EPISODE 6: Diversity & Inclusion Q&A with Angela Timofte
EPISODE 6: This month I had the pleasure of speaking with Nordic Women in Tech Awards 2020 Developer of the year and Women in Tech advocate of the year nominee , Angela Timofte.
We explore Angela’s fantastic career journey to date from Developer -> Tech Lead -> Data Platform Manager, the importance of prioritising your work, having confidence in your abilities and fighting the imposter syndrome.
Check out our full video interview here: Diversity & Inclusion Q&A with Angela Timofte
Angela, it’s so great to have you onboard our Diversity and Inclusion Q&A initiative. Thank you for your time. We can’t wait to hear your story!
Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day as a Data Platform Manager looks like?
“First of all, thank you for having me here, it really is a pleasure. I love this initiative that you have, when I see your posts on LinkedIn, I’m always very proud and happy to see it, so good job!
So, my name is Angela, I’m originally from Romania and I work at Trustpilot in their Copenhagen office. I’ve been in the company for around 5 and a half years.
I recently moved into my new job title ‘Data Platform Manager’, so right now I’m just settling in and figuring out what this role means as it’s kind of new for me so my day at work is sure to change in the future.
I’m responsible for two teams, I’m also making sure that we are using data correctly and we are making it available for everyone inside the company as well as outside the company.
As nowadays, everyone wants to say that data comes first and they use data, but then when you start to dig into how they use data, you understand that things aren’t necessarily right.
I’m responsible for planning and making sure that we are delivering the project we have and that we are focusing on the right things by prioritising. It is a long list but fun and exciting.”
So, you are keeping yourself busy!
“Yes, I love being busy, especially since I really enjoy what I’m doing. I don’t see it as being busy, it’s more exciting for me like yay, I have something else to do.”
That’s great! I know you’re quite new in your position, but what do you enjoy the most?
“I love that I’m able to do a little bit of everything.
In my team, we are sharing data in a way that everyone can understand. I really like it when people are like, “Oh, wow, we have this?!”
And we’re like, “yes, we had this for a long time, but it wasn’t available in the way that everyone could access it.” So, I love making the data accessible correctly to everyone.”
Amazing! You have been at Trustpilot for 5 years, what do you enjoy the most about the business?
“There are multiple reasons why I have stayed in the company for so long. Firstly, the amazing people that I work with are great.
When I go to work, it’s not like uhh another day of work. It’s more like, I’ll go and build something nice and be surrounded by amazing people.
During these five years, Trustpilot has grown a lot, meaning I have had the opportunity to grow with the company and be a part of the journey which has been an incredible journey so far.
I’ve felt bored because there is always something new we’re building or developing something in a different way so in a way, every year, it feels like I’m in a new company.
Trustpilot is growing and I get to grow with it. I think that’s one of the key reasons I have stayed so long!
Also, I genuinely love our platform and the fact we are all about trust and trying to help people.”
It’s nice when your work can make a positive impact on society! Pleased to hear that you’ve had an exciting journey at Trustpilot, from starting as just a Developer, going into Tech Lead and then transitioning into Management.
How would you define your technical expertise?
“Programming wise my knowledge is broad. I started my career as a .NET Developer, I was doing a lot of C# and then I got more into data, so I started to look at the different types of databases that we had — We moved from an SQL database to MongoDB and then from that to an AWS Database.
I previously worked with F#. We had some projects in F# and then everyone that knew F# left the company and I was like, ok, I’ll take over the project, which was an exciting new challenge!
Now, since I’m moving more into data, I’m learning Python, we are using BigQuery a lot so I also get to work on GCP.
I’m constantly learning and that’s what I love because I can mention a lot of programming languages that I’ve had the pleasure of learning over the years. In general, when I have a new project, I try to utilize the best tool for solving the problem that I have at hand.”
Since you have moved into management, are you still coding?
“Even if my employment contract states otherwise, I still do coding because I enjoy it so much! Before going into management, I wanted to make sure that I would continue to be very close to coding and being hands-on, with developing things.
As it stands, the coding is now less than I used to do but I don’t just want to talk about the code. I want to get my hands dirty!
The amount I code now depends on the days. I’d like to say 50/50 but sometimes I have more meetings and I need to prioritise planning for the team and making sure that everyone else has something to do.”
It’s great you still have the opportunity to code, especially hearing how passionate you are about it!
How was your journey to becoming a manager? Spending all of your time being 100% hands-on and then transitioning into more meetings and the people management side of things.
“Before becoming a Manager, I was a Tech Lead and responsibility was to create a new team from scratch. I was involved in hiring new people, making sure that we have the right culture in the team etc and that’s how I started to take more responsibilities in the Management/people side. I didn’t necessarily have all the people around me to help me with different tasks. For example, we didn’t have a Product Manager so I also took on more of those responsibilities to make sure the team was successful.
Once we had an established team, more developers would ask me for 1:1’s and feedback discussions. These chats weren’t necessarily part of my initial responsibility as a Tech Lead but I embraced them. So, my role as a Tech Lead evolved quite a bit, I learnt a lot which gave me insights into what people management would be like. The experience certainly, helped me get to this next chapter.”
It sounds like management for you was a real natural transition. What would you say has been the biggest challenge with the change in responsibilities?
“Yes, it was a slow but very natural transition.
A challenge for me was that in the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I’d be good with the people management and soft skills as I have always focused on just being a good developer, developing myself, focusing on writing the best code and so on.
By slowly taking on responsibilities, I noticed that I really enjoy mentoring and helping others to write better code. It’s very rewarding and fulfilling for me, so it was nice to have the chance to just grow into that and not just jump in right away.”
It’s fantastic to see where you are at now. Speaking to other women in tech, they go through similar scenarios in terms of confidence and self-belief. How did you overcome that and what would be your advice to people who are having these feelings?
“I think a lot of people and I would say, especially women, have this fear of the imposter syndrome. Something that has helped me is the mindset of ‘just try it!’ I still think this way today because even now I have a lot of things that I’m not sure of.
Also, believe that others don’t necessarily know more than you! Sometimes, there is the fear that “oh, I’m the stupid person in the room and everyone else knows more than I do” this is not necessarily the case and if it is the case, then take it that you are just learning, it’s an experience, learn from your mistakes and move on.
Don’t overthink it and be confident in what you do!”
Thanks for sharing some great advice! Looking back now, what are three things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
“At the beginning of my career, I definitely had that kind of imposter syndrome where you think everyone is better than you. I wish I knew, to have confidence in my ability, that I do know things, to not be afraid of speaking up, to try new things and adapt to new challenges.”
Great! Earlier we spoke about the importance of personal development. How are furthering your career right now?
“I’m always looking at the new tools from AWS and keeping up to date with what they are doing because they are constantly developing new, cool toys for us to play with. I’m part of AWS Community Builders which is a new programme they have created. There you can find different resources, mentorship and a lot of people that are amazing and very nice.
I’m also trying to read a lot, especially on personal development topics. I would also like to get some certificates in AWS, since I’m working so much with their technology.
We are now using Salesforce in my team which is new for me, so I am trying to learn this and was also considering getting some certificates”
What have been some game-changing books, talks, podcasts that have helped you along the way in your career?
“As I was saying I really like personal development books and books that teach you how to be more productive. One book that I love is ‘The Power of Habit.’ another that I am reading again (a year later) is ‘Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable’ — I really love this book and what they teach: that if you want to be the best in your field, you need to put the hard work in to get there. It’s not luck, it’s not only talent, it’s hard work.
I can recommend a great blog with inspiring articles by Jeremy Daly called Off-by-none.”
Thank you for sharing! Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do?
“Honestly, yes! From very early on, I started thinking about being in the tech industry. I have programming since ninth grade and went to an IT High School.
I remember playing games as a kid, I was always impressed thinking, how did they do this? How did they develop this? How is it possible to create these sorts of things?”
Was there anyone in particular who inspired you to get involved in the technology space?
“My first role model was my big brother, who is also in the tech industry. He is nine years older than me so I was always looking at the things he was doing whilst at college. I always was very impressed with all the things my brother developed.
When we first had a computer, I remember being super impressed by Paint. My brother would draw different things on Paint and I would think to myself “wow, this is amazing, this is the best thing ever, I want to do this!”
Growing up I didn’t really have any women role models because I honestly didn’t know about any women in this field. Because of this, I found it quite difficult to see myself in the industry. Of course, I was reading about Bill Gates doing great things, but I couldn’t necessarily relate to that.
Now, It’s definitely changing. We are seeing more and more women being promoted which is great!
Someone who has inspired me a lot is a previous colleague from Microsoft, Horina. She inspired me by how much she worked to get to where she is now. Whilst at Microsoft, I was always looking up to her to see how confident she was in a meeting or how she would keep her opinion when others were trying to put her down. I really admire that about her.”
It’s so important, that we continue to establish role models, particularly for the younger generation. What would be your advice to anyone who feels alone in the industry or is lacking women role models?
“If you feel alone, I recommend joining communities and groups for example Women in Tech in Copenhagen. This is a fantastic group that promotes women in the industry, the whole idea is to help one another.
Also, if you’re new in the industry and you see other women in your company try to reach out to them because I’m sure they will be more than happy to help and guide you.
I’m more than happy all the time to try to help and guide other women because I’ve experienced some tricky situations and I would not like others to go through some of those things.
If you are reading this and you feel alone, you can reach out to me as well!”
Community, collaboration and encouragement is key!
I wanted to say a huge congratulations for being nominated for Developer of the Year and Women in Tech Advocate of the year at the Nordic Women in Tech Awards for 2020. What factors do you feel contributed to you being nominated for both of these?
“I am not sure exactly, I have to extend a huge thank you to whoever nominated me, it is an amazing feeling! If I go back a few years, I would have never thought about myself in this position of being nominated for something.
I think what impacted me being nominated was the fact that I’ve really tried to just go out there, share my knowledge with the community by doing more public appearances at conferences, presenting at them.
Maybe it’s because I’m not just stuck in my own cubicle and am promoting other women, being part of mentorship programs.”
It’s an incredible achievement and very well deserved from all of your hard work! I know you are passionate about public speaking, what would be your tips for overcoming the initial nerves of public speaking in front of an audience?
“Something that helps me a lot is embracing the mindset that whatever I’m going to present, I know a lot about the topic because I’m working with it. Whatever I’m saying, I know it’s correct so why have any nerves?
Take the approach “I’m just presenting something that I know to a group of people.”
When you go on stage, you’re usually nervous to not say the wrong thing. But, when it’s a subject you know and are passionate about, there is no wrong thing. Even if you say something wrong, it’s not the end of the world, you can correct it later. Or just have another presentation where you say, “oh, I said something wrong in my last presentation but this is what I have learnt.”
With my presentations, I always try to think that if I have helped one person learn something new then I did my job and it was a great presentation. Remember, you don’t have to please everyone in the room!”
Thanks for sharing some great advice! As a woman in tech, what is your advice for achieving a healthy work/life balance?
“It’s all about priorities! Don’t try to do everything at the same time because then you will not finish anything, and you will not be pleased with yourself.
I’m very career focused but that doesn’t mean I don’t take time off. You should always allow yourself time off to relax. Do things outside of work, then you’ll be able to focus even more on what’s important to you.
From a management perspective, learn how to delegate and create a team around you that you trust. At home when it comes to chores, also, delegate.”
Prioritising is key. To round off, we would love to know a fun fact about yourself and any hobbies that you enjoy.
“I love the outdoors, going on hikes and discovering new places.
My fun fact — When I was a kid, I used to be a folk music singer. Also, for a very short period, I wanted to be an actress… But then programming came into my life and I changed it all.”
Maybe you can integrate some singing in your next presentation! Thank you so much for sharing Angela. It’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you and hearing your story.
Tune in next week where we explore all things diversity and inclusion with Angela!
Are you a woman in the technology field too? How has your experience been similar or different? Do you have any questions for women in the technology industry? Would you like to get involved in this initiative? We would love to hear from you, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
By Ellie King - Principal Talent Partner - Data / AI - Nordics