Women in Tech: Daria Kovalenko on her path as an iOS Engineer

With this blog post, we’re starting a new series featuring Readdle’s incredible women and their paths in the tech industry. Describing the challenges they have faced and lessons they have learned along the way. Aside from seeing yourself in their stories, we hope that you’ll find them inspiring and even thought-provoking. 

Today, we’re talking to Daria Kovalenko, iOS Engineer at Documents. With over 11 years of experience in iOS Development, Daria shares every step of her journey from her initial fascination with technology to teaching and finding mentors.

Can you tell us about your journey into software engineering? What sparked your interest in this field?

At 12 years old, I saw a computer for the first time. My dad worked at a company that was one of the first internet providers in my city and took me there. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. While waiting for my father, they let me play a simple game and I was fascinated with all the windows, buttons, icons, and in general the atmosphere at the office, and I thought: “I wanna be a part of this.” Funny that I only remembered this situation years later after I had chosen this field. 

But in general, I have always been good with technical subjects, especially mathematics — they are easy and interesting for me.

Was iOS Development a popular field when you first started?

When I first started, in Zaporizhzhya, a city in Ukraine, iOS Development was a relatively new area and wasn’t popular at all. There just were a few companies that hunted candidates from each other or took trainees. And when I moved to Donetsk, iOS Engineers were also scarce. I think this because the devices were expensive and iOS development was considered to be a new and narrow field of work, which was different from what was common at the time. It was more common to pursue Android or Web Development.

My first job I found by word-of-mouth. At that moment I was looking for a job as QA because I heard it was a good place to start in tech and had some friends who’d chosen this route. One evening I went for a coffee with my friends and one of them was working at a software company, and, surprisingly, they were looking for women who could program in C++ or Java languages. 

After I started working, I realized that I loved being a Software Engineer and it was a good choice. 

iOS Development is a field where you can do many things — there is a little bit from both the backend and frontend. Moreover, Apple always adds new technologies and updates so it’s never boring!

What educational background or training did you pursue to become a software engineer? 

My first training was in the radio electronics faculty. In my second year of university, where I was studying the production of electronic devices, I began a second education in software development. After university, I stayed in my department to work on my dissertation and when it was almost finished, I started teaching students. After some years I heard from friends that they combined working at universities alongside companies as QA or software engineers. I thought it was an interesting opportunity to grow as a professional and teach at the same time. Shortly after that, I moved to another city and after that, I started working full-time as a software engineer.

Have you faced any gender-specific biases there? 

At school, my teacher used to say jokingly that girls in the class were “a mistake of nature” because our class specialized in physics and mathematics. He didn’t mean to be offensive, he was a nice guy but that was the perception at the time. 

In my university group, approximately one-third of the class was female. When I started attending technical conferences or meetups, I realized there were very few women. It was more of an exception than a rule.

When I studied, women were valued but there was a preconceived notion that they will eventually get married and will be provided for by their husbands. It turned out not everyone wanted that kind of future! In reality, most of the women with whom I studied decided to continue pursuing a career in IT or electronics engineering. 

Overall in my experience, I was lucky to never face any serious gender-based treatment and it has never prevented me from doing what I love and am interested in, or from being promoted. 

Could you describe your previous work experiences and how they contributed to your growth as a software engineer?

During my tenure of eight years in an outsourcing company, I gained valuable insights and a unique perspective, which extended beyond my role as an engineer. This experience allowed me to view things from the user's standpoint, understanding their needs and expectations.

At Readdle, we are not merely programmers; we are engineers who approach our work with a user-centric mindset. It is crucial for us to assess whether our solutions truly provide value and address the users' challenges. I consider myself the first user of any product we develop, meticulously testing it myself before release.

For me, developing meaningful technologies and their practical functionality hold greater importance than simply producing clean code. It is the end result and how it positively impacts users that truly matters to me.

Why do you like your current project?

Documents is an app that embodies everything you can imagine with files. There are no trivial tasks that you do all the time, instead, they are always changing and challenging. Finding an interesting project and a company like that is bliss. 

In your opinion, what are the key skills or qualities that a successful software engineer should possess?

A broader view of things. My engineering and product experience has helped me see things from many points of view and first of all as an end user. 

Can you talk about any mentors or role models who have inspired or guided you in your software engineering journey and how did you find them?

I've been fortunate to have had wonderful mentors during my time in various teams and companies. I truly miss the days when we worked together in the office, engaging in lively discussions about writing tests over lunch or having impromptu conversations during coffee breaks in the kitchen. Those face-to-face interactions were invaluable. Prior to the COVID era, I had the opportunity to attend events and conferences where I could meet new people and draw inspiration from their experiences. These occasions provided a fantastic platform to expand my professional network and gain insights from real-life cases. 

What is your approach to challenges at work?

I believe in the approach of breaking down big problems into smaller parts, just like “eating an elephant one bite at a time”. I first focus on solving the known parts and then move on to the unknown ones. I like to experiment, try different approaches, and create prototypes to find the best solutions. Once I have figured out each piece, I bring them all together.

Taking on challenges is always valuable because it teaches me which approaches work and which ones don't. It also gives me a deeper understanding of different technologies, expanding my knowledge and making me a better software engineer.

What advice would you give to aspiring women who are interested in pursuing a career in software engineering? 

Just go for it. The industry is changing every day and if you like what you do and genuinely want to pursue software development I don’t see any reason why you shouldn't. I hope that my experience is proof of it. 

The Readdle Team The Readdle Team

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