferable skills and allows you to develop you work and communication, for example.

What do you think that can be done to attract and more diverse demographic into tech?

Irbe – I think companies that get involved with inclusion events, as well as diversity outreach programs and accepting students are good ways to attract a more diverse pool of individuals.

Akvile – I think it is important to understand the ecosystem you are in the communities you need to tap into. I have been working closely with our third party agencies for instance to understand those smaller, less known communities and how can we leverage platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to rely on our own networks a little more. One of the main strategies we have is to be a bit more open and how we hire new talent and how we talk about ourselves in forums and how are founders represent the company on podcasts or articles. I really feel like it’s having that mix of small actions that we can take as a collective that can impact this the most. It’s all about coming up with those strategies together and coming up with how each person can influence how we become more diverse as a company.

What challenges have you faced during your career?

Oana – Avoiding Labels. Throughout my career, I have been keen to not be labelled as a woman in technology. When I first moved into tech management at Rackspace, someone came up to me to congratulate me and said “It’s great to have more women in management”. At that point, I realised that I have potentially been picked to tick off that diversity box. After this I was keen to avoid stereotypes and for me to get appreciated and recognised for my work without my gender playing a apart of this.  Overall though, I have been very lucky to work with very good companies and teams where I haven’t felt discriminated and have avoided companies that I felt like that was a possibility.

Irbe – I completely agree with Oana on that. I think labels is a big thing to avoid but similarly, have been very lucky with the companies and teams I have worked in along the way. When you join a company, I think it is important that you are seen as an engineer, for example, they have a place for you and can see the potential for your growth and not just hitting specific diversity metrics.

What are your proudest achievements both personally and professionally?

Akvile – One of my proudest professional achievements is actually currently at Jetstack and while building the culture, we were recognised by the Great Place to Work and making sure the work we have done together continues. I would also say not being afraid to learn and throw yourself into new things and being curious.

Maria – When I first moved to London, I thought it would be hard to find a job due to the language barrier and my experience. I feel like I have been presented a lot of opportunities and especially at Jetstack, I have learnt a lot.

Oana – Moving into tech management was one of the scariest things in have done but now, I love it and really happy that I took the plunge and also management to overcome the imposter syndrome you feel when you change role. Personally, very similar to Maria, building a life in another country has a lot of challenges. I originally came to London for University and being very naive at the time, it has been nice to build that life that I am really proud of.

Irbe – I don’t have one single achievement necessarily. However, when I moved to Jetstack, I did change my tech stack slightly which has given me a lot of satisfaction being able to do it and transfer some of my previous skills which I feel has given me a wider perspective of the whole technology landscape.

What makes you happiest in your free time?

Irbe – I do code in my free time but I would say I am happiest when I am outside in nature, hiking and enjoying the outdoors

Akvile – Similar to Irbe, I love spending time in nature, I enjoy running, art, architecture, wondering around new places, taking pictures and reading.

Maria – I love to listen to music, play tennis and swim but particularly I enjoy cooking. I am big foodie.

Oana – Similar to Maria, I am a big foodie and really enjoy cooking. I also like going to new restaurants and trying new things as well as travelling, which hasn’t happened for quite a while now. Luckily, I managed to do quite a bit before lockdown and Covid so I’m hoping to resume when I can.

In one sentence, how would you sum up your career so far?

Oana – Unexpected, challenging, but incredibly rewarding to work with people and see people grow the potential in people

Irbe – Interesting journey, fast but also very expected and rewarding along the way.

Akvile – A lot of change trying different things, fast paced and feeling comfortable with ambiguity.

Maria – Challenging, enjoyable but rewarding.

What one bit of advice would you have for people starting off in tech?

Akvile – Don’t be afraid to gain experience at different companies. I think it’s good to get a good mix of small and larger companies and exposing yourself to different environments to find out where you work best. Don’t be put off my lesser-known names and just go for the big brands and names.

Maria – Trust yourself. I you feel like you can do it, you can and don’t be afraid of anything.

Oana – Don’t get hung up on labels or being a woman in tech. You want to make the most out of doing your job so don’t get discouraged by that in any way. Another big thing is find people to learn from, whether it be colleagues, friends, managers, whoever it might be, ask for advice and grow.

Irbe – Find something that is interesting for you. There is a wide range of jobs in tech and you have an opportunity to find something that really motivates you and when you do, just got for it.

Favourite Quote?

Oana – “’People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates”, by Thomas Szasz

Akvile  – “People support what they create”

An interview by Steve Dalley

A voice for diversity in tech <3

I: @womenrockbristol

T: @womenrockbrstl

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