I don’t want to be the outlier at a company that only sees diversity as a marketing tool. At INNOQ, I’m just another coworker.Dr. Larysa Visengeriyeva Head of Data and AI
Dr. Larysa Visengeriyeva
With INNOQ since 2020.
Working as Head of Data and AI.
Larysa lives with her family in Berlin. The Ukraine native earned her doctorate in augmented data quality at TU Berlin. At INNOQ, her main areas of focus include machine learning operations (MLOps) and data architecture. In her spare time, Larysa loves to do triathlon.
Larysa finds it hard to understand why so few women and girls are interested in IT. For her, computer science, programming, software architecture, and design are all creative endeavors. She insists that, during her school days, it was laziness that drew her to computer science. She was fascinated by the possibility of using programming to save time. However, when you hear her story and spend time with her, it quickly becomes clear that her career means much more to her.
At an early age, Larysa understood: As a woman, if you want to live life on your own terms, then a good education and financial independence are essential. However, as she tells it, she grew up in a culture where it was more common for women to stay home with their families. She decided to take a different path, studying computer science and teaching in Ukraine. At the age of 20, she seized the opportunity to travel to Germany for her postgraduate studies. An intuitive decision, according to her. On the one hand, she had always loved the German language and its melody. Naturally, however, as a woman, she was also drawn to the opportunity to be more independent and have better career prospects. It was this central motivation that would help her start fresh in a foreign country and pursue a challenging postgrad program. After all, when she arrived in Germany, she spoke little German and only had 10 months to pass the entrance exams at the university.
Her interest in software engineering led her to change paths in Germany and study computer science as a technical discipline. Even though she likes teaching and would enjoy excellent career prospects as a teacher in Germany, she was simply more interested in software engineering and architecture. Furthermore, this decision resulted in Larysa’s dream combination: a fulfilling career that also offers her financial independence.
My independence was always a major motivator for everything I do.
If I can speak to a young woman for half an hour and motivate her to lead an independent life – that is a feeling of fulfillment that is hard to put into words.
She attributes the lack of women in IT today to persistent stereotypes, clichés, and preconceptions. It is all the more important, then, for young girls to have role models and mentors; people who encourage them and trust them to have the same technical understanding as boys. This is why Larysa enjoys sharing her own experiences with girls and women, and offering them useful tips. Often these international connections are established by fathers looking for role models for their daughters. However, Larysa feels it is important to motivate young women to find the path that is right for them so that they can live fulfilled, independent lives. If this results in more women entering the IT field, then that’s a positive side effect. Larysa is convinced: at the end of the day, diversity is a question of equality.
After completing her studies, she worked for four years in the industry as a back-end developer, including in the area of databases and data management for persistence layer development. To open up more career opportunities for herself, she began her doctorate after the birth of her first child. She believed that earning a doctoral degree would mean that it would no longer be possible for anyone to question her abilities because she is a woman. However, while earning her degree, her career-driven motivation began to evolve. Today she knows that the tireless drive to climb to the top of the corporate ladder was mostly something that others had talked her into. After all, during the challenging work of writing a doctoral thesis, the question inevitably arises: Why am I doing this?
It’s not that I wanted to get my doctorate just to have a doctorate; rather, it’s because I understood, ‘Okay these are the problems and I want to solve them.'
Larysa’s answer: She wanted to gain the necessary knowledge to address urgent problems. As a result, she changed the topic of her dissertation from natural-language processing to data cleaning or data quality management. After all, one problem that Larysa came across time and again was the time-consuming cleaning of data.
Data is constantly being created, yet at the same time, a certain quality level must be achieved and maintained. It was while working on this multidimensional task that she first discovered machine learning; a topic that she continues to work on today at INNOQ. And, as she calls it, another knowledge branch on her “tree of expertise”.
As a woman, you have a different system of coordinates.
After seven years of academic research at TU Berlin, Larysa was itching to get back to software engineering. Plus, she also wanted to get away from the rigid hierarchical structures of academia. Away from a system in which each individual is constantly measured against their peers. After all, earning your doctorate as she did, with two children, makes it difficult to compare yourself. It simply takes more time, which means that a mother will have a correspondingly higher academic age. As a woman, Larysa had a different system of coordinates.
After all of these experiences, when it was time for her to return to the world of free enterprise, diversity played a key role. She saw her future at an IT company where equal opportunity was not just a marketing tool, but rather a guiding principle. In which a woman isn’t seen as an outlier, but rather as just another coworker. At this point, she had mainly heard about INNOQ through articles in technical publications, blog posts, and presentations at conferences.
She was able to take her first look behind the scenes in 2016 when she was invited to attend a ScalaBridge workshop as a Scala coach. The free workshop was mainly aimed at women and other underrepresented groups in IT, and was intended to provide them with basic knowledge about functional programming in the Scala programming language.
At this workshop she met her future coworker Daniel Westheide. “In preparation for the ScalaBridge workshop, I visited INNOQ and spoke with Daniel and other INNOQ colleagues. My impression was: not only do they know what they’re talking about, but they’re also really great people. The kind of people you want to work with,” says Larysa.
Uncompromising expertise and diversity.
Therefore, after completing her doctorate in 2019, she immediately contacted INNOQ. She remembers her first meeting and unofficial interview with Stefan Tilkov at the GOTO Conference 2019: “His first question was: ‘Larysa, tell me, what do you want to do?’ For me, that was a big aha moment, because normally it’s the other way around. A company looks for people who fit into their plans.” And this is why, since joining INNOQ, she has been able to successfully and independently pursue the projects that she is most passionate about: software engineering for machine learning or ml-ops.org – a website that she had originally launched as a microsite for herself to keep track of her knowledge on the topic of machine learning operations.
In the meantime, the website has a lot of fans and is updated by several of her colleagues. As a Senior Consultant, she works on client projects, for example as a data scientist or data engineer, and she is also happy to share her knowledge – in publications, at conferences, in workshops on topics such as domain-driven design or machine learning use cases, and by mentoring student employees.
When I drop my kids off to play sports, I also exercise. It makes me happy.
But Larysa also has other interests outside of work. She balances out her full-time job by training for triathlons: running, cycling, swimming, and strength training. Reconciling her career, sports, and family is a challenge, even for Larysa. Two of her four children still live at home and are still in school. One major advantage is that the entire family shares her love of sports. So, as a big fan of synergies, she finds time to exercise while her children play sports.
Flexitime is another key factor. Naturally, at INNOQ, certain things are on a fixed schedule. But it’s also far from a traditional 9-to-5 job. In coordination with your team, you can choose how to allocate your time, making it easier to combine a full-time job with having a family. For Larysa, her passion for software engineering goes well beyond fixed working hours anyway. She also reads technical literature in her free time, or takes time on the weekend to prepare for workshops. The difference, she says, is whether or not you enjoy what you do. If you love your work, then “work” and “life” don’t need to be separate because they are already balanced.