Guest post by Sitora Salaeva, 2019 Emerging Leader of Uzbekistan
Editor’s note: Sitora Salaeva’s guest post is part of our series, Emerging Leader Voices, which invites TechWomen Emerging Leaders to share their voice, perspective and experiences with the TechWomen community.
To have a dream is a wonderful and powerful force. It’s that thing which gives us the strength to move forward and not give up despite the opinions and reproaches of others.
Unfortunately, our society has had a strong stereotype: that investing in the education and development of girls and women is unprofitable. Most employers are willing to invest in the professional growth and promoting of male employees rather than their female counterparts.
The beginning of my journey
As a child, I wanted to be a professional in information technology; my passion was sparked at a young age. My mother was an IT lecturer at a university and had a large library with literature and scientific journals related to technology. To me, it was something magical and incomprehensible. But on my journey to a dream career, I faced some obstacles.
When I was studying in high school, the class supervisor announced an application for a special preparatory course for students who wanted to enroll in a university. I was so motivated by my dream, and I expressed a desire to enroll in the course. However, my class supervisor said that preparatory courses were only for boys, because boys should continue their education. Girls should think about marriage.
I didn’t understand why my gender should negatively influence my future. Despite this, I attended the preparatory course and was successfully enrolled in the e-commerce department of Tashkent University of Information Technologies as the only female student. Later, I was accepted to the master’s course at that university, and I graduated with honors.
My career pathway
I wanted to apply my knowledge in the real world as soon as possible, so I began my career at age 17 as professor’s assistant at my university. I translated several of his scientific works into Russian, understanding and falling in love with technology more and more. Looking for more challenges, I continued my career as a part-time employee at a joint stock company, where I was responsible for implementing software in company activities. However, it was not enough for my ambition.
After graduating with my master’s degree, I applied for a job in the e-government development center. I passed several interviews in a strong competitive environment among men. I chose e-government because I had the opportunity to implement information technologies not just at one company, but in spheres across the whole country.
In 2017, I was hired by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Uzbekistan to develop information technologies at the Bureau of Enforcement. Again, I am the only woman engineer on my team. One of my main duties is business process automation in order to avoid corruption and help make law enforcement agencies more open and transparent. Working at a law enforcement agency has allowed me to propose legislation that will improve my country’s IT field; I’m also preparing to become a member of the anti-cyber crime and anti-terrorism expert groups of my country.
Most employers only look for experienced candidates for a job, but I always encourage my employer to consider candidates regardless of their gender or experience level. I have several mentees at work, and I love being a mentor and witnessing their achievements. It energizes me and makes me want to continue sharing my knowledge.
I heard about TechWomen five years ago at a doITWomen workshop which was organized by wonderful TechWomen fellows who received a TechWomen seed grant for the initiative. I was so impressed and excited, I couldn’t wait until the application process started.
It was a long road to achieve my dream of becoming a TechWomen Emerging Leader — but it was worth it. I applied four times to TechWomen, and finally this year I was selected. Achieving a longtime dream made me reflect on my past: I remembered a little girl with a big dream who didn’t break during life, despite stereotypes, disparaging remarks and setbacks.
You may wonder why I applied again and again. It was because I never lost my faith. After participating in the program, my life will be changed, and I will go on to inspire other women, just as as I was inspired by TechWomen fellows.
Sitora Salaeva is a software engineer at The Bureau of Enforcement under the General Prosecutor’s Office of Uzbekistan. She earned her master’s in computer engineering at Tashkent University of Information Technologies. Her life motto is “Nothing is impossible, ” and she is passionate about new technologies, challenging projects and innovative ideas.