Coding is gender neutral, says Bitdefender’s youngest woman programmer

The future is written in lines of code. Zero and ones. Simple, clear and definitely, not gender biased. So, where are all the women in white hats? Fueled by debates over whose code is better, it seems the fight for supremacy leaves a lot of women doubting whether they fit in in an overwhelmingly male industry.

To mark the International Woman’s Day, I’ve asked Ivona Chili, one of the youngest cybersecurity researchers in Bitdefender, to share some insights on her career path, gender inequality issues and what it takes to succeed in this high-pace environment.

 Ivona is 20 years old, studies at the Faculty of Informatics A.I. Cuza from Iasi and has been working in Bitdefender’s anti-malware team for 8 months.

 How did you choose a career in cybersecurity?

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” is my motto. Ever since high school, I knew I’d love to work in IT. Thanks to my computer science teacher, who guided and helped me, I’ve managed to build solid knowledge in this field. Studying Assembly also lead to my decision to start a career in cybersecurity. Shortly after, I seized the opportunity to take part in a training provided by Bitdefender and, after rigorous testing, I was one of the lucky five students to get the job offer.

What skills do you think are needed to succeed in this field?

Well, technical skills are the core, of course. You problem-solving skills, a good knowledge of different programming languages and an overview of the cybersecurity field in general.  Plus, the ability to communicate well with people, good planning and organization skills to manage multiple projects with different deadlines. But more importantly, what you need is drive and motivation to keep up with this fast-paced industry. You need passion and to find joy in taking on new challenges every day.

Formal education vs. Self-taught courses

Formal education has a very important role in shaping a successful career. Not only because of the diploma or the degree you get, but for giving you a broad understanding of all fields – this helps you choose where you want to work. To put it simply, it is like building a strong foundation of a house. On the other hand, non-formal education gives you the chance to build your “house” as strong and as tall you want. So, from my point of view, both formal and non-formal education are linked when it comes to building a successful career.

Best part of the job

There are two “best parts” of the job, namely the fact that I have learnt at least one new thing every day since I’ve started. Secondly, the people. Every morning, I look forward to coming to the office because I work with great people from whom I learn a lot.

Do you feel the gender gap or age gap between you and your male colleagues?

Well, I am aware of the fact that in general the IT industry is dominated by men and most people believe male programmers are better than women. But, I must emphasize that here, at Bitdefender, this stereotype does not exist. We are judged by how we perform, and not by gender.

Why do you believe there are few women in tech and even fewer in cybersecurity?

I think most women misjudge this industry as being not interesting enough or fear that they are not as qualified as their male counterparts. Also, people believe that computer professionals live in a solitary and antisocial world, which is not a very appealing or accurate representation. But, in my opinion, once they get over this stereotype they will find that the so-called “geek culture” is not as bad as they heard. At an industry level, this perceived gender gap will eventually change, as more women join this field and their work accomplishments generate awareness.

Why should women work in tech/cybersecurity?

If we are open-minded and passionate about our work, we can bring a new, fresh perspective on things. We have the power to innovate and influence perceptions, we’re only missing the audacity.

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