Hey! I’m Michela, the Tech Talent Partner here at Marshmallow. For this year’s International Women’s Day, I want to shine the light on one of our amazing tech talents: Pinelopi Kouleri, and share her inspiring career journey.
Pinelopi’s a Senior Individual Contributor at Marshmallow with over 26 years of experience in computer programming. When she was 16, Pinelopi used an advanced calculator which could do basic code for the first time. This was a “light bulb” that inspired her to pursue a career as an engineer.
At university, it was clear that Computer Science wasn’t a popular subject, with only 75 students in her class (only 5 of those were women). But, despite the odds, Pinelopi successfully launched her career as a programmer.
Pinelopi’s Marshmallow journey
After working as a software developer across various tech companies, Pinelopi felt she was at a turning point in her career. Her passions and interests had started to shift towards social justice, and she was becoming more concerned about the impact of the products she was working on. Were they driving change and helping society? That’s one of the reasons she decided to join Marshmallow. She wanted to work at a company that gives back to the community, with Founders driven by a diverse and inclusive mission.
One of the core values at Marshmallow is ‘Move Fast’. Thankfully, Pinelopi loved getting stuck into her new role, learning quickly from day one. Now that she's more settled in her job, she really enjoys the technologies and practices being used at Marshmallow.Although she initially joined the Claims team, Pinelopi has since moved to the Growth team. The Growth team is currently releasing a new product (with remarkably quick turnaround times) and she’s really enjoyed being part of its delivery, helping to continually improve the delivery process.
Something Pinelopi’s really enjoying is our diverse engineering team. She told me she’s met so many lovely people on her journey with us so far. And she appreciates that her Greek nationality doesn’t single her out. In fact, it makes her feel more at home: “there are a lot of Greek team members who work at Marshmallow which feels really familiar. In a strange turn of events, she used to work with our new VP of Engineering, Xenofon Papadopoulos!
Growth at Marshmallow and making her mark
Pinelopi’s hope for her career at Marshmallow is that she’ll be given an opportunity to knowledge-share with the wider company, while being able to learn from all of her colleagues. Thankfully, Marshmallow is still a small company, making it a great environment for Pinelopi to do just that, all while testing new ideas and flexing her programming muscles. In the foreseeable future, Pinelopi would like to progress to a Tech Lead role, building on the leadership knowledge she’s cultivated throughout her career.
As a new joiner, one of the things Penelopi faced was the lack of documentation; a lot of knowledge was “stuck in people’s heads!” When she started learning about our systems, she drew diagrams which are now housed in the repositories for every service. She was given the autonomy to take ownership of these ideas and shared them with the wider team. These diagrams will “support future new joiners with the knowledge and insights that they need”. She also introduced the use of Architecture Decision Record (ADR) which is a log of all the important decisions the team have made for different systems, “this can be incredibly useful for anyone who might wonder why we chose certain technologies or made certain design decisions”. Pinelopi really liked that the team welcomed this initiative and it’s something she’s hoping to introduce to the Growth team as well.
Diversity and inclusion
Based on her own experiences and career journey, Pinelopi told me she feels somewhat “lucky” to have been given the opportunities that she’s been given. “There is subtle discrimination that exists in industry, but not everywhere” she told me. “If companies had to make a choice about who to promote to a Tech Lead, they would usually go for a man over a woman. The stereotype is that men are better coders than women and that’s just not true”. She said that she’d had a “better ride” than other women, and that she’s glad she hasn’t experienced any big conflicts in her career.
But, while she hasn’t been affected directly, Pinelopi recognises the lack of diversity in tech, especially in engineering. A problem that’s set to continue with even fewer women studying Computer Science now than in the past thirty odd years. According to Zippia, the number of women with Computer Science degrees has dropped from 37% in 1984, to 18% in 2021. Pinelopi mentioned that “a company needs to purposefully strive for diversity and make a conscious effort to be diverse because it doesn’t just happen on its own”. People from different backgrounds and circumstances don’t just get handed new roles. The right initiatives need to be in place to help them get hired, and to thrive.
From one woman to another
Thanks to the perception of women as natural nurturers, it can be easy for female engineers to be steered into management roles rather than being encouraged to develop their technical expertise. When I asked Penelopi what advice she’d give to women in the tech industry, she said this: “if you are a coder and you love coding, it’s important to hone in on your technical skills.” She also added, “don’t be afraid to take the leap and don’t pick easier things because you think you should. Stick to your passions and beliefs. When I was studying and starting my career, being a programmer was considered to be a difficult thing. It’s not easy, but it’s not too difficult to do either. With studying and support, you will succeed”.
An International Women’s Day role model
Little does she know it, but Pinelopi is an inspirational figure for the female engineers here at Marshmallow. Her seniority as an Individual Contributor and her breadth of expertise and experience is an inspiration to those hoping to reach her level at some point in their future careers. Her technical expertise, coupled with her infectious optimism and warmth make Pinelopi a pleasure to work with. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for Pinelopi here at Marshmallow.
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