Diversity in Engineering – a chat with Olga Kuznetsova
There’s been a significant drive in the past 10 years or more, to encourage more women into engineering. Part of that drive is showing potential engineering students that it’s a supportive and rewarding career path, and that’s why we’re talking to our Head of Quality and Assurance, Olga Kuznetsova, in this blog. We asked Olga to tell us about her background, what inspired her decision to follow a career in engineering, and what she thinks about diversity in the engineering landscape.
“When I was a kid, I was going to be a musician and spent most of the time playing the cello. But by the age of 14, I discovered that maths and computer science were much more interesting for me. So, I changed the direction of my education, enrolled and graduated from MATI — the State Technological University.
“After university, I worked for a couple of years as a school teacher and one day, while describing to the students the life cycle of software products, I decided that I really wanted to be part of that process. Teaching had been rewarding, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. So, I took a junior role in the software department at a bank and spent a couple of years there before joining SmartLabs to focus on quality and assurance testing.
When Olga joined SmartLabs, she took part in training to get her up to speed with all the technology that the company deals with.
She comments: “This year, I’m going to celebrate my 10th anniversary at SmartLabs and I absolutely love my job. What I like about working here the most is that we are flexible in the way we approach our work, and we are encouraged to look for new ways of doing things. We constantly evolve, implementing new ideas and cutting-edge technologies. Every day there is something new to learn in terms of professional growth and experience.”
Having originally joined SmartLabs as a quality assurance engineer, Olga is now Head of Q&A, leading a group of nine engineers. “It has been a great opportunity to move into planning and managing all the testing we have to do, working both with the Q&A team and the development team to make sure our software is really efficient and useful. We have excellent collaboration between the two teams, which means we get things done faster and the software is better as a result.”
SmartLabs’ customers in the IPTV/OTT world want to give their viewers the best viewing experience. Anything that deters from this can minimise the user experience and can encourage customer churn. Conducting comprehensive product testing efficiently is one of the ways we can spot the glitches that can occur so we take it very seriously. As well as ongoing checking for existing solutions in line with hardware and software upgrades and creating fixes as required, we also use QA as a preventative measure when developing new products and solutions for our global IPTV/OTT customer base.
And has Olga seen anything in her career that confirms engineering’s traditional reputation for being male dominated?
“In my team we are virtually 50-50 split between men and women. It’s genuinely not something I have seen in my career, although I know that it may exist in other sectors. When I am hiring people for my team, the most important thing is whether they can do the job. As I see it, if you're good at what you do, it doesn't matter what your gender is. Equality and diversity have always been embedded into SmartLabs’ culture. I have never met any gender bias here. Teams and departments across the company are led by women, and I think SmartLabs is a great place to feel empowered and achieve your goals as a professional.”
Olga feels that the responsibility for improving diversity lies with industry leaders. They should be promoting diversity and equality at every level, and women who are working in technology companies should support each other across the professional community, sharing experience and ideas for improving diversity across all sectors.
“My advice for women getting into engineering and technology would be ‘always concentrate on getting things done the best way you can’,” says Olga. Never stop learning and always try thinking outside the box. We should have open discussions, promote transparency and engagement of female leaders in the process of understanding the main pain points for customers and how we can fix them.”
We need smart, motivated and creative engineers across all sectors and in all disciplines, so it’s important that we encourage everyone with an interest in engineering to see it as a welcoming and positive career path that brings job satisfaction and the chance to change things for the better.
If you are interested in finding out more about joining our team, we’d love to hear from you. We are expanding globally and are always looking for technically talented people who share our passion for all things IPTV and OTT. Get in touch at email@example.com
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