Back to Bulgaria: The Story of Alexandra Angelova

AlexandraAngelova -The dream for a better world and path from the NGO sector in the USA to an IT career in Bulgaria
 

Alexandra Angelova is of the type of youth, which has a clear set definition for what they want to devote their lives to, 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 taken part in a myriad of different charities. As her experience in the volunteer sector grew, so did her devotion to the cause of aiding different groups of people, be it as part of the governmental or nongovernmental sectors.  Following in that path, and after graduating high school she enrolled in to a “Diplomacy and international relations” degree in the university of New Jersey, USA, where she, brimming with enthusiasm, got to take a step towards her dream of making the world a better place.

 

A few years into her degree Alexandra found herself taking up an internship in an NGO in New York, where she got to monitor international relations, especially regarding the hot points of the modern world – Libya, Syria, South Sudan, Iraq. She got the chance to attend the UN security council and respectfully report the modern trends in the given countries, albeit give that the time spent in the NGO should have felt like a dream come true, she couldn’t help but feel mixed emotions.

She shares – “The opportunity gave me an in-depth perspective of the happenings on an international scale. Although simultaneously it had a substantial negative impact on me. I had to inform myself, on the daily, of the conflicts in the given countries – about the casualties of the civil wars being fought, about all the ruin that comes thereafter and the hardships of the peoples. I was tracing the public showings of a variety of different diplomats, as well as the UN security council, but at the same time I knew I was powerless to do anything about it. Adding to that would be the disgust in relation to the happenings, shown from the side of the international community, I just knew that the conflicts would go on”.

 

The path towards a dream as the path towards the self
Alexandra is barely at the age of 21 when she was able to come in touch with the opportunity to help aid the resolution of social issues, albeit instead of joy this brought her a more thorough understanding both of the world as a whole, and of herself, shifting from her idealistic in the following years. She realized the amount of time and effort it would take to see actual systemic change, especially in the context of military conflicts, poverty, and climate change. She realized the need for instant gratification from her work – to possess the skills and knowledge to be able to aid with a concretely defined issue.

Her trip to Haiti, post the 2010 earthquake and following tsunami, is a pivotal point in her career 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 reminisces.

The next step is tearing down her own self-fabricated myth – that she would excel solely in the humanities and not the STEM fields. This is where the aid of her economy and statistics professors proved of great value – “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 shares.

 

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 field of work 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 amongst the key driving factors which drove me towards an IT career” – she shares regarding this pivotal point in her life. Thanks to the courses taken in the Swift Academy, she managed to get a data analysis job at GfK, where she had the opportunity to face the world of big data, Hadoop and Apache Spark – technologies, which she uses on a daily basis in Schwarz IT Bulgaria.

 

Growth in Schwarz IT Bulgaria
A former colleague from GfK is responsible for informing her of the job opportunity in the field of data engineering for Schwarz IT Bulgaria (Kaufland IT Hub at the time) and given the fact that data engineering is the sphere in which she wants to further her career in, it comes as a so called “perfect opportunity to her”, 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 reminisces about her first steps in Schwarz IT Bulgaria.

As of now Alexandra is a Data Engineer in Schwarz IT Bulgaria. The team she is part of is tasked with maintaining the platform for big data analysis. She joyously shares 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 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 as to be able to always give change to the clients”. These examples are actual projects Alexandra and her colleagues work on – business problems, requiring innovative solutions. Problems, which get resolved through her work and that brings her great joy.

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. Thus, instead of focusing on my angst and worries regarding a given issue, I started heeding my colleagues’ advice, the ones most knowledgeable in the field, so as to be able 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
To the mandatory question of where she sees herself in 10 years, Alexandra answers that she would like to see herself as a Senior Developer, one who could both as easily find his way in every new project and develop end-to-end solutions by themselves, albeit she remains certain that even in 10 years’ time, she will still not have abandoned her dream – “I hope to have had the opportunity to attain all of the necessary knowledge and skills as to resolve social issues, with the help of technology, of course”.