Europe, Interviews

Teona Chubinidze – Product and Operations Manager at Rocket Internet

We all have to understand that our abilities can not be defined by gender and we all have to start doing our best to prove this. Also, I think, it will be very useful for everyone, if instead of looking for good developers abroad, the big companies start investing money and resources in integrating underrepresented groups in the Tech field.

Originally from Georgia Teona Chubinidze has been living in Berlin past 9 years. Her professional career started at Profund Innovation – the startup supporting center of Freie Universität Berlin, where she was mainly responsible for the EU funded project Tempus EANET – building the Entrepreneur Alumni Networks in eleven universities in Ukraine, Moldova & Georgia. She continued her professional journey as a community manager at The Place Berlin. Next to building and nurturing the tech / hi-tech community and organizing events for them, together with The Place Team Teona initiated a new event series We Can StartUp – aiming to support and empower the female entrepreneurs by giving them space to work, in order to develop & grow their businesses, as well as to connect & network with other entrepreneurs. Currently she is working as a product and operations manager in the engineering team at Rocket Internet.

In a nutshell, tell us a bit about your job, and what role technology plays in it?

I am working as a product and operations manager in the engineering team at Rocket Internet SE. I work closely with software developers, with IT-engineers, as well as with all our ventures. I am responsible for steering the operational processes for my team and for product management. Since we build and invest in internet companies, you would guess, what an essential role technology plays in my everyday work.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

My professional journey started in 2014 at Freie Universität Berlin. I started working as a student assistant in the startup supporting center of FUB – Profund Innovation. This is how I entered the startup scene in Berlin. After three years working there, I decided to start working as a community manager in the coworking space – The Place Berlin. I was in charge of building and nurturing tech and high-tech community, consisting of startups and entrepreneurs. This is how I came close to the tech field and started researching more about the tech industry and its key players in Berlin. Besides, I was fascinated by all the opportunities the tech scene in Berlin was offering to me, all the free workshops in Coding, UX/UI Design, Product Development and Design Thinking. Over time I turned increasingly interested in the Product Management. But because I was lacking experience in the field, I decided to combine it with Operations and learn Product Management step by step. Here I am now and I couldn’t be more grateful for this opportunity.

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

For me it’s definitely Artificial Intelligence.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Spielberg’s similarly titled AI-Artificial Intelligence. When I watched this movie for the first time, I thought „Wow, this is so futuristic, if only I could be alive, to witness the reality of interacting with robots“. It’s very scary and at the same time so exciting to notice that the lines between reality and fiction have blurred and that future is pretty much happening now. AI is changing the world, people’s lives and is becoming the engine of growth of economies and organizations. It is also changing the way we perform our daily activities and organize our work. I remember I was experimenting with a Slack bot once, I gave it a personality (was called Botanie). Botanie was helping me with carrying out my tasks. It was monitoring our Slack channel activities, posting messages and new happenings. Is this not amazing?

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

Women are definitely underrepresented in Tech. From my own experience of being involved in recruiting members for my team at Rocket, I can report with regret that very few women apply for engineering jobs. Nevertheless, I know a lot of talented women active in the fields like Product Management and therefore, I think that ‘women’ and ‘technology’ work perfectly well together. Also, there are a lot of initiatives in Berlin empowering and encouraging women by offering them free coding courses & workshops, where they can build their competencies and gain confidence to enter the tech jobs market.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that? Using your own words, why do we need women focused groups in the tech community?

Cause if we don’t fight for improving our status and possibilities, nobody will! I am sure we can change the current situation by speaking up for ourselves and by supporting each other.

Cause if we don’t fight for improving our status and possibilities, nobody will! I am sure we can change the current situation by speaking up for ourselves and by supporting each other. We all have to understand that our abilities can not be defined by gender and we all have to start doing our best to prove this. Also, I think, it will be very useful for everyone, if instead of looking for good developers abroad, the big companies start investing money and resources in integrating underrepresented groups in the Tech field. I think, this will definitely enrich the job market with a lot of talented workforce.

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

Being progressive – As technology is moving forward fast it’s important to stay updated, there are always new tools and possibilities to enable improving your work and making it more efficient. You should be able to catch up with, if not all, at least some of the key technological developments.

Patience – Sometimes it takes a long to fix an issue and it really requires one’s patience to get the work done. No matter how professional your engineering team is, it can sometimes take ages till you detect and solve a problem. While fixing one issue, you can cause another problem, so it becomes a bit of vicious circle. Patience is a Virtue!

Communication skills – A good communication is essential everywhere, and also in Tech. I had to learn how to communicate with my team in certain cases, cause the language engineers use is very specific and if you want to work efficiently with them, then it’s important for you to develop the right communication strategy and methods. I started learning all the key concepts my engineering team uses, so that we are on the same page and understand each other well.

What and who were the influencers of who you are today?

Definitely my family. As a running joke, they would always tell me that I would either make them very proud or completely ruin them. With this irony they nurtured the feeling that I was carrying something very special and this confidence underpinned all my achievement later on.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

Get better in math, you will need it in the future.

Originally from Georgia Teona Chubinidze has been living in Berlin past 9 years. Her professional career started at Profund Innovation – the startup supporting center of Freie Universität Berlin, where she was mainly responsible for the EU funded project Tempus EANET – building the Entrepreneur Alumni Networks in eleven universities in Ukraine, Moldova & Georgia. She continued her professional journey as a community manager at The Place Berlin. Next to building and nurturing the tech / hi-tech community and organizing events for them, together with The Place Team Teona initiated a new event series We Can StartUp – aiming to support and empower the female entrepreneurs by giving them space to work, in order to develop & grow their businesses, as well as to connect & network with other entrepreneurs. Currently, she is working as a product and operations manager in the engineering team at Rocket Internet.

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