Read-up with RED.

#InspireHER: a Q&A session with Joanna Mitova

14th March 2024


Welcome to InspireHER! We’re excited to chat with Joanna Mitova, a dynamic woman who's carved a unique path in the tech industry. Originally from Bulgaria, Joanna's journey took her through various roles, leading to her current position in web design.

Join us as Joanna shares insights on mentorship, addressing biases, and navigating male-dominated spaces within the tech industry.


1. Hi Joanna. Please tell us a bit about yourself, including how you got into a career in tech.

My name is Joanna Mitova and I am originally from Bulgaria. In the last 20 years I have lived in many countries, including Canada and the UK. Home with always be home though, which is why I recently moved back to Bulgaria.

After high school, I felt lost about what to do next. Education has always been important in my family, and I decided to give university a shot, but I did not know what to study. It wasn’t long after my rebellious side kicked in and I decided to take couple of gap years until I figured out what career I wanted to pursue. I just couldn't see the point in paying grands for something I wasn't passionate about.

So, I went on a bit of a journey, trying out different jobs in all sorts of places, from vet clinics to big stores. Eventually, I realised I was drawn to creative stuff like design and writing.

Luckily, I got a job at media company called Gilmedia, where they didn't care about my lack of formal education. I had the opportunity to be trained in web design and development, which really clicked for me. I fell in love with it and decided to pursue it as a career. I started with a free program called Npower Canada which helps young people launch their tech careers and creates a pathway into the tech world. The program truly transformed my life, and it helped me get a job at Accenture after graduation.

But I still wanted to learn more, and at the time Canada didn't have a web development Bachelors Degree programs, so I joked with a friend about applying to schools in the UK. To my surprise, I got in!

My inspiration to pursue this field is to humanise technology through my designs and provide all users with inclusivity.

2. Can you tell us about a project or achievement in your career that you're particularly proud of?

I think the achievement I am mostly proud about is this opportunity to participate in such interview. Being a woman in tech is difficult enough, I hope this interview inspires someone that they can also be part of the dynamic IT world.  

3. As we focus on "Inspire Inclusion" for International Women's Day, what strategies have you found effective in promoting diversity and inclusion in tech?


I think mentorship and sponsorship programs that connect women with opportunities for career growth and development is very important.

I also think it’s important that organisations actively focus on their recruitment processes to include attraction and retainment of diverse talent.   

Another strategy is to consistently celebrate achievements of women in tech.

4. You've mentioned mentorship. Could you elaborate on its importance in your professional development and share any experiences you've had with mentorship?

I did have a mentor, though we no longer work together. Gabriella Walshaw, a product manager at the company where I landed my first official UX job, played a huge role in my career. Gabi wasn't just a manager; she was a mentor in every sense. She supported and guided me, even after we parted ways professionally. Having a good manager, like her, is crucial—it can make or break a job experience.

As for building my confidence, she was instrumental. She not only helped with day-to-day tasks but also provided guidance on how to approach difficult situations, gave me advice for career development and how to present myself better. Gabi also gave me so much moral support, she was the type of manager I knew I could approach with anything and she would be there. Whenever I needed guidance, support, even a rant she was there. I don’t think I will be here in my career path if it wasn’t for her, I am truly thankful to her and to all the support she has given me.

Before UX, there was a professor at Cardiff University. He introduced me to the world of UX, which I loved. Though not a traditional mentor, he served as a supportive figure. He directed me towards resources, like Google courses, and encouraged my growth within the UX/UI field.

Both Gabby and my professor played pivotal roles in my journey, providing guidance, support, and inspiration along the way.

5. Have the men throughout your career affected your career positively or negatively?

I haven’t personally experienced any significant instances where my male colleagues have either actively supported me or caused any issues for me.

It's more about professional relationships and getting the job done. I focus on building those relationships regardless of race or gender, treating everyone equally and professionally. While I've switched jobs frequently, I haven't faced major issues with male colleagues. I've always felt like I’ve been treated fairly and given equal opportunities.

I've always worked hard to prove myself, often by going the extra mile. My Eastern European upbringing instilled a strong work ethic in me, driving me to always strive for excellence. Maybe my confidence and attitude towards work play a role in how I'm perceived and treated by colleagues.

6. What role do male allies play in promoting inclusion and advancing women's careers in the tech industry, and how can they contribute effectively?

Male allies have an opportunity to support women and to champion for more equality in the workplace. Men can also make great mentors for women looking for career advancement opportunities. There’s a lot that male allies can do such as taking part in diversity and inclusion training programs, educate themselves on gender-related issues, and actively promote gender-balanced teams and leadership positions within their organisations.


7. What do you believe are the most exciting opportunities for women in the tech industry today?


The tech industry presents many exciting opportunities for women today. Women have the opportunity to excel in various domains within tech, including software development, data science, cybersecurity, UX/UI design, and product management. All these open doors for women to take on many leadership roles which can hopefully inspire next generation of female technologists.

One reason I gravitate towards contract jobs isn't just about the money—it's about exploring UX and the different opportunities it presents. Backtracking a bit, I studied computer application development in undergrad, loving the front end. But then I pursued a master's in software engineering and hated the backend coding. That's how I stumbled into UX and thought, "This is it!"

My latest role is as a product owner, which feels like the next step. Ideally, I see myself as a senior product owner, or maybe even stepping back to start my own UX company. That's the big dream. Who knows if it's possible, but it's something I'd love to pursue.

8. In your opinion, what steps can tech companies take to create more inclusive environments where women feel valued and supported?


For companies to create a more inclusive environment, I'd say they should focus more on offering flexibility—move away from the nine-to-five schedule.

As a freelancer, I've got great flexibility in my contracts, setting my own hours and all. As I get older, having the freedom to choose when and how I work becomes more important than just the pay cheque. It's all about that control over my time, like being with family, taking holidays whenever I want. Overall, I think we should be more focused on what the results are and what we deliver, rather than the time spent at work.

9. As a woman in tech, have you encountered any unconscious bias or stereotypes, and how do you address them?

In all honesty, I haven't personally encountered unconscious bias or stereotypes as a woman in the tech industry. While I know that experiences may vary and negative experiences do exist, I personally feel that the tech sector stands out for its inclusivity, openness, and diversity.


10. How do you prioritise self-care and well-being in an industry known for its fast-paced and demanding nature, while also advocating for inclusion?


One thing I do to maintain a healthy work-life balance is keep work-related apps off my phone, like Teams and Outlook. This helps me avoid the temptation to constantly check emails or messages after hours. I also start my workday by creating a to-do list, prioritising tasks and ensuring nothing falls through the cracks. If I don't complete a task, I write it down in the next day's plan.

I once came across some advice about not becoming overly emotionally invested in work. While it may sound cliché, it made me realise the importance of not letting work consume me. Yes, work is important, but so are personal relationships and well-being. This perspective shift has helped me relax and prioritise what truly matters.

11. How do you stay updated with the latest trends and developments in the tech industry?

To stay on top of trends, I often attend industry conferences, seminars, and webinars where different industry leaders discuss emerging technologies and design trends. I also subscribe to tech and design publications, follow influential figures on social media platforms, and have a high involvement in online forums and communities dedicated to UX/UI.

There's an event called Accessibility Power Hour, they focus on creating design inclusivity for all. The hot topic right now is integrating AI and ChatGPT — making sure the involvement of new tech helps everything's accessible for everyone.

In terms of networks, Ladies at UX is a major group I'm into, along with the UX Book Club, UX Professionals, and Tech Curse. I'm big on following women in UX because I find the community vibe refreshing.

I’ve also done some Google certificates back in the day, specifically for UX. It's a pretty tight-knit community and supportive.

12. What do you do in your free time?

This year, my focus is on prioritising my health. I've started exploring yoga, although I'm still getting the hang of it. My roommate introduced me to meditation, which I've found surprisingly effective in clearing my mind and reducing stress.

I'm a big fan of outdoor activities, particularly walking in the park. Even if I don't make it to the gym, a stroll outdoors with some music is recharging my battery. I'm drawn to nature, and spending time at the beach during the summer is where I feel most at home—I could spend hours there without moving.

Journaling has become another way for me to manage my thoughts and emotions, helping me avoid dwelling on negativity. And I've started doing therapy - I believe therapy is beneficial for everyone, not just during difficult times but also for gaining insights into life from a different angle. Going once a month is like a mental check-in, offering me a sense of clarity that is so beneficial to me.

13. Can you share any final insights on navigating the male-dominated spaces within the tech industry?


Navigating male-dominated spaces within the tech industry has been a journey filled with insights and lessons that have shaped my approach and perspective. Here are some key lessons learned from my experience:

1.In male-dominated environments, it's crucial to be confident while advocating for ideas and contributions.

2.Embracing my unique perspective and contributions as a woman in tech has been empowering.

3.The tech industry is constantly evolving, and staying updated with new technologies and skills is vital.

4. Seeking mentorship from senior professionals, both male and female, can provide valuable guidance and insights for navigating career challenges and opportunities.

Die große Frage: SAP Custom oder Standard?


Die Frage nach einer standardmäßigen oder maßgeschneiderten Lösung stellt sich bei jeder SAP-Implementierung. Und das aus gutem Grund. Beide Ansätze haben ihre Vor- und Nachteile und können weitreichende Auswirkungen auf Ihr Unternehmen haben.

Doch wie gut haben maßgeschneiderte Systeme in der Pandemie abgeschnitten, wenn man bedenkt, wie schnell sich Unternehmen an die vollkommen neue Situation anpassen mussten? Wir haben unsere Kunden gefragt, ob die maßgeschneiderte oder die standardmäßige Lösung die bessere Wahl war.