Ana Gurgenidze, 22 years old, Kutaisi
”I study at the Tbilisi Free University, at the math and computer science faculty. I’m in my fourth year and will become a programmer. Before I started studying I only had a general idea about programming. Before that, I was studying in Kutaisi in Andria Razmadze physics and math school. I loved math from childhood but couldn’t imagine a profession where it could be useful – except economics or finances. It wasn’t until sometime around 11th grade that I thought about becoming a programmer since it was never my strength. We had extra classes in school, but I never went. There were three-staged competitions in 6th, 7th and 8th grades, but I only managed to get through the first stage, consisting mostly of math questions. Before I started studying at the university, I thought that I could learn to program at home as well, but it was worth it for smart friends and acquaintances.
My faculty was one of the most difficult in Georgia to get in. And I thought, if I’d get there, I’d have the smartest classmates. This was true, people here are great and very motivated, Of the 50 students, only 15 are girls, which is a big number for our reality. Back then it was very rare for a girl to go to physics and math schools. Lately, more and more girls are enrolling. Additionally, it requires no manual labor. I also wanted to be an architect, but many people expressed their opinion that it wasn’t a woman’s job. After that I decided that programming was what I liked the most, also considering the factor of income.
After I enrolled, I only had the experience to solve algorithmic problems and even that, only primitively. I always thought programming was very difficult, that I had to know math very well and I had to constantly study and think actively. Active thinking is really essential, but it’s not as difficult as I imagined. The first course we had at the university was the methodology of programming. The course was very intensive, but described in simple terms what it was all about. The last assignment was to write a simplified version of Facebook. When we did that, we were very happy about it, it was a very interesting experience. I’ve worked with several different languages. There’s a new one created every second. Everything is developing and I know how to use most tools in the right way. Our university brought us to a level where we can learn everything on our own. So, they taught us how to learn independently.
Last year my friends and I started working on a startup. The contest was called “communication”, concerning political polarization in Georgia. We thought of an app that would give people with different political opinions a place to get to know each other. Even if they don’t become friends in the process, they’ll still have more chance to appreciate each other’s opinions. You can imagine a map, and each time you become friends with someone, you can see them on this “political map”. We hope it will be useful; we’ll go live around July. Another girl works on this project with me as a programmer, solving technical problems.
I worked at several places in Georgia; I worked for about a year in TBC Bank. I worked as a database developer, mobile app developer, and now I’ll be a software engineer in eBay for 4 months. I’ve wanted to send my resume to such a company, but despite my self-confidence and numerous victories and trophies in contests, I was still unable to make this step; though you can start an internship even from freshman or sophomore year. Then I faced the reality that If I didn’t send the resume right now, I wouldn’t be a student anymore the next time I’d have the chance to, so I sent it out last year, not only to eBay but to several other companies, where I underwent series of interviews. Some I didn’t pass, some outright refused. I sent my resume directly to their vacancy in Germany. The recruiter wrote back, we talked a lot, he asked me about my future plans, how serious I was to work in Germany, was I planning to get a master’s degree there and if I would move there; they liked my CV and then began the technical interviews. There was a phone interview, then they assigned me a demo project, gave me time to complete it and after I sent the completed work, I received a yes. I’ll be a software engineer there, and I already have a plan of what I’ll do there – I’ll work in multiple teams and implement small projects. When I come back, I’ll finish my bachelor’s and if they offer me a full-time position in eBay, I’ll think about it; otherwise, I’ll send my resume to additional companies.
There was a project named “Women Techmakers” by Google developers group. It was a camp for programming basics, where I was a mentor. There were many girls who didn’t know what programming actually was and we really tried our best to get them interested. Some time ago, there was a Facebook post on Marketer.ge about me, and someone commented that I was her motivation. Many girls got interested and believed that would be able to become programmers. I think that activism is about exactly that – to show them your accomplishments, so they can do the same. One of the reasons why I sent my application was because some of my friends were able to get a job abroad this way. They went to work for very famous companies. And I thought I could be one of them too and it that’s exactly what happened.
If you want to achieve something in programming, you don’t have to know the math on a high level. Of course, you need it at some point, but you don’t need to be an expert. Programming is such a vast field, that anyone can find something to suit their interests. To girls, I want to say one thing – that they have to keep trying. I’ve won some competitions, but I lost ten times that. If I accomplished anything successfully, that’s all because I kept trying”.
Author: Nino Gamisonia
Photo: Nino Baidauri