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Profile: Maja Matic, software developer at InnoGames

How to succeed in tech: InnoGames’ Maja Matic shares her tips

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Maja Matic, software developer at InnoGames.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Maja Matic, software developer at InnoGames.

Maja Matic, software developer at InnoGames

Maja Matic is a Software Developer at InnoGames, Germany’s leading developer and publisher of mobile and online games. Based in Hamburg, Maja discovered her passion for technology and software development at an early age. She had her first experience with the nuts and bolts of video games programming during her master’s thesis, for which she developed a game to teach children how to code.

In her free time, Maja enjoys mixing her skills and expertise with her civic engagement – e.g., by participating in workshops that teach coding and programming to minority groups in tech. Maja welcomes the progress achieved by women in software development, yet also stresses the value of more role models to incentivize other women to break new ground.

What got you interested in technology?

I find technology fascinating because of the sheer pace of technological progress. Everything is continuously evolving, which offers the opportunity to never stop learning and to always face new challenges. All in all, working in technology involves challenging yourself to be on a continuous path of improvement for the rest of your professional career.

I studied computer science because I have always had a keen interest in technology. I knew all along that I enjoyed software development, but it was only once I started working on my master’s thesis that I developed a passion for game development. I worked on an educational game to teach children coding, which made me seriously consider game development as a viable path for me. Still, I did not pursue it right away but instead started working freelance on different projects already during my studies. I then entered the media industry and worked in this field for three years before I made the jump into video games. Now, I’ve been with InnoGames for the last three and a half years.

A strong support system

My family encouraged me to pursue my dreams, no matter what they were. Generally speaking, I admire people who show dedication towards a cause and work hard to achieve this goal. In that sense, I have great admiration for my mother, who despite struggles has achieved much in life for herself and for our family.

On a professional level, I draw inspiration from other women in the tech industry. It is always a pleasure to attend conferences and meet women who deserve recognition for breaking ground in this industry. Through their experience and public engagement, they inspire other women to follow in their footsteps. Overall, I consider myself lucky because my family worked hard to make sure that I have access to many opportunities. This support system has helped me address obstacles related to people’s ideas and perceptions on the role of women in software development.

Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?

Fortunately, I have been spared of such situations because I have a good support system around me. At most, I can complain of feeling like I was not taken seriously in certain professional situations in the past, mostly because of my youth and my gender. At InnoGames, though, the only thing that matters is people’s talent and everyone can actively contribute to our company’s success, which I absolutely appreciate.

A day in Maja’s life

InnoGames is Germany’s leading developer of mobile and online games. I work as a Software Developer for the company. We have fully flexible working hours, so I tend to distribute hours throughout the week depending on the project. Implementing new features and maintaining our software are my main tasks. As bugs can occur at any stage in developing, maintenance checks are a daily routine. It’s important to have our tools running smoothly at all times to iterate and update our games effectively.

I am proud of being part of a dynamic work environment. I enjoy the basic premise of constant self-improvement to be successful in this field. With dedication and confidence, I have been able to get to my current position.

More specifically, I am proud to mix and use my technology skills as part of my civic engagement interests. From an early age, I have been active in initiatives linked to human and animal rights issues. I am fortunate to be part of a DIY initiative that also used to organize workshops to introduce tech topics to minority groups in tech. We organize workshops in our free time to support them as best as we can. That’s why I really appreciate InnoGames’ participation in the Devugees initiative and the company visits InnoGames organizes for refugees aiming to enter the German IT and software development job market.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

There are still misunderstandings about the opportunities available to women in tech in general. Women are usually not aware of these opportunities, or there is an ingrained cultural perception that we are not well qualified to perform these tasks. These factors influence the tech industry’s image in general and discourage women from pursuing study and career paths in STEM.

My hope is that in a medium-term the word diversity won’t be needed anymore in the tech industry because our field has become so open and welcoming. I feel lucky to work at InnoGames, a company where diversity – of gender, religion, or race – is celebrated.

Women in STEM

My female colleagues in STEM careers are, without exception, creative, hard-working, and result-oriented. There is no difference between their skills and those of my male colleagues. Having more of such role models would have important societal effects.

  • First, it would contribute to reducing women’s apprehension when considering study and career options in this field.
  • Second, it would also help change people’s perceptions of what are typically male or female careers.
  • Third, it would lead to more objective performance assessments, thereby addressing issues such as compensation differences between colleagues of different sex in tech.
  • Lastly, it makes economic sense.

Ultimately, companies want to have a wider consumer base and satisfy the demand for their products. We see this every day at InnoGames, where having more women directly involved in game development has led to successful titles in which the split between male and female gamers is even.

Challenges

Broadly speaking, the main challenge is the stereotype that men are better at tech than women. I know from experience that being a female developer still earns you surprised looks in some settings. Additionally, once a woman does get into this industry, the expectation is that they have to deliver more than their male counterparts in order to earn their colleagues’ respect and to be taken seriously.

In some of my positions, for instance, I had the impression that my proposals for improvement tended to fall on deaf ears, while the same or similar suggestions from male colleagues were met with approval. InnoGames’ strategy for avoiding such situations is checking and ensuring already during the recruitment process that new staff is compatible with our core value of fair play.

Tips & tricks

Women should be aware that key challenges remain, mostly related to the perception of men being more competent in IT and tech. Self-confidence is therefore very important – they should not let themselves be discouraged by negative attitudes or clichés. More importantly, women should never downplay their achievements and always make sure that people around them remain aware of their contribution to their team and projects.

 

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Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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