Larisa Bugnar is a lead software engineer and resource manager for a team of nine at EPAM.
A 360 degrees Perspective on Digital Innovation and a Successful IT Career
She studied computer science at Politehnica University in Bucharest and is a full-time mother and developer who always enjoys a challenge. When given the opportunity to speak about innovation and technology for gender equity she was more than pleased to share her perspective.
When did you become aware of gender equity issues and how did you experiment with IT?
I became aware of gender equity issues as a young adult when I began studying computer science at the Politehnica University in Bucharest. I was about 19 years old when my Algebra teacher expressed her satisfaction when she noticed there were nine girls out of 24 students in her class. Normally, it was much lower, with one girl out of 24 students. That was a huge development at the time.
How do you see education change in the digital age to achieve gender equity and empowerment of all women and girls?
During my school years, I never felt that girls were different, in a demeaning way. Our teachers encouraged and challenged us irrespective of our gender. Luckily, I had access to formal and informal learning and didn’t feel the prejudice of gender or race. Living in a digital era and growing along with it gave me opportunities to express myself and explore.
I’ve always participated in math competitions and never considered this a subject of interest only for males. My math and computer science teachers supported me the same way as the rest of the class. I never felt different in an unfavorable way, and this helped me face challenges better. I learned that you could make your dreams come true, the sky is the limit, and you must work for it.
How do you express yourself as a woman in tech? What makes a difference in a career in IT?
Looking back on my career I am satisfied with how I expressed myself. Whether it is about an idea or a strong opinion, I consider logical arguments the most important part of a discussion. Creating a safe place for people to share their thoughts is equally important at the workplace and in society.
We are definitely different in gender; however, we can complement each other’s traits with our differences. According to scientificamerican.com ‘gaps in intellectual performance, empathy and even most types of aggression are generally much narrower than the disparity in adult height, in which the average man is taller than 98 percent of women.’ This brings me to the conclusion that we are not as different as initially thought.
We should focus on bringing our distinctive touch into tech to make our lives easier. Those who are more vocal can help foster communication, while others can actively engage in solving issues. This is not etched in stone because roles can change. Our focus should remain on the outcome and solution, rather than biases.
How do you see career and entrepreneurship opportunities for women nowadays?
I am constantly engaged in supporting my colleagues and peers at EPAM Romania.
I had opportunities that challenged and helped me grow throughout my career. It is not an easy road. However, I believe I have a safe and positive environment to engage with my own creative and cultural practices. Sometimes I feel pressure, but it is related to being authentic, performing in my area of expertise, and maybe innovating from time to time.
What advice would you give someone looking to start a career in tech?
Opportunities in tech are for all of us despite our differences. And don’t forget ‘the race is long, and, in the end, it is only with yourself’ - Baz Luhrmann
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