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The Women in IT Awards are dedicated to recognising the outstanding contributions by women in the IT industry. Maria Ghibu, our Head of Operations, is one such woman and has been a huge part in the successes of Massive Analytic since she joined in April 2015. Having been nominated for the Women in IT Awards 2016 we sat down to talk about what got her interested in the IT, her proudest achievements and what advice she could give to aspiring female IT professionals.
What is your background, how did you get here?
Post-graduation, I wanted to work with as many companies as possible, so I chose to work in Big4 doing audit and then I moved to management consulting. I had more than 10 years of experience in audit and management consulting before doing my INSEAD MBA in 2014.
Throughout my career, I wanted to keep learning things that I found interesting. I had already started looking into tech pre-MBA, but it was during my time at INSEAD that I began to believe this could indeed be a successful professional move. My core belief is that technology and innovation are essential for sustainable economic development and a better quality of life. This mind-set is the thing that pushes me to always look into areas that can have high impact for the greatest number of people.
I have been working with MA since April 2015, learning the nuts and bolts of how to run a start-up. I've been a part of all that was happening in the company, operations, product, priorities/strategy and business development. This is a very fast paced environment the start-up juggles several things at the same time, from sales and delivery, to investment and funding, and going through all the essential operations where one needs to make sure that the right team is in place to deliver on the technology's promise. It is incredibly exciting to be part of a start-up that is transitioning to being a scale up as we speak.
What do you like about working in IT and what got you interested?
I guess that I am part of a generation focused on making an impact. As I said before, my curiosity into a space that I perceive as instrumental in driving society forward was the one thing that drove me to look more into technology start-ups.
And if you think about it, the big data challenge is pervasive, and MA comes up with Oscar, a solution that is scalable, incredibly clever and extremely powerful for the average business user. All decision makers these days are turning to data scientists for insights, and Oscar provides automated data analysis and machine learning algorithms to tackle the big data challenge. This is a very interesting space to be in at the moment.
I have not had a dull moment since I joined MA in April last year. Transitioning from a corporate environment to a start-up essentially means that one needs to be extremely adaptable, always on the move. I guess that the pace is something I quite enjoy.
Looking back, I have to say that in my professional life in the corporate world the main question was am I doing things the right way? In the start-up environment, the essential question becomes am I doing the right thing? The runways are short, nothing can be taken for granted, so there is a constant need to question yourself and your team.
What’s it like being a woman in IT?
This is the question, isn't it? (laughs) For the most part, I don't think I notice this at all. I have been a woman in professional services where there were less women in general, however the situation in tech start-ups is at a different level. It isn't a question of noticing the fact I'm a woman when I have working meetings, where things are very matter of fact. I mostly feel lonely during networking events, where I am usually one of 3-5 women in a group of 30-40 men. Usually we are less than 10% of the room.
What advice would you give women looking to get into IT?
I guess that IT is a very broad space, and women can be engineers or coders as well as business professionals like myself. My personal experience is mostly relevant for women with similar professional journeys. In my case, I always had a fear of not having enough expertise to truly add value to a tech start-up, given that I am not a coder or an engineer. The biggest learning point in 2015 was that I indeed add value, my past professional experience is extremely relevant and this makes me very successful in my current field.
Companies need people with varied backgrounds and different profiles. You will add value. A big learning point at INSEAD was that the more the team differs the better, I have experienced this first hand. While we still have a hard time recruiting women in our start-up (they simply aren't there applying for the jobs), I do believe that MA has a very diverse team and that helps us deliver a better product.
What are you most proud of?
This is an easy one. Professionally, I am most proud of successfully transitioning into new and challenging roles. Auditor to management consultant was one such transition. The transition from consultant to successful tech start-up professional is another. I believe that the two basic ingredients for this are curiosity and the drive to make the transition successful. The learning curve is steep at first, and I think that is what makes it so rewarding.
I believe that the first three months are the accommodation stage and anyone should give themselves at least 6-8 months to figure things out and decide whether a new role is for them or not. It's all about the challenges that make us happy to wake up and go to work everyday. If it's the right job for you, then it really won't feel like work.