How I got here: I have an attempt at a self-interview without making it awkward! Every once in a while I think it’s good to have a conversation with yourself, maybe even an interview of sorts, so if you want to know me better, read on! I got myself comfortable, turned off any distractions (except my favorite Spotify playlist “All Out 80s”, I know I know, I am an old soul) and took it seriously.
To start, like any great interview for a job or otherwise, I think I should cover the about me part.
Whoami: I am Alex, or Maria-Alexandra, if we need to be formal, and my journey started off in Romania, where I was born. I was lucky as I had many science classes to take alongside humanities and most of my science teachers were women, so I always thought I belong in STEM. When time came to go to university, I decided to move to the UK, to the disappointment of my family, but I went on and did it, and today they couldn’t be more proud. I was passionate about content design and entrepreneurship so did my undergraduate in Business Management and Publishing media. I soon discovered that technology was really my passion through attending lots of events, hackathons, conferences, they all inspired me to change my career path. I think you could say that I am a unicorn, and if you ask anyone who knows me, they would tell you I love them, my 3D crochet project and Zoom ID can attest to that too!
Why a unicorn: Because I love working both in software engineering and design, I am a creative technologist, and we all need a bit of magic in our lives. One of my favorite quotes is: “Sometimes we all need a unicorn to believe in. Sometimes we need a unicorn to believe in us.”
How did you get to where you are today: When I graduated from my undergraduate degree I moved to Barcelona, where I worked in Service Improvement for King, the makers of Candy Crush, and I was hooked, I knew that the tech industry was the place for me, especially on the creative side. During that time, Brexit happened and I decided to return to the UK, where I was fortunate to secure a place on the Tech Connect program at JPMC. And here we are over 4 years, 3 job roles, 3 promotions and 3 countries later. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do, it is entirely up to you to make it happen. Today, I work in the Public Cloud organization, am finishing my MSc in Computer Science at the University of Bath and in November 2020, I have been shortlisted for the TechWomen100 awards in the UK as well as won the Ambassador’s Diploma in the Graduate Student category from the Romanian Embassy to the UK. I am so proud of being recognized in this way and being nominated and shortlisted alongside amazing technology professionals from across industries and companies was a huge privilege.
What challenges or inspiration did you encounter along the way: Some of the challenges I encountered in my tech career have shaped who I am today but living away from all my family and friends from back home was one of the most difficult ones. I lived in more than 6 countries since I left Romania 8 years ago, but today, thanks to that I think I am culturally richer and more independent for it. I have friends all over the world thanks to my decision to move and be curious and this also helped with my transition into technology and every time I join a new team or start a new role. Thanks to my independence and curiosity and trust in humanity, I can learn at a fast pace, integrate into new environments and form relationships by having and inspiring trust in others.
I am very lucky to have created lasting relationships, partnerships and support networks in many of the locations and roles I had the fortune to be in. I think these are one of the most important elements in a career alongside skills and knowledge. Moreover, my whole interest in tech started with my mom inspiring me when I was little, as she was a computer operator in Romania in the 90s, when computers were a rare sight. She has been my inspiration ever since! I still try to call her every day, even if it is to just say hi. She taught me how important being kind and being curious to learn is and I keep that with me to this day.
What do you love about working technology: I love the variety of domains and career paths you can have working in technology, you don't have to only be a software engineer to work in tech, we need data wizards, designers and user researchers, tech writers, product managers, and so much more to build products people love to use.
Where do you want to go next: I moved to Scotland in the summer of 2020, I am hoping location wise I will not have to move anywhere else anytime soon, so far I am really happy and excited about my decision. Career wise, I have been extremely lucky to find a role that both challenges and compliments my skills in Public Cloud and I love delighting our engineers and customers and have great plans on how to offer them an even better experience!
In terms of personal growth, in 2021 I completed my MSc studies as part of my Computer Science degree at the University of Bath, after more than 2 years studying part-time alongside my full-time role. I am still really hoping for a physical graduation ceremony so I can have my family come celebrate with me! Other than that I plan to do some more public speaking, hopefully at re:Invent 2022 and get my AWS cloud certifications and keep having fun!