Xebians Unveiled; Marta

"Code, Lead, Succeed" —Follow Marta's inspiring journey from childhood dreams to a tech leadership role at Xebia, defying gender stereotypes and demonstrating that success in the tech realm is limitless.

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Code, Lead, Succeed

Marta Wydra's Journey
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Childhood dreams often shape our path in life. Marta Wydra‘s dream was to become an engineer. She fulfilled it at 19 when she started her first job in IT in Poland. Today, Marta has over nine years of experience, the last five of which she has spent at Xebia progressing from Frontend Developer to Team Leader.

Lara Croft or Engineer?

Marta has always been fascinated by technology. “When I was a child, I was inspired by strong characters. I wanted to be Lara Croft, Wonder Woman, or an engineer,” she recalls with a smile. The Tomb Raider heroine impressed me with her agility, intellect, multilingual prowess, ability to work with mechanical equipment, and understanding of the world around her.”

Marta’s parents, also scientific minds, passed on her passions for mechanics, architecture, and electronics. “At home, I had my first contact with a soldering iron under my dad’s guidance, who was interested in repairing old radios. Also, no one like my mum could show me how to create great technical drawings for school or understand complex mathematical tasks. My parents showed me how amazing it is to know that I can fix things around me or invent completely new things.”

Back in primary school, Marta started experimenting with web development. At the time, she didn’t know that these were her first steps towards a career in IT. “The first website I wrote from scratch was a photography portfolio for my older brother. I created a very simple virtual album for him. I remember my brother praising me highly for how much HTML information I managed to find and turn into a working website. I found it fascinating how quickly you can change something on the internet with just a few lines written in a computer notepad.” When she got to high school, Marta decided to study mathematics and physics with the intent to go to university to study electronics in the future.

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Fantasy, Science-fiction, and Passionate People

One of the key and rather unusual events that led Marta into the world of IT was Pyrkon, a fantasy festival held since 2000 in Poznań. Referred to by many as the “Polish Comic-Con.” By the age of six or seven, Marta was already playing computer games: “I was watching Justice League on Cartoon Network, reading lots of books, soaking up pop culture. Manga, computer games, and comics have stayed with me to this day,” she adds.

In high school, Marta’s friends also started to become interested in Japanese culture. Together, they decided to prepare a proper cosplay and go to Pyrkon. “It was my first encounter with such an event. I met fantastic, creative people there. I wanted to be involved in such a place, and a year later, I volunteered,” she recounts. “The Pyrkon volunteers, the so-called Gżdacze, welcomed me into their ranks, and in the following years, I was given the opportunity to become one of the organizers.” At first, Marta worked in the Promotion and Media department, but then she ended up in Logistics, where she had the opportunity to work with the development of the grounds, taking care of the volunteers, and measuring herself with many other tasks that allowed such a big event to take place. The first event Marta was involved with attracted several thousand participants. It quickly reached the level of 40,000 participants, which it now exceeds.

Participating in the organization of Pyrkon changed everything regarding Marta’s future career. In the geekcommunity, there were a lot of people working in IT who mentioned their work, development opportunities, and passionate projects. There were graphic designers, programmers, project managers, and more at the convention. “Thanks to this, I learned about the IT market first-hand, even before I started my studies,” Marta recalls. “Volunteering developed a lot of soft skills in me, such as communication, time management, people management, and openness to dialogue,” she added. Working at Pyrkon inspired Marta to continue working with people to create events and opened her eyes to more than technological paths.

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19-year-old Enters the IT Industry

In her first year of university, while still organizing Pyrkon, Marta heard from friends in the IT industry about the role of Frontend Developer. It turned out that this specialization was an extension of her childhood passion for creating websites. She felt that this position was made for her, but how does one enter the industry at such a young age? “I started looking for a company where I could get my first experience. In those years, getting an intern/junior position without a full skill set was a bit easier. If one had the passion, courage, ambition, and willingness to work, it was possible to find a place for oneself,” Marta explains.

“In 2015, I sent an inquiry to a small software house about the possibility of taking me on as a summer intern. There was no open recruitment, but I was accepted. They believed in me. From the beginning, I was treated with a lot of understanding. When I started, I already had some of the basics that I had previously learned on my own, but there was a lot of work ahead of me, under the guidance of mentors, to gain the skills needed for the job as a Frontend Developer,” says Marta. “Whenever I have to learn new technology for a new project, it causes stress and the need for quick additional learning. This happens often in the IT environment regardless of our seniority levels. How do we overcome such challenges? Just give yourself time to learn from proper sources. Find someone with more experience than you in a particular area and consult with him about your doubts. Doing some code reviews is great when possible. This will make you, or at least me, calmer while gaining experience.”

The IT industry in Poland is a young environment. Many people in IT in those years were 25-30 years old. Many people in IT also worked without a degree in the field. Not graduating or even starting university has yet to rule out the chance of working in IT. What mattered was predisposition, passion, and independently acquired skills. This was not the case in other industries in Poland then, and a university diploma was still mandatory for many jobs.

“When I started my internship, I immediately felt that the IT industry was ‘my place.’ I wanted to align my studies with this new career path. After much deliberation and putting my pride in my pocket, I changed my major from Electronics and Telecommunications to Computer Science. To date, it was the right decision.”

Despite her young age, Marta was appreciated by her superiors. After an internship that lasted three months, she was offered a full-time job.

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Being a Woman in the IT Industry

Stereotypically, the IT industry can be associated with a male environment. Marta did not experience anything negative about this. “At recruitment interviews, during company meetings, and discussions about my future career path, no one raised the issue of my age or gender with me. I met very friendly and open-minded people from the IT environment, who inspired me to try different things and to keep moving forward,” Marta explains. “I feel that there is a noticeable increase in the number of women in IT in positions of all types – from programming to leadership roles. Women feel they can enter an industry where they will not be discriminated against and their promotion or salary will depend solely on their technological knowledge, business awareness, and soft skills. Whether they enter it and stay for the long term or choose another industry is mainly determined by their interest in technology and their willingness to take the time to develop. It is a dynamic industry, and the willingness to grow is key. Gender does not limit us in any way. If I had to point to something that can make a candidate stand out in the job market, it would be a simple, genuine interest in what you do. It makes us want to read about the next updates and new technologies and then use this knowledge at work.”

Gender does not limit us in any way. If I had to point to something that can make a candidate stand out in the job market, it would be a simple, genuine interest in what you do.”

Marta also recognized this during her studies. She chose to specialize in IT management at WSB Merito University in Poznań, where practically half of the group were women. “They were not by chance; they already had experience in the industry. Also, no disproportions or competence differences were visible compared to the male part of the group.” It was another experience that confirmed that the IT industry is a good and open place for women with a wide range of development opportunities.

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Xebia has Allowed me to Develop as a Leader.

An important direction of development for Marta was managing teams and strengthening her leadership competencies. She already had experience with Pyrkon, but in the IT industry, she worked as a front-end developer. “When applying to Xebia, I made it clear at the interview that I was interested in developing into a Team Leader and that I would like to combine a technical and leadership path. I was keen to develop my leadership skills, but I didn’t want to lose what I had come to love as a young girl – software development and creating my own solutions. I was met with great openness about my plans,” says Marta.

Marta was offered the chance to try her hand as a Team Leader as soon as the opportunity arose. “I had some apprehension when I took on this role. I knew that I would be a leader for 5-10 people who might have a few years more experience than me and, by habit, prefer male companionship in a professional relationship. However, no one gave me the impression that gender made a difference here. I was always appreciated for the work I did, my approach, my problem-solving skills, and my work ethic. I followed the same approach when talking to my people. This approach goes further. My mentees are also Team Leaders, and together we can pass on good practice,” she recalls. “As a Team Leader, I am proud of my part in the development plans of the people in my team. It’s a great feeling to see them get promoted, take on more responsible roles, or get better at handling previously problematic situations.”

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Find a Career Path for Yourself.

“When planning a career, I often heard that you must declare yourself – either management or programming. It can be combined,” explains Marta. “I’m a part-time developer, part-time managing people – I’ve been given the space and conditions for that. So, if you don’t want to lose touch with coding and keep up to date with developments in the technology you work in, it’s possible to combine all this and be appreciated as both a good leader and an expert in your field.”

Marta’s development in Team Leadership went hand in hand with a commitment to knowledge sharing within the organization. Marta has used her experience gained from organizing events to get involved with the Frontend Guild, where she can work with others to create a calendar of Lightning Talks, events to promote Frontend, and various forms of knowledge sharing.

“I feel that women entering the IT industry may feel the need to fit into a ‘masculine’ style of being. It is not necessary to do this. At Xebia, I can just be myself. You don’t have to be an introvert or extrovert, just a good professional, and the respect of the experts comes on its own.”

At Xebia, I can just be myself. You don’t have to be an introvert or extrovert, just a good professional, and the respect of the experts comes on its own.

Thanks to the openness and support of her colleagues and superiors, Marta has developed as a specialist and as a female leader.

“Colleagues from my department are a great inspiration to me. I am extremely impressed with their work. I see how much technical knowledge you can have, which, of course, requires time and experience. This motivates me to pursue personal development. In moments of doubt, I remember how many problems I managed to solve in the past. I like to think that overcoming an issue is always a matter of time, and we need proper communication with people around us who can support us,” adds Marta.

Marta is an inspiring example of a woman pursuing her dreams in the world of technology with passion and determination. Her story shows that the path to success in IT is open to everyone, regardless of gender or age.

Stay tuned for more profiles on the amazing people behind Xebia.  

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