Career Changer Alexandra Angelova - From Working in an NGO in the USA to becoming an IT Specialist in Bulgaria.
Alexandra Angelova’s career took a step towards her dream of making the world a better place
Alexandra Angelova is one of those young people who already has a clear idea of what she wants to do in her live, even dating back to high school. In the 9th grade she became part of the Bulgarian Youth Red Cross organization in Dobrich, Bulgaria, and as such she has participated in a variety of different charities. As her experience in the volunteer sector grew, so did her dedication to helping different groups of people, whether they are in a governmental or nongovernmental sector. Following this path, and after graduating high school, she enrolled to study “Diplomacy and international relations” at the University of New Jersey, USA, where, full of enthusiasm, she was able to take a step towards her dream of making the world a better place.
A few years degree after graduation, Alexandra did an internship in an NGO in New York, where she was able to observe international relations, especially regarding the hot spots of the modern world – Libya, Syria, South Sudan, and Iraq. She got the chance to attend the UN security council and respectfully report on modern trends in each country. Although the time she spent in at the NGO felt like a dream come true, she couldn’t help but feel mixed emotions.
She explains: “The opportunity gave me an deep insight of into what was happening on an international level At the same time, it also had a significant negative impact on me. I had to keep myself informed on a daily basis about the conflicts in the respective countries - about the victims of the civil wars being waged there, about all the destruction that goes along with it, and about the hardship of the people. I followed the public appearances of various diplomats and the UN Security Council, but at the same time I knew there was nothing I could do about it. Add to that the international community's disgust with what was happening, and I just knew that the conflicts would continue.”
The path towards a dream as the path towards the self
Alexandra is barely 21 years old when she comes in touch with the possibility of helping to solve social problems. But instead of joy, this brought her a deeper understanding of both the world at large and herself, so she moved away from her idealism in the years that followed. She realized the amount of time and effort it would take to bring systemic change, especially in the context of military conflicts, poverty, and climate change. She realized the need for instant gratification through her work – to possess have the skills and knowledge to help with a concretely defined issue.
Her trip to Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake and following tsunami, is a pivotal point in her professional reorientation – “I came to the thought that I could much better help ease the lives of these people if I were to acquire the technical know-how as to create solutions for real problems”, Alexandra recalls.
The next step is destroy her own myth – that she would excel solely in the humanities and not the STEM fields. This is where the help of her economics and statistics professors proved of invaluable– “They showed me that I have the capability needed to further pursue a career in the STEM fields, as long as I have the urge and dedication to obtaining new knowledge”, she says.
Coming back to Bulgaria and first steps in IT
Following the trend of a big part of the modern Bulgarian youth living abroad, Alexandra decided to come back to Bulgaria so she can be close to her friends and family. After returning home, one of the organizations she worked with during university offered her a position as a project coordinator, for projects regarding early childhood development. This is what sparked her interest towards databases, prompted to create a database to store the children’s grades, which the organization used as references. Following this, Alexandra signed up for a “Databases and SQL” course in the Swift academy, where she realized the amount of knowledge it would take her to build the system she had envisioned. “The fact that in the IT industry you work towards resolving concrete problems, the dynamics of the work in question, as well as the fact that you can see the fruits of your labor almost instantly are among the key driving factors which made me choose an IT career” – she tells about this crucial point in her life. Thanks to the courses she took in the Swift Academy, she managed to get a data analytics job at GfK, where she had the opportunity to explore the world of big data, Hadoop and Apache Spark – technologies, she uses every day at Schwarz IT Bulgaria.
Growth in Schwarz IT Bulgaria
A former colleague from GfK informs her of the job offer in data engineering for Schwarz IT Bulgaria (Kaufland IT Hub at the time), and given the fact that data engineering is the area she wants to advance her career in, it is a “perfect opportunity” for her to start starting as an intern with no experience in the field. “I am extremely grateful to Schwarz IT Bulgaria, for giving the chance to start studying and honing my skills in the field I want to achieve in. I signed up for Python courses in SoftUni, and with the company’s aid, was able to attain the most vital knowledge, required for my day-to-day work” – she remembers about her first steps in Schwarz IT Bulgaria. Currently, Alexandra is a Data Engineer at Schwarz IT Bulgaria. The team she is part of is in charge of maintaining the platform for big data analytics. She excited about her work – “Our task as data engineers is to provide an amazing platform, infrastructure and a set of different tools, which strive to aid our analyzers to resolve different business problems. For example – optimizing the quantities for a given product in stock in a certain Kaufland store, while the product is on sale or to predict the amount of pastries which that would be sold in a given Lidl store in a day so as to produce the optimal number and avoid product waste. We also strive to predict the needed amount and type of coins the cashiers need to have on hand in order to always give change to the clients”. These examples are actual projects, Alexandra and her colleagues work on – business problems that requiring innovative solutions. Problems, that are solved by her work and give her great pleasure. One of the biggest challenges, which Alexandra has been faced with recently, is taking on the role of a Product Owner for the analytic platform of Kaufland, and in thanks to that very challenge, she managed to formulate her strategy for dealing with hardship, formulated as – “focus on the right mindset”. She shares – “It was very hard for me in the beginning since I didn’t feel confident to make decisions regarding the tech matters. Soon thereafter I realized that one of the most important things for facing any challenge is the mindset. So, instead of focusing on my fears and concerns a particular issue, I started listening to the advice of my colleague who are most knowledgeable in the area to make the right decision”.
The challenges and the opportunity to work with the most up-to-date technologies for big data analysis are only two of the reasons which keep Alexandra in Schwarz IT Bulgaria, although coming in as the biggest reason for retention has to be the work environment – “the wonderful colleagues and managers and the clear message by the company that it wants to retain its employees”. She shares that she could always rely on the people close to her, when in need of help, a second opinion or feedback. She highly values the freedom to speak her mind freely and give suggestions for improvement.
A gaze towards the future
When asked the obligatory question of where she sees herself in 10 years, Alexandra replies that she would like to see herself as a senior developer, someone who can navigate any new project and independently develop end-to-end solutions, although she is sure that even in 10 years she will still not have given up her dream: “I hope that I have the opportunity to gain all the necessary knowledge and skills as to solve social issues, with the help of technology, of course”.