What better way to start March – widely regarded as the “women’s month” due to International Women’s Day – than with another #WeAreModex interview? This time we spoke with our colleague Gabriela Constantin – Engines Developer at Modex – about her career, why she chose to work at Modex and how much she has evolved, personally and professionally, since working here.
Gabriela first learned informatics during high-school. She was drawn by this subject, so she decided to continue to study more at the Faculty of Cybernetics, Statistics and Informatics at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies (ASE). “Now, I’m doing an ITC Security Master at the same university and I’m preparing the thesis to complete my studies”, adds Gabriela.
I never get bored of coding!
We were curious to find out when and why our colleague decided to become a developer and how did that happen, so we’ve asked her. “I always thought that I chose to become a developer during high school, but the truth is that the decision was made after two years of University, when we started studying modern programming languages. ASE gave me the opportunity to go through economic disciplines as well, but I felt that only programming seemed like a challenge to me. I’m a person who gets bored easily, but when it comes to coding, it rarely happens!”
How did Gabriela arrive at Modex, in 2018? “After my second year of studies, during the summer holiday, one of my colleagues, who is one of my best friends, asked me if I wanted an internship and told me about Modex. I said: yes! Then I came for an interview with Alin Iftemi, one of Modex’s three co-founders. I told Alin that I wanted to learn Java and blockchain and he gave me the opportunity to do so. After I finished this internship and my studies (people always encouraged me to learn as much as I can), I started to work here, full-time.”
What does an Engines Developer do?
Gabriela loves her job and this is obvious from the first minutes you see her at work. Which are her main tasks? “An engines developer builds internal applications in order to test Blockchain Database (BCDB) functionalities in a proper way. For instance, we’ve recently started an API testing framework for BCDB. I was involved in building the architecture of this application focusing on making it abstract enough to be easily used by the entire team when needed. Another important feature that challenged me was to extend one of our functionalities to facilitate the communication between our core and GUI application based on specific events.”
With passion in her eyes, Gabriela adds a few more details about her job: “On the other hand, I would mention the support tasks for our clients. This is one of my favourite parts because I can see how clients understand our product, which are the problems and look for solutions to improve the product and the way we present our features in order to be clear enough for them to learn as fast as possible.”
When the working environment feels like a second family
Having been with the company for almost 3 years, Gabriela tells us how she feels about the working environment at Modex. “For me, Modex is like my second family. Since I started working here, I have evolved professionally, but also personally in so many ways. People are extremely friendly, not judgemental, they don’t have misconceptions or anything like that. We always find a moment to laugh and enjoy spending time together. When you need that, you always find a person to give you a piece of advice or a helping hand. Modex is the place where you are encouraged to share your opinions freely and you won’t feel ignored. If your idea is not the most efficient one, you will be politely told why it’s not suitable for the problem, but you will never be blamed for trying. It might seem odd to many, but when I grew up I was taught to expect the worst in the people I work with. However, working at Modex changed my perspective on people!”
Evolving, both professionally and on the personal level
Gabriela says that Modex helped her evolve on various levels, in ways in which she never imagined. “When I started the job at Modex, I was very lucky to be trained by Alin Iftemi and Cornel Zgardan, Head of Development, who helped me take my first steps into web technology because I had no experience in this field back then. Alin and Cornel inspired me to follow my dream in the tech industry due to their passion for technology and their way to present it to me. Later, Cornel became my mentor and he spent a lot of time with me in order to teach me how to think like a programmer, how to get past my fears of jumping from a programming language to another, how to organize my work and make it as clean as possible and search for the answers I needed. Moreover, he encouraged me to give a presentation of the project I was working on during the training program to overcome the fear of public speaking.”
Getting out of the comfort zone
“After my training was finished, I met a new team led by Dragos Rautu, who helped me get out of my comfort zone and challenged me with a blockchain based application, letting me go through almost all the production steps in order to have an overview of the product we are building. This is how I got the opportunity to test the application, to write documentation, to fix bugs both on the back-end and front-end, to build new features and applications from the beginning in different languages. For all these things I received support from Loredana Bourceanu and Bogdan Dobanda, people who helped me understand the product”, adds Gabriela.
“Lately, I had a lot of discussions with Bogdan about clean architecture and coding and it makes me happy to share ideas and find solutions together. Outside the working hours, we have psychological discussions trying to understand the person behind the colleague. These are healthy discussions which build up friendships, not only work relationships. Sometimes I feel like we can talk about anything. All the members of the team are there when you need help or a piece of advice and that is very reassuring!”
Colleagues, but also best friends
Besides her evolution as a professional, Gabriela has also evolved on the personal level since arriving at Modex. “Regarding the personal matters, my colleagues helped me overcome some fears I had. I learned how it feels to be part of the group, even if I was almost 15 – 20 years younger then most of the people in the company back then; how to combine the hard work with moments of calm and having fun. We used to go clubbing together before the pandemic started and to spend our Wednesday evenings at Modex Talks, an interesting event hosted by the company focused on subjects we are all passionate about: blockchain, technology, banking and so on.”
“After all this time spent together, I now have two best friends who happen to be my colleagues as well. The team I work in comprises two other girls, but at the end of the day, we are all friends and it helps us to be more productive. Our Christmas parties are very special. We used to have a themed one each year. In 2019 the theme was “Comic-Con” and the result was just right. We also spent a day at Titi Aur Driving Academy, where we simulated accidents and tried powerful cars in a safe environment. We’ve learned the importance of prevention and the consequences of bad conduct while driving. The combination of all of these events make me feel at home and I can’t wait to come back to the office, among the people who helped me evolve”, concludes Gabriela.
What’s on the horizon for blockchain developers?
Will the demand for developers continue to grow in the near future? Gabriela shares her point of view: “Yes, as far as I know the market already demands more than our universities manage to offer and I think that this discrepancy will continue to grow. The answer is simple. Lots of activities have moved online during the pandemic context. Even if we come back to our “old” lives, I think that we will keep some shopping habits that we are building now. Online activity will demand more and more developers to build it on the fly and this is only one of the reasons, but there are more.”
Advice for those who want to become developers
What skills does someone passionate about tech needs in order to become a developer? “As we all know, passion without hard work is not enough, but vice versa may not be as smooth as expected. I think that the most important skill a developer should have is to be passionate about this industry so that all problems turn into challenges. Moreover, I strongly believe that a developer should also have research skills, be curious about the new tools available on the market so that he/she can make work easier and faster. Last, but not least, I consider that a developer should be organised in order to provide clean code; “spaghetti code” is a thing of the past. In this regard, there’s a quote from Robert C. Martin which I like: “Indeed, the ratio of time spent reading versus writing is well over 10 to 1. We are constantly reading old code as part of the effort to write new code. …Therefore, making it easy to read makes it easier to write.”
With more and more women affirming themselves in the tech industry, how does it feel to be a woman in tech?
“I think that this is a natural evolution”, believes our colleague. “Nowadays there are lots of women passionate about the tech industry and they see no problem in dedicating their time to work in this field. For me, working in the tech industry means a lot due to the fact that ever since I was a little girl I used to spend more time with the boys playing football than sewing clothes for dolls with girls. Now, we can say that I’ve traded football with tech. The most satisfying thing in being part of a team comprised mostly of men is that I find myself sharing the same passion for the same game.”
We’ve also asked Gabriela to give an advice for every woman who wants to have a successful tech career. “Regardless if you’re a man or a woman, the same advice applies: to strongly believe in and to be dedicated to the work you do in order to build a career. For women, I would also add this recommendation: stay feminine, regardless of your field of activity!”
Salsa and bachata – guilty pleasures
Our pleasant discussion with Gabriela ends on dance rhythms, speaking about her hobbies. “Without doubt, the passion for dancing. When I was a little girl I took modern dance classes, but when school became more and more demanding, I gave up on those. When I started working at Modex, two of my colleagues were taking latino social dance classes and invited me to join them. That’s when I realized that salsa and bachata are my guilty pleasures!”