Natalia Filipiak from Aquila Insight answers our questions about what inspired her into a STEM career, and what keeps her there
What does your job involve?
I’m a product manager at Aquila Insight where I’m responsible for looking after the Discovery analytics platform, which lets you explore data easily and without time constraints. I also head up an agile team of software and data engineers, look after the product roadmap, requirement analysis and cooperate with our stakeholders.
What’s your favourite part of the role?
I like to think that as a product manager, I’m making product decisions that aim to change the world. I’ve been given the ability to provide true value to users, which is very rewarding. It’s also a creative process and requires a broad and flexible vision to join all the elements: clients and business requirements, data from the market and the usage of the product, the technological possibilities and limitations, cooperation with development teams and stakeholders.
What aspect of your work could be better? What do you find frustrating?
Sometimes there can be internal constraints, such as a shortage in developers or tight deadlines that can make the job difficult from time to time. Also, decision-making processes can sometimes slow down product development and doesn’t allow for as quick a response to the market as we would like.
What inspired you to do what you do?
Being a product manager provides an exciting opportunity to see the direct results of your actions and the meaningful effect they can have.
I was lucky enough to meet a very inspiring manager on my career path. They showed me that changing the world is something I too could do as part of the product manager role – Natalia Filipiak, product manager at Aquila Insight
If the results make someone’s life easier, that’s really rewarding to me. Personally, I was lucky enough to meet a very inspiring manager on my career path. They showed me that changing the world is something I too could do as part of the product manager role.
What education options did you choose to get your role?
There are a few different paths to get to product manager role in technology. As it’s a role that requires quite a broad set of skills and experiences, I believe that a good product manager needs a few years of professional work behind them. I started by studying linguistics, as I was interested in languages and communication. I then did a Masters in Public Relations, which added to my career in PR and communications. By working closely with IT departments and development teams in one of my previous companies, I was exposed to the world of software products and decided I wanted to move to the new path. I did a lot of self-study and took the certified Agile Product Owner course and exam.
When you were considering your options who influenced you either way? Were there any barriers to STEM in education?
No, I don’t think there are barriers in education.
What would you say to girls considering their education options?
I’d say that it’s good to have some technical background if you want to be a product manager for software products. It can be achieved by either getting hands-on experience while working with software developers and lots of tech reading and self-study, or by going directly to study software engineering or a related subject at university. The latter option seems more straightforward, but getting to be an excellent product manager goes far beyond just tech knowledge. It’s more universal role and requires the ability to join many dots – that’s why a more general business knowledge and experience is also required.
What might put girls off a STEM career? How can these barriers be overcome?
I couldn’t possibly say that anything might put someone off a STEM career. In fact, this is a very broad area and can offer many different roles and exciting challenges and opportunities.
What needs to change to retain more women in STEM careers?
I don’t think there’s an issue with retaining women in STEM, but I do believe there’s still some hesitance among girls while deciding on their careers. If and when they take that first step and start working in technology, the chances are that they will probably stay for longer, as it’s an area of many opportunities.