Women in AI
Ekaterina Stoianova wasn’t particularly interested in working for a technology company. As a fluent speaker of five languages, she knew she wanted to work for a large multinational company, in an international environment, where she could use her linguistic acumen and economics degree on a daily basis. But in terms of IT, AI, or automation? She didn’t consider these fields as essential to her five- or 10-year plans.
Fortunately for IPsoft and its clients, one of Ekaterina´s earliest roles was as a bid manager at IBM’s Budapest office. This experience provided Ekaterina with an environment that she says fostered hard work and success — regardless of gender.
“It was also a unique environment,” Ekaterina says, remembering her time at IBM. “We had more females in my office building than men. I was only 27 years old when Ginni Rometty became the CEO, so for me it was the most normal thing to feel comfortable being a woman in IT.”
At IBM, Ekaterina developed a passion for AI, analytics, and Big Data — three subjects that are crucial to her role as IPsoft’s Cognitive Project Lead.
Today, she manages Amelia implementations across Germany and the German-speaking parts of Austria and Switzerland. During her three years at IPsoft, she has worked on implementations with a multinational telecommunications company, an international automobile producer, an international procurement provider and a national bank. The diversity of her work is a key benefit of working at IPsoft, as is the ever-changing aspect of being on the forefront of AI development, she says.
“The constant progress, innovation, and the fact that things are moving at a speed we have never seen before is all extremely exciting,” she says. “You can never get bored. The technology I was working with three years ago is not the same as we have today, because the improvements are exponential.”
Paying it Forward
Ekaterina feels privileged to have had wonderful mentors who have nurtured her progression from economics major to AI professional. "I do recognize that I have been very fortunate throughout my 10 years in IT. Both at my current company, IPsoft, and all the companies I’ve worked for, I’ve had many female leaders as role models,” she says.
However, it’s not just women who’ve championed and mentored Ekaterina. She has had 15 managers, both male and female, all of whom played a critical role in helping her develop a successful career. In order for her experience to become the norm, where women are fostered and promoted within the STEM industry, Ekaterina believes three crucial societal elements must change.
First, she believes there needs to be an increase in female role models, and an increase in managers who are able to promote opportunities equally and fairly between men and women, especially ones who may not otherwise consider a STEM career. Second, women must not shy away from those opportunities. And third, she believes society must recognize and encourage STEM prowess and interest in young women and girls.
“I believe it is important that girls are not discouraged from pursuing a degree in STEM,” Ekaterina asserts. With the proper encouragement and mentorship, Ekaterina believes every company can foster environments similar to the ones she has had in her career. She’s encouraged that this change is already underway. “I believe STEM is much more female-friendly today than it was ever before,” she says.