Women in the Magento Community: Being a Part of the Tribe
At Imagination Media, we're big on featuring a diverse team of experts. Each and every one of them is gifted with a certain skillset and they all bring immense value to the company. However, like many IT (and Magento) companies, we still lack an abundance of women onboard. Our Marketing and Sales Director, Ivona Namjesnik, recently organized a conference on that exact topic – and guides us through action steps which will help us all to #BalanceForBetter.
Q: Ivona, before you tell us anything about the conference, could you share a bit about who you are, where you live, what you do?
Sure thing! So, as you already heard, my name is Ivona and I'm a rather new member of the Imagination Media team. I joined the company in July of 2018 and ever since, my job has been to increase the awareness of the merchants interested in Magento around our services and expertise and, of course, to nurture our partnership relations (whether that's with the leads, clients, partners or any kind of service providers). You can say that I work as a Marketing and Sales Director but in reality, that means wearing a lot of hats – from social media manager to strategy builder. I also consider myself very lucky to be able to change those hats, because it's those colorful roles that give me a great insight into what our team is capable of – and matching their skills with exactly what potential clients need.
Q: But it's not only about being involved with leads, clients, partners and the Imagination Media team, am I right?
Oh, definitely not! What I really value is being involved with the broader eCommerce and Magento ecosystem. I find people who work in IT quite inspiring and I always do my best to try and get involved with all kinds of community initiatives. We are honored to participate in the Mobile Optimization Initiative as well, doing our best to send our team members to conferences no matter their role (attendee, speaker or organizer).
Q: From what we heard, you also recently organized a conference?
(Laughs) Yes, you are absolutely right. I don't think there is anything as rewarding as doing your share of advocating for the things you believe in. My share now is organizing conferences for women and motivating them to aspire to leadership roles.
Q: Could you tell us a bit more about the conference itself, how it all began? You know, the usual stuff.
So, the conference was organised by Lean In Croatia – a national chapter of an international movement sparked by Facebook's COO, Sheryl Sandberg. I am proud to be its member and, from not that long ago, its national coordinator.
For the conference, we joined forces with the Professional Women's Network Croatia and decided to cover the topic of personal and professional transformation. We have hosted more than a dozen women who shared their stories on overcoming obstacles, growing from pain, defeating hardships and striving to do and be more. It was one of the most memorable events I ever participated in.
Q: What did you conclude at the conference – what can we do to decrease the gender gap?
It's not one of "those" conferences. There is no cookie-cutter solution to solving a challenge of this size. But I believe all of the suggestions discussed by our speakers and panelists revolve around pretty much the same strategy: being brave about who you are – and sharing that with the world. It gives you an incredible amount of power, owning your past, experience, expertise and aspirations.
Q: Do you think there is a need for those kinds of events?
I'm not saying we need those events. However, I am saying we definitely need something which will help women feel recognized within their community. It may be a meetup, a conference, a gathering, but whatever it is, make sure it works for you and your "tribe".
Given the fact I work in the IT community, I've been honored to meet so many wonderful women who simply don't feel brave enough to go on a stage and share their expertise. That doesn't make them any less smart than their male counterparts. It just proves there's something fundamentally wrong with the way we raise our children. As I said in my opening speech: "If we raise our girls to be silent, we are teaching them their voice doesn't matter."
Q: What can we do to make women feel more invited?
I believe the solution is two-fold. First, we need to solve the problem of rewiring the female brain – you are smart, you are capable, you own that stage/project/task. Many women suffer from the imposter syndrom, and before we go out there and start attacking men for something they have or haven't done, we have to make sure there are women who are ready to fill in and close the gap.
And then, of course, we need to make sure the community is accepting of different leadership styles. I don't think I ever met a woman who wants to be employed based purely on the fact she has "lady-parts". Positive discrimination is not doing anyone a favor. What we want, however, is simply being looked at the same and given the same chances/advancement opportunities/paycheck increases as our male colleagues have. We need a system based on equality, not condition.
Q: And what do you think about women in STEM, IT, Magento?
I am in awe of how smart those ladies are! I follow some of those ladies on Twitter, others I've personally met or worked with and they continue to inspire me every day. We have two wonderful human beings with me today so I believe they can share their own piece of the Magento story.
Q: We are being joined by Geiziane Neves, Project Manager, and Maiara Candido, Data Analyst, both of whom work at Imagination Media. Ladies, how did you end up in the Magento community?
G: Well, truth to be told, I wasn’t very satisfied with the previous area I was working in (accounting) as I couldn’t see any opportunities for growth. When I say opportunities, I'm not referring to the money accountants make or the way their careers look. I'm talking about opportunities to learn new things, be challenged, visit new places, meet people, and be motivated by all of that. If we're being completely honest, that is what I always dreamed to achieve, that is what I love.
I am in constant search of new experiences, so I started looking for something that would fit that description. At that point, I already knew some people who worked with IT and Magento and I listened to them. Through conversations and, of course, Googling, I realized this area is growing, there are many opportunities in the market (not only in Brazil but everywhere) and I was pleasently surprised to see the size of the eCommerce industry. The potential for doing and learning more is HUGE. Yes, it is a challenging area but all of these factors really made me think about being in an area that I had never thought I would be. So, I found out that there was a very good college in my city where I could study Analysis and System Development for free – that would give me one more degree, one more opportunity in my life, and hopefully the one I could really grow with.
I applied for it and here I am already on my 4th semester. Thanks to this course, to these people I know, also to the English classes I took, I got an amazing opportunity to work with the Imagination Media team. I have learned so much in just one year here and I realize I still have a lot to learn – I believe I will never stop learning, but each day I want to be more helpful, see more results from what I do, and that is so amazing for me. That is also my biggest challenge and I'm focused to achieve more than I ever thought I could.
M: Believe it or not, after finishing high school I wanted to study arts and work with animation and comic illustration! But I didn’t get into the university I wanted, so I decided to take a gap year to rethink my life and goals. I searched a lot and that’s when it hit me: I’ve always been curious about technology. Sometimes friends and family would come to me for help for computing-related things because I just would know how to do it or know the right way to search for answers. But I never saw it as a career until then. After searching about it I realized there was a lot of creation involved, many fields and new things being done everyday. So, I thought to myself: I like the feeling of creating something and I think I have what it takes to understand this field, so why not give it a try? And I did. I majored in Information Systems, ended up finding a part of it I'm really excited about and am currently working on specializing in Big Data, Data Analysis and Business Intelligence. About Magento, well, I didn’t expect to work with it but here I am. Basically, they were looking for someone with knowledge of data manipulation and I fit the job.
Q: As this field was not a first choice for either of you, I presume there are some love/hate situations with it. Could you choose one and explain it?
G: I love the fact that I can see how things are created, the many ways you can learn, the many options you have to work with, whether it's development, analysis, engineer, sales, etc. You have the chance to see what fits best for you. However, it is not easy. If you want good results in your professional life, you need to focus, study A LOT, you need to know where you are going, and do what you have to do. We are talking about technology, and it always changes faster than we think.
The part we might think is a problem can be our powerful tool for success. We can’t stop, we need to learn, to search, to practice. There will always be something new to learn about. I chose to love this and I am trying to get the most I can from each day I live with it.
M: I love finding something new. With Data Analysis, I love the things you can find from a bunch of spreadsheets, xmls, csvs…combining them and learning something new.
I hated something that I felt in the very beginning of my career – that I had to put too much effort into proving myself in this environment. I don’t feel like that anymore. Maybe the people in this area are more welcoming or I just learned to deal with it better.
Q: On that note, Maiara, any words of advice for any girl interested in IT?
It’s not an easy area for anyone. It takes a lot of study and practice and I still feel after five years that I’m far from where I want to be academically. So don’t give up, keep getting better and stay curious.
Q: Anything to add, Geiziane?
The most important piece of advice is never stop! Never stop dreaming or studying. Don’t give up. It won’t be easy, but that's the good part. Not everyone can get there where you will be in the near future. This area is not only for boys. We see a lot of girls out there already, and that's amazing. We can use our organization and discipline to achieve wonderful results!
Now, who is your " tribe"? What it is that you do for the community you are in?
Drop us a line to join our tribe so we can share more on what we know with you!