With International Women’s Day just around the corner, we are publishing another #WeAreModex interview. This time, our colleague Mihaela Maneasa, Engines Developer, takes center stage. Besides focusing on her life story and career at Modex, we also wanted to find out what Mihaela thinks about successful women in the tech industry.
“Tech is not a walk in the park, but with passion, dedication and hard work, the sky’s the limit!”, says Mihaela at the beginning of our conversation speaking about the women who made a name for themselves in a tech industry dominated by men. “As long as you are willing to put in the work, and you let your passion drive you, male or female, there is room for everybody. The most important thing is to remain focused on where you want to go and start building your career towards that goal. Take the time to go the extra mile, benefit from every chance you’ve got, and this will only take you one step further. I think the best advice that I can give is to start this journey with your end goal in mind: to become one of the best in the business!”
During university I’ve felt that developer calling
Mihaela’s tech journey begins in high school, when she enlists in a programme focused heavily on studying informatics. “After finishing high school, the natural thing to do was to have a solid foundation in Computer Science, so I became a student at the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics. Being a student there, I had the opportunity to apply for an internship at a software company, and that gave me an insight on what life as a developer really looked like. That was the moment I fell in love with this job and I knew I have chosen my career well. Following the internship, I received an offer for a permanent job with that company. Therefore, over the course of my last year in university, I worked and studied at the same time. After finishing my licentiate (degree), I moved to Bucharest, applied for a Master’s Degree in Economic Informatics at the Academy of Economic Studies Bucharest and started working at Modex.”
When Informatics fits you like a glove
How did Mihaela’s passion for Informatics start? “I remember that during my childhood I had a very strong relationship with my cousin. I’ve always admired him and trusted his judgement. When I had to decide which career path I should choose, I turned to him for a piece of advice. He knew that science subjects were my strong suit, so he encouraged me to try Informatics, thinking it would fit me like a glove. I have to say it was one of the most fortunate decisions I’ve ever made. Once I started studying this domain, I realised how well it fit me and how much I loved learning about it.”
Mihaela goes on and shares more details about her duties at Modex. “Since arriving at Modex in 2018 I had the opportunity to do a bit of everything. I worked on the project’s core, as well as on some tools aimed to automate as many processes as possible to make our work easier. The most interesting part of being an Engines Developer is having to deal with different kinds of technologies and programming languages. This can’t get boring and there are no such things as repetitive tasks. Personally, I find the features concerning the core’s architecture the most interesting and, of course, the difficult ones. For me, it’s fascinating how all the bits and pieces come together to form this system and its intricacies”, explains our colleague.
Getting a job at Modex: it all started with a project
Seeing Mihaela so passionate about her job, we’ve asked her to share more details about how she arrived to work at Modex. “This is a funny story. During university I had to do a very hard project over the span of a semester, but had no idea where to start from. I was telling everyone around me about how I would fail the exam because I couldn’t finish the assigned project on time. One of my friends told me about an acquaintance who could help me and gave me his contact details. That person was Alin Iftemi, one of Modex’s three co-founders. So I called Alin on a Friday evening. He explained how I should approach the project and offered a solution. As a result, on Monday I had the most important and difficult part of the project up and running.”
Mihaela continues: “I appreciated what Alin had done for me: he spent o good part of his Friday evening to speak with a student whom he didn’t know, expecting nothing in return. When I moved to Bucharest in order to take my programming career to the next level I called Alin again, thinking he might know a place where I could expand my programming skills and make use of what I’ve learned until then. He asked me to drop by his office and told me he was just starting an exciting project involving blockchain technology, asking me if I was up for the challenge. I felt ready, so I left the office with a job at Modex.”
Creative and fun moments at work
All work and no play at Modex? Mihaela says that this is not the case. “The word that best describes the work environment at Modex is togetherness. We are taking our jobs very seriously, being glued to our screens for long periods of time. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that while we are searching for the best solutions to fit our clients’ needs someone will shy away from telling a joke, brightening up the atmosphere in the office. Coffee breaks represent the moments of peak inspiration, but also the perfect opportunity to create a bond with our colleagues, as everybody’s personality gets to shine. What surprised me in a pleasant way: no matter for how long you’ve been an employee at Modex, new or old, you really feel like you’re a part of the family.”
Team spirit and mentorship have helped me evolve
Besides evolving on the professional level, Mihaela told us she has also matured on the personal level since starting to work at Modex. “If I were to pinpoint two things that helped me grow professionally, those would be team spirit and mentorship. When I started my job at Modex I was barely scratching the surface of what it meant to be a developer. I believe that it’s crucial, for young developers, to have a mentor, someone to answer all your questions and explain every task in detail. I was very lucky to have had two people to guide my steps: Dragos Rautu and Dan Popescu. They helped me grow as a programmer by giving me all the hints I needed to solve a task and by teaching me how to come up with a solution on my own.”
“With time, the team grew, and I came to realize that there was always someone ready to lend a helping hand when I needed guidance or help. From the get-go, Dragos told me there’s no such thing as a stupid question and that asking for help is better than losing time on something you don’t understand, then eventually becoming frustrated with it. The most valuable lessons I carry with me every day? To be more kind with myself and to see every failure as an occasion to learn, not as the end of my career.”
More developers will be needed in the coming years
Steering away from the personal and motivational side of Mihaela’s journey, we return to the tech side. Will the demand for developers grow in the coming years? “I am sure that this will happen. If we compare how the world looked like only 50 years ago and how it is today, we can see how much technology has evolved, the impact can be seen all around us. Thus, we can try to predict how much the world will evolve over the next 50 years. Things that our grandparents thought impossible are now our most commonly used items, like smartphones or computers. As long as the technology will continue to evolve, the demand for developers with better skills and know-how will be there!”
Critical thinking and problem solving – essential for developers
What skills does someone passionate about tech needs to become a developer? “In my opinion, critical thinking and problem solving are the most important skills. You have to be capable to see the bigger picture and to understand the business logic behind every functionality. It’s of utmost importance to always ask yourself what is happening, why is it happening and what do you need to change in order to make it work as expected. All the features of a project are like puzzle pieces and your role as a developer is to make them fit together. Trying to write code without understanding its role in the main project is like trying to make a puzzle blindfolded. I think it’s worth mentioning that social skills and emotional intelligence also play a big part in a developer’s life. As I said earlier, you are required to work with a team and these skills can always come in handy.”
How does it feel to be a woman in tech?
Since March is considered “women’s month”, our pleasant chat with Mihaela ends with a focus on women succeeding in the tech area. “I started my journey led by curiosity and passion for what this industry has to offer. My satisfaction always comes from finishing tasks which, at first sight, were considered beyond my capabilities. For me, this variable has never changed. The notion that “It’s a man’s world”, often encountered by many, comes in contrast with what I see around me every day. I find myself being part of a balanced workplace, where both women and men are appreciated for their capabilities, celebrating success together, and working their way through challenges as a team. The special feeling I experience at the end of the day – I’ll never consider trading.”