The campaign theme for this year’s International Women's Day is ‘inspire inclusion’: ‘When we inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion, we forge a better world.’ It’s a sentiment that truly resonates with us here at PXP Financial.

This International Women’s Day, we want to share the experiences of four inspirational women who are paving the way for other talented women in tech. But first, some numbers:

  • Just 26% of the tech workforce are women.
  • The percentage of women in all tech-related careers has actually decreased over the last two years.
  • Representation of women in big tech fell by 1% between 2020 and 2022.

At PXP Financial, we are passionate about ensuring everyone has the same opportunities to succeed, and are proud to count some very talented women among our engineers:

  • Barbara Selista, Software Test Engineer
  • Mila Karaleeva, QA Engineer
  • Svetlana Pavlovska, Software Engineer
  • Ilina Tsoneva, Software Engineer


Q1: What was the spark that ignited your passion for technology?

Barbara: My tech interests started very early, I was maybe 14 or so. As a teenager I got really interested in computers; for me it was fascinating that you enter “some values on some black screen” and the computer could give you a very fast response.

Mila: The spark that ignited my passion for technology traces back to my earliest days, when I was just a curious kid. This passion led me to pursue a degree in computer engineering, where I delved deep into the intricacies of software development, hardware design, and everything in between. The more I learned, the more I realized the vast potential of technology to transform our world and enhance our lives. During my studies, I discovered the field of Quality Assurance (QA), where I found the perfect blend of my technical skills and my meticulous attention to detail.

Svetlana: My father was a mechanical engineer, so since I was a little girl I’ve looked at things from an engineering perspective. I remember when he bought our first family computer - we were always making schedules for who’s turn is to investigate and experiment!

Ilina: Technology has had a hold on me for as long as I can remember. However, the defining moment occurred post-university when I found myself immersed in a field seemingly distant from technology. Interestingly, this field was gradually embracing technology to streamline tasks that were done manually. I could see what kind of impact this had not only on a business-scale, but also in liberating people, freeing them from lots of tedious work.


Q2: What do you love most about working in technology, and what motivates you to continue in this field?

Barbara: It never stands still, so it never gets boring! Thanks to technology, things that used to take days are now done sometimes within minutes - every day is like a surprise where you never know what will happen.

Mila: What I love most is the endless opportunity for collaboration and knowledge exchange. As a naturally sociable person, I thrive in environments where I can engage with colleagues and share insights. In the tech industry, every project presents a unique set of challenges that require innovative solutions. What motivates me to continue in this field is the thrill of problem-solving and the satisfaction of seeing our collective efforts translated into tangible results.

Svetlana: Technology gives you the power to provider solutions to real life problems. This is a dynamic field where creativity and problem-solving skills are highly valued, and I find great satisfaction in being able to tackle complex challenges and see my solutions come to life.

Ilina: In contrast to many other fields, technology stands out as a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape. The remarkable progress witnessed over the last few decades has transformed it into a vast library, teeming with diverse and fascinating "books" waiting to be explored.


Q3: What kinds of obstacles have you encountered on your journey, and how have you turned these challenges into stepping stones?

Mila: I've encountered various obstacles that have tested my resolve and pushed me to grow. One recurring challenge has been the complexity of projects and the inevitable setbacks that come with them. However, I've learned to embrace these obstacles as opportunities for learning and development. My natural instincts as a problem solver have guided me through these challenges. Instead of becoming discouraged by setbacks, I approach them with a positive mindset, viewing them as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks. This mindset shift has allowed me to extract valuable lessons from each experience. Furthermore, as a naturally sociable person, I've encountered challenges in communication and collaboration within diverse teams. I've leveraged my interpersonal skills to bridge gaps, foster open dialogue, and cultivate a collaborative environment where everyone's strengths are valued.

Ilina: Honestly, there hasn't been a singular, standout hardship I can point to as a significant obstacle on my journey. However, it's not because challenges haven't arisen. Rather, my approach involves viewing difficulties as milestones or the ultimate challenge before ascending to the next level. I see them as aspects requiring my action, not just my attention.



Q4: How have the technological milestones/projects you've been part of reshaped the landscape of the industry or had positive impact on consumers?

Mila: By prioritizing usability, security, and inclusivity, we've harnessed the transformative power of technology to make life easier and more enriching for all, so I’m proud to say that each project I’ve been involved in has done these things. One notable project was the development of a data-driven decision-making platform. By leveraging advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms, we enabled the company to analyze vast amounts of customer data in real-time, gaining valuable insights into consumer behavior and market trends. This not only enhanced their operational efficiency but also empowered them to make informed decisions that resonated with their target audience.

Barbara: Two projects that stand out are: our card issuing solution and our work to enable a watch to make payments. This is quite common now but at the time hadn’t been seen before - having a small chip in your watch and being able to use NFC to perform payments was so impressive! Similarly, being able to receive SMS notifications for payments. Today this is standard, but after working for several months on the SMS notifications and finally receiving a message on my phone was one of my nicest memories.

Ilina: I believe every project holds significance, even when its impact extends to just one individual. Throughout my journey, I've been fortunate to contribute to projects within the healthcare and media intelligence industries, each playing a crucial role. The first, centered on healthcare, simplified the lives of patients, while my involvement in media intelligence projects has brought invaluable insights to top executives at renowned companies.


Q5: If you could take a tech time machine back to the start of your career, what advice would you give yourself?

Mila: Looking back, I realize that every obstacle, setback, and even failure I encountered played a crucial role in shaping me into the professional I am today. Yet, in those early days, it was easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged by the uncertainties of the tech world. I would remind my younger self to be brave - to embrace challenges head-on and view them as opportunities for growth and learning. I would encourage myself to step out of my comfort zone and tackle each challenge with confidence and resilience.

Svetlana: I would say myself to be more active listener.

Ilina: I would share Warren Buffett’s words of wisdom: The best investment you can make is in yourself.

Barbara: Do not worry so much!

Q6: What 'hidden superpower' has helped you navigate the tech world?

Barbara: Patience, patience, patience - and being stubborn enough to keep going until a problem is solved.

Mila: I agree, my superpower isn't some extraordinary ability or innate talent - it's simply my unwavering determination and refusal to give up. It's what has enabled me to weather the storms of uncertainty, overcome hurdles, and emerge stronger on the other side. As long as I continue to persevere, there's no challenge too daunting, no obstacle too insurmountable.

Svetlana: I would say it would be my problem-solving skills. I think software engineers tend to see problems from different angles and think outside the box.

Ilina: My ability to always find or create a way to achieve my goal has always been my greatest strength. It’s a skill that’s proven quite useful in the tech world, considering we mostly aim to solve problems.


Q7: Looking into a crystal ball, what future technology do you see becoming an integral part of our lives?

Mila: I envision a future where augmented reality (AR) becomes an integral part of our daily lives, and a world where digital information seamlessly blends with the physical environment, enhancing our interactions and experiences in profound ways.

Svetlana: AI, AR, Virtual Reality (VR), Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering could become integral parts of our lives. While these future technologies hold immense promise, it's important to approach their development and adoption thoughtfully, considering ethical implications, societal impacts, and the need for equitable access. By harnessing the power of technology responsibly and collaboratively, we can create a future that is not only technologically advanced, but inclusive, sustainable, and enriching for all.

Ilina: Undoubtedly that would be AI. Noteworthy tools such as OpenAI's ChatGPT, Microsoft's Copilot, Meta's LlaMa, and Google's Bard have been gaining increasing popularity. These AI advancements have proven exceptionally handy in assisting with and facilitating an infinite number of tasks, ranging from the routine to the complex. I anticipate that trend will continue.

Barbara: Artificial intelligence, definitely, and self-driving cars!


Q8: Who have been your female role models, and how have they shaped your journey?

Mila: My female role models have primarily been my professors and mentors throughout my journey in the tech industry. I also find inspiration in my colleagues. Every day, I witness their unwavering commitment, resilience, and determination as they pursue their dreams and contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of technology. These remarkable women have not only excelled in their respective fields, but have been instrumental in shaping my career. I have seen proof that gender is no barrier to success in technology.

Svetlana: Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo, is one of the female role models who has left a significant impact on the tech industry and inspired many, including myself. One of the aspects of Mayer's leadership I admire is her dedication to innovation and product excellence. Her analytical approach to problem-solving and her commitment to putting the needs of users first have taught me valuable lessons about the importance of empathy and usability in the development of technology products.


Q9: If you could have a mentorship session with any tech leader, who would it be?

Mila: I would choose Ada Lovelace, the visionary mathematician and writer widely regarded as the world's first computer programmer. As a pioneer in the field of computing, her insights and foresight have had a profound impact on the trajectory of technology. I’d love to ask what inspired her to envision the potential of computers beyond mere calculation, and how she overcame the societal constraints of her time.

Ilina: It would be interesting to meet Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, a free-for-all education platform, which also employs AI for that purpose. While he may not have the same household recognition as that likes of Elon Musk or Bill Gates, his impactful use of technology for the betterment of millions around the world truly stands out. His approach encapsulates the essence of what we should all aspire to achieve in the tech industry, namely create a positive impact on a global scale.



Q10: How can tech industry become more inclusive of women?

Barbara: Involve already girls with IT very early. Get into schools and present the fancy, funny stuff that appeals to kids.

Mila: Encourage more women to pursue leadership roles within tech companies by implementing mentorship programs, leadership development initiatives, and sponsorship opportunities. Having diverse leadership teams not only fosters innovation but also serves as a visible representation of gender diversity within the organization. Also, create supportive and inclusive work environments that prioritize equal opportunities, pay equity, and career advancement for women, and offer flexible work arrangements, parental leave policies, and professional development opportunities to support women throughout their tech careers.

Ilina: The tech industry has shown promising signs of narrowing the gender gap in recent years, which is undoubtedly positive news. However, a fundamental aspect of fostering inclusion begins with how women perceive themselves. It is paramount for every woman to manifest confidence in her abilities, ensuring that self-doubt never becomes a barrier on her path to success. A more inclusive tech industry involves not only addressing systemic issues, but empowering women to believe in their own capabilities.


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