Behind the scenes — Women in tech series: Vera

In this edition of the Bitrise women in tech series, Vera Szamarasz — a Senior UX Researcher at Bitrise — tells us about her job, the challenges she faces in tech, and what it’s like working at Bitrise.

At Bitrise, our endgame is to make a real impact on billions of devices everyday while discovering the experience of working & co-creating together with the brightest minds. In our “Behind The Scenes - Women of Bitrise” series, we sit down with the women of Bitrise to provide a glimpse into who makes it all work, what they do, and where their heads are at.

This round, we’re talking to Vera from Budapest.

Can you share a little bit about yourself?

I've been working in tech for almost 9 years now and I’ve been given the trust to try various roles before finding the best fit as a UX researcher. I’m a very curious person, and I’ve had a lot of luck and privilege in my life: I was able to follow my heart and study and work in fields I was interested in. I try to reduce the guilt by giving back wherever and whenever I can.

Did you always know that working in a tech company was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into engineering/tech…?

Absolutely not. I used to think technology was about machines, and I had always been more interested in people.

After reading ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’ by Oliver Sacks during high school, I was so fascinated by his extraordinary stories of people with incredible neurological disorders that I wanted to learn everything about how the human mind works. I eventually ended up becoming a cognitive psychologist specialising in experimental psycholinguistics.

I started working in tech much later, when a friend heard I was looking for a temporary part time side-job while I worked on a hobby project related to children’s art education. So I joined the global customer support team he led, where I quickly learned that working in tech involved a lot of things I enjoy and believe in.

What is it like to be a woman working in the tech industry for you?

Being the only woman in a team or a meeting is business as usual, but I remain very aware of it, and my heart sinks a little each time. Group dynamics feel so much healthier when the gender distribution is more even. 

That said, I’ve had many good experiences and feminist male managers too. I think that even when the intent is there, it can sometimes be difficult for men to grasp how they can support women in practice.

I once had to deliver bad news based on my research to around 25 men at a go/no-go meeting before a new product’s launch. After I voted “no” and gave my reasons for doing — so despite the immense pressure in the room — my manager at the time stood up and publicly acknowledged the difficulty of the situation. It made all the difference. I later learnt he did this very consciously, because he had read somewhere that this is one way that he can help to empower women at work.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?

Of course. Many factors from early childhood education, through social bias to lack of role models, contribute to the huge gender gap in STEM. And even though everyone uses technology, I don’t think there’s a lot of awareness about how digital tools are designed and built. The stereotype of it involving a handful of antisocial young men in hoodies coding into the night is still widespread. There’s very low visibility into how all the different people with varying skill sets need to work together to build the great tools we use. If girls don’t know these jobs even exist, how can we expect them to desire them?

What’s your role at Bitrise? What do you do on a typical day?

I’m a UX researcher. I work as part of a cross-functional team with a Product Manager, a Designer, and Frontend, Backend, and Data engineers.

My job is to bring our users closer to my team so that everyone knows who we are building for and what those people need and struggle with. I also interpret user behaviour and make suggestions on how to improve the tool based on that.

My daily tasks depend on the phase and nature of the projects I’m working on at the moment. It may involve more classic research-related activities such as interviewing customers, testing designs, digging into data, or running surveys. But I also work very closely with my discovery team on figuring out what to build, setting up operational plans to achieve this, and then moving through the entire design process from the beginning to the end. This involves a lot of workshopping, ideation, and many iterations of the designs we are working on. I love that my job is collaborative, experimental and data-centred.

Why did you choose to work at Bitrise, how did it turn out?

I chose to join Bitrise because of its culture and way of working. I do my best when I'm given trust and can work in an autonomous team. My colleagues are very driven, smart, and helpful - we shape the product together. I was also looking for a company with an established research team as that shows the importance of the discipline in the org. Here I found a great team led by a very caring and funny manager.

What challenges do you have the most at work?

Figuring out the best way to work as a team in a remote-first setup. While most of the things can technically be achieved working from home, it doesn’t really cater to some essential components of great teamwork, like having free flowing spontaneous conversations. It feels harder to innovate and to bond remotely.

What learning/growth opportunities have impacted you most?

I've had a few of these! Firstly, letting go of becoming an academic researcher that I had organically gravitated towards and invested time and effort in after realising it's actually not the best fit for me. Secondly, transitioning to a junior UX researcher position from a management role because it seemed like something I would really enjoy doing. Both decisions were stressful, but I’m very happy to have made them.

What advice would you pass on to other women to help them progress in this industry? What do you wish you had known? 

Speak up and give feedback whenever you see or experience injustice, even if it’s regarding something small. Give people and orgs the chance to change for the better - we can help them by shining a light on what needs to be improved.

Thanks so much to Vera for a great interview and a look into her life as a UX researcher at Bitrise. Want to work with Vera and the team? Check out our current job openings here!

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