Irena Bakic, Codebus Africa
"As digitalisation takes over more and more of our world, it is particularly important that tech workers are more representative of different genders, different backgrounds and different cultures".
"Find your own way to promote equality"
Irena runs CodeBus Africa, a project that organises coding workshops for African youth. She started studying wood product engineering at the old Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) after high school on the recommendation of her sister. Irena already knew in high school that she wanted to study in an university, and a successful matriculation exams guaranteed her admission. "It took me a couple of years to find my 'thing' at TKK", says Irena. She eventually decided to do a personally tailored minor around sustainable global technologies and product development. Irena was in no hurry to graduate: "It took me 10 years to complete my bachelor and master studies, during which I worked at Aalto Design Factory and UNICEF, as well as two internships abroad. During my studies, the Helsinki University of Technology was also incorporated into the current Aalto University".
Immediately after graduation, two years ago, Irena started as a project manager for CodeBus Africa. The project is part of Aalto University's international work to promote sustainable development. The job description is varied, and a "normal working day" depends largely on the stage of the project. "A year ago, in spring, I spent a total of 4 months in different parts of the African continent. At that time, my days started at 7 in the morning. We travelled to a workshop, set up a classroom and from 9am to 4pm we ran a coding workshop for local young people". Now Irena is back in Finland planning the next phase of the project, and her working days resemble those of an ordinary office worker.
"The best thing about my job is that I get to do work that is meaningful to me and important for promoting equality", Irena says. Another motivating factor is the fact that you work with really talented people and innovative organisations. "My biggest successes have been building and implementing good collaborative projects with people from different cultures and backgrounds". However, inspiring work, which Irena feels is very important, also has a small downside. Balancing work and life is sometimes challenging. This is something Irena has been trying to focus on for the past year.
So what are Irena's plans and goals for the future? "In my professional life, my goal is to reduce inequality in and through technology. As digitalisation takes over more and more of our world, it is particularly important that tech workers are more representative of different genders, different backgrounds and different cultures. I see this challenge as a very critical issue for equality".
For whom is this a suitable career option?
Irene has a clear idea of the qualities required for her career. "If you are a person who wants to solve global problems, a team player, understand the opportunities (and challenges) of technology, are curious, want to learn new things, like to work with different people and are indomitable, you will fit right in". She also has a number of good tips for young women considering their career choice. Be brave and believe in yourself, don't let others discourage you. It's good to challenge yourself to learn new things, but sometimes you also need to be merciful to yourself and others. "Find your own way to promote equality", Irena concludes.