Europe, Interviews

Paoli Izquierdo – Principal Software Engineer at Novatec Consulting GmbH

Paoli Izquierdo is the Principal Software Engineer at Novatec Consulting GmbH. She develops software as part of a team using agile methods, and as a business unit lead, she’s responsible for the personal development and disciplinary leadership. Read about her path and impressive agile methods and why you shouldn’t be discouraged if you are a “late bloomer” in the tech world.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

I’m a principal software engineer and business unit lead at Novatec Consulting GmbH, so technology plays a big role. I develop software as part of a team using agile methods, meaning we have to deliver potentially shippable software in short intervals of time. I do not only solve problems using technology, but I also use technology in order to automate our own development processes and therefore improve agility.

As a business unit lead I am responsible for the personal development and disciplinary leadership of a group of colleagues and I also take part in the process of shaping our software engineering business area. Specifically, my colleagues and I are currently improving our career path, which offers employees a technical career ladder. We are defining what kind of technical skills software engineers need to have in order to advance in their careers. For this task, I need to know what technical skills are relevant.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

The smartphone because, to me, it took the internet to the next level. We no longer need to sit in front of a computer with a mouse and keyboard in order to surf the net and get information or get something done. We carry the internet and, with it, so much knowledge in our pockets.

Smartphone apps take advantage of agile software engineering by offering minimum viable products to their customers and incrementally adding features, which are partly based on user feedback. I think the entire software industry profited from this because nowadays customers expect quick updates to their apps (or software in general) and even established corporations (have to) embrace agility to be able to gain and keep their customers.

Women in the field of technology are definitely in the minority. How are you helping to attract more women to tech?

I have to admit that I am not doing enough. The only thing I currently do is show my colleagues and customers that I, as a woman, am a very competent and skilled agile software engineer. Giving visibility to this fact should encourage others to ignore gender when hiring new personnel. I do however want to do more and want to take an active role in attracting more women to tech.

What skills do you need for a career in tech (aside from the actual tech skills)?

The will, the ability and the fascination to learn. In my career, I have had the opportunity to work in very different industries because I work at a company that develops software for other companies. You could be working a few months in finance, then one and a half years in logistics, then move on to automotive and after many years land back in finance. Every customer has a problem in their industry, which they need to solve and I need to be able to understand the intricacies of the business aspects in order to develop the software they need.

I also need to be able to learn new programming languages, methods and how to use new tools because technology evolves really fast. So, even if someone stays within the same industry their entire career, they still need to keep up with technology and very likely solve new problems, which in turn means they also never stop learning. Soft skills are also very important because the problems between humans are the hardest to solve. Software engineers are not loners in basements wearing hoodies typing away at their consoles while wearing headphones. Software engineers communicate with people from the business side to understand their requirements, then communicate with each other to find a solution as a team and then the coding begins, maybe even in pairs. Good communication skills, empathy, customer orientation, and respect, among others, are not nice to have, they are a must.

Who are your tech influencers and why?

I honestly do not have specific influencers. I follow a lot of people from silicon valley and the OSS community on social media and then I try to figure out what is relevant for my work (or even for my everyday life) and what is not. I think it is better to have a wider spectrum of people from which you get information in order to make educated decisions than to let yourself be influenced by a small circle.

What would be your message/advice to women trying to get into technology?

Do not get discouraged and do not think you are alone. Sometimes it seems as though you need to be a genius and are not allowed to make mistakes in order to “make it” in the tech business. For me, talent comes in different shapes and forms. There are so called “high potentials” that show a lot of talent right away and go through fast and impressive growth.

On the other hand, there are the “late bloomers” who need more time and gradually grow into their role to become essential highly valued colleagues. My advice is: find an employer who understands this and will give you a chance to grow. Also, have courage, take on new challenges and try new things out because there are so many different aspects to technology. If you tried something and it didn’t quite suit you, I am pretty sure you will find something soon enough.

If you could host a dinner party with 3 influential people in tech, who would you invite and why?

Dianne Marsh (Director of Device & Content Security at Netflix) to get inspired with the advice of how she leads people at Netflix within the culture of freedom and responsibility. Veronica Lopez (Senior Software Engineer at DigitalOcean) because she is Mexican like me, but so much more talented and I could learn a lot from her about Kubernetes, among many other things. And last but not least, Jim Freeman (CTO at Zalando) to find out why a company, whose main customers are women-only has men in their board of directors.

Paoli Izquierdo is the Principal Software Engineer at Novatec Consulting GmbH. She develops software as part of a team using agile methods, and as a business unit lead, she’s responsible for the personal development and disciplinary leadership.

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