Coding and data are not the fields associated with creativity – quite the opposite. Diana Mihaylova, the Product Owner at SAP Bulgaria, proves this perception wrong! She shares thrilling aspects of her job, most common misconceptions about it and explains why IT is full of unlimited possibilities
You studied Business Administration, but the initial point for your career was to start coding, because – to quote you: „I wanted to create“. Most people may think that coding and data is rather recalcitrant. Could you explain your job and what is so creative about coding?
I’ve started in 2014 at SAP and in my team we are making front-end framework. Coding for me is like a puzzle and I love solving these and once I find the result, it really excites me. I remember that during the time when I started coding I saw a video, which was advertising coding among children and the musician will.i.am said a line: “Great coders are today’s rock stars. That’s it!”. I really believe that we’re creating the world ahead. Coding is everywhere around us – from the social media we’re using for fun, business applications we’re using at work, the car we’re driving, the smart home we’d like to have and one day coding might even send us to Mars. So yes, coding is creative and the possibilities are unlimited.
What are other misconceptions that you encounter in your daily work?
The belief that coding is hard to be learned. For me, for example, it’s hard to be a teacher or a cook. But at the end it’s because I haven’t tried it. It’s all about experience, if you invest enough time towards something, you eventually will get good at it.
What is it that fascinates you about the tech industry, in general?
The people you’re surrounded with, the fact that your opinion is heard and the possibility to try different roles until you find ‘The Role’ for you. At least that’s how it is at SAP.
How do you explain what you do to parents/grandparents?
Actually, many professions these days in Bulgaria are named with their English equivalents – e.g. copywriter, influencer, etc. And our grandparents especially may struggle with understanding what that means. But on the other hand, sometimes it’s hard to translate it literally. So I’ll simply quote my LinkedIn profile: 'Bringing value to the customer'. A lot of people also refrain from asking questions as they think they wouldn’t understand what these kind of jobs are exactly.
In the IT field there’s a place for everybody no matter of gender, religion or cultural background
Eastern Europe is supposed to be a more gender balanced society than i.e. Germany and there are more women in tech and engineering fields. Is this still the case?
Recently I read an article where it’s stated that Bulgaria has 35% women in tech – which is the highest percentage in whole Europe – while in Germany it is significantly lower. I found that strange. Even more because of the fact that SAP is a German company and it has the same vision and goal worldwide, where gender balance is a topic with a high importance. Still, there could be an improvement in terms of having more women in leadership positions, however, a friend of mine, also in the IT field in Bulgaria, shared that his last three managers were all women. I personally have always felt equal to men and I still do, even in the men-dominated job. Funny thing is, that we even have internal jokes that nowadays men have less opportunities. And you know – in some cases a joke is a way to tell the truth. In my opinion, in the IT field there’s a place for everybody no matter of gender, religion or cultural background. You simply have to want it and try it. However, there are women with lack of confidence, which for me is one of the top reasons why the room is half empty.
Machines are, from technical aspect, way ahead of humans. What is the interesting part or also could be the most important asset humans can bring to the table in the future?
Yes, machines are way ahead of us from a technical aspect, but we shouldn’t forget that we’re using them in order to become faster, stronger, better. They can automate tasks we can already do and bring together sets of data, but in the end humans are the ones who can bring the next steps and decide what will be done with that data. And I see this collaboration to continue and evolve even more in the future.
What is the most important skill someone in tech industry should have?
Definitely soft skills! They are hard to be ‘unlearned’ if they’re formed badly in the first place. It’s difficult to ‘unlearn’ old patterns, so this is crucial. And a person who has them is an easy going, enjoyable to work with, a person who knows how to present their ideas and to inspire others.
Machines are way ahead of us from a technical aspect, but we shouldn’t forget that we’re using them in order to become faster, stronger, better
And which one is overestimated?
Every skill counts!
Do you have a role model – and how important do you estimate role models are in general?
For me, being a role model means being perfect and I personally don’t think it’s possible. So I don’t have a role model. I find qualities in different people that are inspiring for me and I just try to be more like them in that aspect.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I love when I’m being around doers, proactive and creative people, someone who failed a lot of times but instead of being discouraged, they become more motivated and they succeed. Apart from that, whenever I need a fast inspiration Shia LaBeouf is the answer! I simply play his video ‘Just Do It!’ and a minute and 4 seconds later, I’m really motivated! For someone else it might sound ridiculous, but for me it helps a lot – doesn’t matter whether at the office or at a foosball tournament.