STEM IT Like A Girl: The Importance of Breaking The Stereotypes That Hold Women Back

STEM IT Like A Girl


The Importance of Breaking The Stereotypes That Hold Women Back

STEM IT Like A Girl


The Importance of Breaking The Stereotypes That Hold Women Back

Fact: the position of women in society has improved significantly in the past century.

Also a fact: there is still much work to be done – such as addressing the issues that prevent young women from choosing education and/or a profession in a STEM field.

We present you Macedonia 2025’s project – ‘STEM IT Like A Girl ‘– meant to promote careers in a STEM field to young women. As part of the project, there were organized lectures for young women in primary schools, at which women working in STEM shared their experiences – why they chose a career in STEM, how they got to where they were, and how they overcame the obstacles along the way. The project was developed to provide a platform through which young women will be introduced to the possibilities of a job in STEM and break the stereotypes surrounding women’s participation and contribution in the field.

IT Labs supports initiatives that bring science and tech closer to young people, so of course, we participated. Our Aleksandra Glavinova and Ilina Pejoska Zaturoski shared their journeys in two such lectures.

Here are their stories:

Don’t let all the stereotypes and misconceptions hold you back and prevent you from chasing your dreams. Every woman can show that she’s just as good and as skilled – all it takes is persistence and hard work.

Aleksandra’s Story


A few years ago, fresh out of high school, Aleksandra was contemplating her next move – she wanted to pursue a degree in electrical engineering and a career in the tech industry, but as soon as she shared her plans, the feedback she received was full of stereotypes.

People were telling her how the tech industry is a “man’s world,” how she’d struggle to push her way through and be overlooked, and how her fundamental rights won’t be respected in a private company as they would in the public sector. Still, her unwavering determination to pursue her dreams and break down the barriers pushed her to go for it.

Today, Aleksandra has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering in Skopje, she’s working as a Front-end Engineer at IT Labs, and is on course to get her MSc in the same field.

Don’t let all the stereotypes and misconceptions hold you back and prevent you from chasing your dreams. Every woman can show that she’s just as good and as skilled – all it takes is persistence and hard work.

Ilina’s Story


Ilina’s journey is filled with both ups and downs. Still, it all resulted in her being where she is today – a skilled UX/UI designer at IT Labs, an owner of a successful small business, and a mother. She says the support from close people is paramount and that we need to surround ourselves with people who can help us on our path to fulfilling our dreams.

In her opinion, the long road she traveled is something the younger generation can do without, which is why she’s focused on sharing her experience and knowledge with anyone interested in pursuing a career in the IT industry in her spare time.

Don’t be afraid to be more, because we’re all capable of it. If you know that you deserve more – be it a salary, your own business, or anything else – go for it! Nothing is impossible!

Takeaway


The idea that women should stay away from male-dominated industries is not just an outdated one – it’s also harmful. And the only way to break these stereotypes is to do just what our IT Labs’ girls did – work hard for their dreams, surround themselves with like-minded and supportive people, and don’t let anything prevent them from reaching the top!


From Interns to IT Pros: Martin Trajkov

From Interns to IT Pros: Martin Trajkov

The dedication to progress, learning, and development is one of the pillars upon which IT Labs was founded and built. Skills, structures, rules, methods – all of these were and are interchangeable parts of how we function as a company, but the focus was always on people.
From day one, we were dedicated to helping people learn, grow, and develop with us, giving them the opportunity to cut their teeth in the tech industry and express themselves – starting out as interns, and then working their way up. Some of these interns have been with us for years, and one of them is Martin Trajkov.
We caught up with him for a short chat, to see how far along he’s come in his journey with us.

So, Martin, first things first - how did you end up with us? 

That is actually a funny story, I applied for an internship, and I was called to do an interview with one of the mentors, but it turned out that they thought I was applying for 1 month internship with no option for employment after finishing but at the interview one of the mentors, Miki Jovanovski, started firing the questions, which I answered and in the end he went ‘why are you applying for a 1-month internship and not the one that is 3 months with an option for employment?’, I was confused but said that I would prefer that one, and Ana Georgieva, the recruiter back then told me that those places are already filled. Guess what, the next day, I got a call, and they said we want you! Bottom line, the lesson from this would be there is always space for good prospects!! 

What was your experience in the internship program? With the mentors? 

I honestly started the internship without any prior experience, and I was kind of lost at the beginning but with hard work, great guidance and help from the best mentors Aleksandra Vinokikj and Miki Jovanovski to whom I will be forever thankful I managed to finish the internship with solid experience to start and succeed in my career!

What do you see yourself doing in the future? The only way is up, so where exactly is that?

It might be a bit bold and overconfident, but my answer would be – at the top 😀. Perhaps start with leading my own team and then continue to the top.  

What does your average day look like?  

Writing code, solving challenges, reading as much as I can on new technology, and of course joking and laughing with IT-Labers. 

You got a favorite quote? Something that’s sort of like a mantra? 

 " It is not how you start but rather how you finish "  


The Books That Helped Shape the Tech Leaders of Today – Part 1

The Books That Helped Shape the Tech Leaders of Today – Part 1

It’s been a bit over two years since I and the team here at IT Labs started work on the CTO Confessions podcast. We started small, going episode to episode, planning it all out and delivering and what began as somewhat of an experiment for us, turned out to be a goldmine of information and insight from some of the best leaders in the world of tech.
Our primary goal? Share this information with all the up-and-coming techies, giving them an insight into the minds and the modus operandi of some of the tech leaders, something from which they can learn.

The Literature

The one thing we learned from all the episodes was that tech leaders love to read. Books on organizational management, leadership, philosophies, guides – all kinds of books that helped them become better leaders.
And now, after more than 100 episodes of CTO Confessions, we found a pattern as we saw some titles repeating, so we dived deeper into these to see what was it that attracted them, and we put together a list of the books that we (and many tech leaders) think are a must-read for anyone looking to leave their mark in the tech industry.
Our first part of this series of pieces consists of the following books:

The Literature

The one thing we learned from all the episodes was that tech leaders love to read. Books on organizational management, leadership, philosophies, guides – all kinds of books that helped them become better leaders.
And now, after more than 100 episodes of CTO Confessions, we found a pattern as we saw some titles repeating, so we dived deeper into these to see what was it that attracted them, and we put together a list of the books that we (and many tech leaders) think are a must-read for anyone looking to leave their mark in the tech industry.
Our first part of this series of pieces consists of the following books:

Unboss by Lars Kolind

Description: Published in 2012, the book goes about analyzing traditional management and structure models in companies, and proposing a newer, fresher model which is more fitting for new businesses and start-ups, giving them a more human-centric approach that can help them grow.
Every department/part of an organization needs a specific strategy which is a part of a bigger, more significant strategy, aligned with the vision and mission of the company.
How it can help tech leaders: The need for newer working, hierarchical, and structure models is clear in the tech industry, as they are becoming the pioneers of inventing and implementing new ones that have an increased focus on the people, rather than just the projects and the business. Every aspiring tech leader should explore options on how they can structure/restructure their organization around the people and their needs.


Unboss by Lars Kolind

Description: Published in 2012, the book goes about analyzing traditional management and structure models in companies, and proposing a newer, fresher model which is more fitting for new businesses and start-ups, giving them a more human-centric approach that can help them grow.
Every department/part of an organization needs a specific strategy which is a part of a bigger, more significant strategy, aligned with the vision and mission of the company.
How it can help tech leaders: The need for newer working, hierarchical, and structure models is clear in the tech industry, as they are becoming the pioneers of inventing and implementing new ones that have an increased focus on the people, rather than just the projects and the business. Every aspiring tech leader should explore options on how they can structure/restructure their organization around the people and their needs.

Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow’ by Matthew Skelton

Description: Agile is the cornerstone on which sustainable organizational flow can be created, and this book goes deep into how you can transform your business to become more agile. In three parts, with each covering all the aspects that can help you achieve that desired company fast flow.
How it can help tech leaders: This one goes without saying, right? If you’re not thinking agile, what are you thinking about? It’s a better way to do things, and something, if you do it right, will set you up for long-term success and allow yourself to adapt to the highly volatile nature of the tech industry.


Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow’ by Matthew Skelton

Description: Agile is the cornerstone on which sustainable organizational flow can be created, and this book goes deep into how you can transform your business to become more agile. In three parts, with each covering all the aspects that can help you achieve that desired company fast flow.
How it can help tech leaders: This one goes without saying, right? If you’re not thinking agile, what are you thinking about? It’s a better way to do things, and something, if you do it right, will set you up for long-term success and allow yourself to adapt to the highly volatile nature of the tech industry.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab

Description: We’ve had a few industrial revolutions so far, and the fact is, we’re currently going through the fourth one, in which the lines between the physical and the digital are slowly getting blurred. It’s an analysis of what might come, how it will be different from what was and what is, and how we can prepare for it.
How it can help tech leaders: The idea that we’re constantly changing, and progressing is something everyone knows, but to be part of the change, to be part of the people who will enable and power it up – we first need to learn how to master it. A powerful book that can help you expand and shape your vision and mission as a leader.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention’ by Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer

Description: Netflix has been known to have a distinct brand of culture inside – a culture that has helped shape the company and give its odd structure and unique way of operating. This book goes down into the details, a behind-the-scenes sort of view of how it all came to be.
How it can help tech leaders: Sure, proven and tested models that are proven to work will always be a go-to for some, but as a tech leader, the way something works doesn’t have to be all templatized. You can go your own way, and this book is a goldmine of ideas that can help you get into that mindset.


No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention’ by Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer

Description: Netflix has been known to have a distinct brand of culture inside – a culture that has helped shape the company and give its odd structure and unique way of operating. This book goes down into the details, a behind-the-scenes sort of view of how it all came to be.
How it can help tech leaders: Sure, proven and tested models that are proven to work will always be a go-to for some, but as a tech leader, the way something works doesn’t have to be all templatized. You can go your own way, and this book is a goldmine of ideas that can help you get into that mindset.


Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup’ by John Carreyrou

Description: A book about one of the biggest frauds in American history, and the biggest one in the tech industry – Theranos. The rise and fall, and all the details in between are in this book – simply put, this is a thriller with an ending that is bitter, but highly educational.
How it can help tech leaders: The how’s and why’s of some stuff that can happen are important, but the one thing that techies and tech leaders can learn from this book is that sometimes believing in an idea without being to objectively measure its feasibility can lead to disastrous results.

Well, CTO Confessions is much more than just insightful and educational books - it's also about leaders, their path to becoming who they are, and the valuable lessons they learned along the way. Dive into one of our 100 episodes 

Right Here

Takeaway

They say that nothing beats learning by doing, but truth be told, that ‘doing’ part can be much more efficient and educational if you get the facts straight and learn from the experience of others or get a bit deeper into the details. Stay tuned for part 2 of the series!


TC Gill


Head of People Development
Business Agility Transformation Lead
CtO (Chief talking Officer) for IT Labs CTO Confessions Podcast


We Did the Olympics – IT Labs Style

We Did the Olympics – IT Labs Style


For more than 2000 years, the Olympics have been one of the main, if not the main sports events competition at which various athletes have displayed their skills and competed against one another in teams and/or individually. So, we decided to give our employees the chance to do the same, albeit in a bit different format, and in different competitions.

The result? Two action-filled weeks at which we now know who’s in certain “sports” and competitions.

The competitions? As listed:

DARTS

TABLE TENNIS

OFFICE TRIVIA

MUG MARATHON

PS4 FIFA

LUDO

TABLE FOOTBALL

CODING GAME

All requiring a different set of skills, and all posing a challenge – and enabling randomly picked teams to work together to get to that revered gold medal. All in all? We now have champions who have their gold medals and bragging rights, and a little something to look forward to – the next IT Labs Olympics!

Photos of how it all went down? Right on below.

 


IT Labs Internship - a successful round-up of the latest program

IT Labs Internship - a successful round-up of the latest program

This week, our first batch of interns for 2022 finished their training, and 8 of them will continue their journey with us as full-time team members!
Last year, we called out for all the aspiring and driven young techies that want to make their first steps in the world of technology to come on over and do it with us. In the past three months, the interns had the chance to work on real projects, face a variety of challenges, and learn the tricks of the trade from seasoned professionals. For this one, we had four streams that we focused on:

  • Full-stack (.NET & React)
  • Full-stack (Java & React)
  • QA
  • Python

As a company dedicated to developing talent and enabling young techies on their journey through the tech world, we know and understand the importance of the first steps people make in their careers, and how it can help them to grow and develop continuously.

We have another call for interns open – you interested?


Check the available intern positions on the following links


IT Labs partners up with the School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Nis

IT Labs partners up with the School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Nis


April, 2022

A long-term agreement for collaboration was signed between IT Labs and the School of Electronic Engineering at the University of Nis, as the first step towards joint work in innovation, development, and the introduction of new technologies.

IT Labs’ General Manager, Kostandina Zafirovska, and Ilija Mishov, Co-founder, visited the University of Nis last week, meeting with Prof. Boban Veselic PhD, Vice-Dean at Faculty for Electronic Engineering, to discuss the current dynamics in the IT community and the potential to work together towards innovation, setting the foundations of the collaboration, and then signing the agreement.

The collaboration is expected to boost the number of students that have hands-on experience with modern tech and software, as well as provide them with valuable working experience with IT Labs, as professional practical work (internship), as part of the agreement.

Work experience can prove invaluable to students who are yet to conclude their studies, and also help them find fields in which they can then improve and specialize in.

Hands-on work experience is crucial during studying, as it helps students see how far they’ve come along, learn new things, and get real-life experience in a work environment and finding solutions”

– Kostandina Zafirovska
General Manager at It Labs

“The best way to become skilled at something is a combination of both theory and practice, and working a company, on real projects, is definitely one of the best ways for students to gain invaluable experience and put their skills to the test.”

– Prof. Boban Veselic PhD,
Vice-Dean at Faculty for Electronic Engineering


IT Labs Entered Into a Collaboration with the School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Belgrade

IT Labs Entered Into a Collaboration with the School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Belgrade


March, 2022

IT Labs and the School of Electrical Engineering (SEE) at the University of Belgrade have signed an agreement for collaboration, with the purpose of joining forces in innovation, development, and introduction of new technologies, with IT Labs becoming a Grand Partner of SEE (School of Electrical Engineering).

IT Labs’ General Manager, Kostandina Zafirovska, and Ilija Mishov, Co-founder at IT Labs, paid a visit to the University last week to sign the collaboration and lay the foundations of the cooperation, meeting with Ass. Professor Mileta Zarkovic, PhD, Professor Bosko Nikolic, PhD, and Professor Milos Cvetanovic.

Primarily, this collaboration consists of defining and setting up topics for projects, BSc and master’s theses, as well as going deeper in modernizing and improving the curricula and syllabi, and practical training and potential employment for students from various degrees programs.

Closer collaboration and cooperation among IT Companies and academic institutions will help in providing better education to younger people, helping them secure their future, and spur innovation and invention.

Collaborations like this one is the first step towards ensuring our academic institutions are not just cradles of knowledge, but also innovation.”

– Kostandina Zafirovska
General Manager at It Labs

“By collaborating, we can help young people enter the labor market more prepared and enable them a hands-on experience with modern technology, which in turn makes them better equipped to succeed.”

– Ass. Professor Mileta Žarković, PhD
School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Belgrade


Marking the International Women's Day 2022

Marking the International Women's Day 2022

The role of women in society has changed over the years, but has their position changed? Has there been progress? Questions like these and many others were asked, debated, and answered yesterday, March 7th, during the discussion of our IT Lab women with Ljupka Trajanovska, an experienced activist with a demonstrated history of working in the civic and social organization industry. The topic of the discussion was “Women’s Role in Society: 2022” at which a brief overview of the history of women’s movements was covered, together with how the movement has changed over the years, and how women have gone lengths in their search for equal treatment. 

And March 8th – the International Women’s Day – is the day on which we raise awareness to all the obstacles women have pushed through, the barriers they have torn down, and the things they have achieved that contributed to making the world a better place. 

Women’s Roles and Standing in Society – an Overview: 

With all the effort already put into improving the position of women in society, there is still much to be done, as some of the stats in North Macedonia show that: 

  • less than half of all the women of age are employed 
  • less than 30% of all real-estate owners are women 
  • on average, they earn about 15-20% less than men 
  • over 220,000 women that are counted on as housewives are not considered to be workers, and are not compensated for their efforts 

This imbalance is a clear sign that not all women have the same opportunities nor the same support when it comes to their professional lives, and more often than not, they end up depending on their partners. 

What Can be Done 

From that first march for Women’s Rights back 1910, many will say that that’s history – but it’s history that we’re living right now, and there’s lot of work still to be done. So here and now, what can we all do? How do we ensure that women get to the position in society, in business, in tech – that they deserve? 

At IT Labs, 50% of our workforce consists of women, and this extends to management and executive positions as well, and we’ve achieved this by empowering women and giving them the same opportunities that men enjoy and providing them with a platform to grow and develop. 

We are guided by the concept of meritocracy, a concept which has proved, time and again, that given the opportunity, women will reach the same heights as men – and some will even go above it! 

Happy International Women’s Day!
 


Month of Giving Back

Month of Giving Back

This past month came and went almost in an instant, mainly because we all had a lot of things to do, and a lot of things to cherish and enjoy, like the forthcoming holiday season for example. But one cannot simply enjoy the festive season knowing the local and community’s challenges ahead. Think about the less fortunate, the ones who struggle to make ends meet – now more than ever, they need all the help they can get.

We, at IT Labs, have decided that November will be our Month of Giving Back, a month in which we focus on helping out the ones in need and spread solidarity and generosity.

Some of our colleagues decided to make the days of others better by sharing their heart-warming stories of when they helped someone in need. Others focused on the present and bought coffee or chocolate for colleagues and shared motivational and inspiring quotes to shine some light into their days.

And then there are those who used their cooking skills to cook something for the less fortunate. Meals cooked with love and compassion, with the hope that it will help someone have a tasty and nutritional meal. And on top of that? We donated some extra food supplies and clothes!

At the end of the day, we all played our role in making the world a bit better, a bit brighter, and a bit warmer. And what did it take? Just a few hours, a couple of ingredients and multiple warm hearts.


Caring For Employees Through a Screen

Caring For Employees Through a Screen with Frosina Zafirovska

How To Provide Proper Care in Extraordinary Times and Circumstances


As a psychologist and a People & Talent officer, I’ve spent many hours trying to figure out ways in which I can make the life of the employees within IT Labs easier, more fun, and get them to be the best version of themselves – learning, creating, and becoming better every day. There are all kinds of scenarios in my head that I prepared for, but a global pandemic was definitely not one.  

This last month, we had our second health month at IT Labs, and it provided the People & Talent Department with much needed insight into what works and what doesn’t in these extraordinary circumstances – which is why I felt compelled to write this piece.  

Activities, Activities, Activities 

How do you develop an activity that will be beneficial to your employees – but through a screen? How do you even approach that?  

Rethinking activities is the first thing that comes to mind, and why not? Contrasting times, different approaches, right? Well, the truth is, drastic changes are not needed, but moving on from some of the events and activities developed in the 90s – some of which are still present today – is one of them. When an activity doesn’t produce any engagement, and interest in your employees, scrap it, ASAP, otherwise you risk undermining all your efforts – once bad or bland things starts rolling out of the People & Talent departments, employees will lose interest in anything you have to offer them, and this will lead to alienation, distancing, and sooner rather than later people will not want to stay with your company anymore.  

The solution? Don’t complicate things – in these times of isolation, do the things that will get people to feel connected with the world. Organize activities that will engage them with the world, and show them that they’re doing something worthy. Something that will make a change. At IT Labs, for example, we’re focused on projects and charities that make a difference in communities.  

The reason why this kind of activities works is because it unites the whole bunch under one common cause – and a sense of unity creates a sense of belonging which goes a long way in countering the devastating effect the pandemic has on the everyday lives of your employees. No need for crazy, out-of-the-box ideas that might work – stick to the ones that will show your workers that their efforts inside the company can have a strong, positive effect on the world outside.  

Old School Does The Trick Sometimes  

Working remote comes with its own set of benefits, but also drawbacks – and as more people choose to work out of office, HR departments around the world will need to adjust their strategies. Does this mean throwing old plans in the bin and starting all over? Of course not, but a slight tweak and going back to basics might do the trick.  

The core of the issue lies in the drawbacks that come with working remote: lack of community and team spirit, more distractions, lack of motivation, risk of burnout.  

So how can we help ease these and ensure employees are at their best? By giving them the main thing that’s missing in their work – a human moment. Yes, as leaders of People & Talent departments it’s our duty to stay in touch with everyone and check in on them every now and then, but how do we make it in a way that makes a difference? By having an open, heart to heart conversation with every single person. Poke and prod, spend 15-20 minutes to talk about all matters work and life related, show interest in their life, and of course, provide support and assure them that you are here for them to talk about any subject and matter that bothers them – a pure human moment can do a world of good for anyone struggling with alienation, isolation, and the ‘new normal’. 

The point is, we have an obligation to keep things professional, but that doesn’t mean we can’t lend a hand to anyone in need, especially in our work environment – it’s not our job, it’s our duty.  

The Future of Employee Care & Satisfaction  

About the future, there seem to be two opinions that circle – some say that the future is extremely near, and we would do well to prepare for it now, while others say that the future is now, and that what we do right now is the thing that matters.  

Both are true, but in their own, unique way – yes, today is the tomorrow we didn’t expect for another 5 or 10 years, but at the same time it’s as if there’s more to what can be done, so we look ahead. Hybrid models of working will become the new normal, and with that, leaders of people departments will need to find a way to keep employees happy, fulfilled, satisfied, and secure. And in the end, whichever system you have deployed and available to your employees, keep the following in mind – you can invent new activities and ways to satisfy your employees, you can try the craziest, adrenaline-fueled stunts, but nothing will have the same long-lasting, deep effect as a pure human connection.  

Conclusion 

Circumstances can and will change, environments will change, people will change – but the one thing that shouldn’t change is our desire to be the best versions of ourselves, by enabling and motivating others to be the best themselves. 


Frosina Zafirovska


Chief People and Talent Officer