Finding home in the tech community: Kyrmyzy Kaliyeva’s story
When Kyrmyzy Kaliyeva first started her career in tech, the path forward wasn’t always clear — but finding smart and successful female role models made all the difference.
Inspired to pursue her goals, Kyrmyzy leveraged online tech communities to gain insight, knowledge and empowerment. Now, she’s giving back to the next generation of engineers by spearheading the launch of Zühlke’s Takeoff in Tech event series in Asia.
Insight in brief
- Learn how Kyrmyzy Kaliyeva leant on the tech community for support early in her career.
- Discover how she became a successful Android Engineer at Zühlke and her advice to young women looking to start a career in tech.
- How Kyrmyzy now actively contributes back to the regional tech community.
Technology has transformed how people share and consume knowledge, enabling greater connectivity between globalised communities. But it has also given rise to online platforms and communities that empower individuals to unite behind shared interests and values. From its earliest years, the tech community has thrived online. Every developer can recall the feeling of struggling over a line of code - especially as a beginner - and the thrill of discovering a world of forums and communities ready to help out.
Early in Kyrmyzy’s career, the tech community embraced her curiosity and welcomed her in. Today, Kyrmyzy is an Advanced Android Engineer at Zühlke Singapore, having spent eight years honing her developer chops at startups across e-commerce, video streaming, logistics and telecoms. Although she really enjoyed working in these fields, Kyrmyzy wanted to find an employer with long-term potential. That’s how she ultimately found Zühlke.
“In startups, you’re not just an Android Engineer, you get stuck in a lot of different areas, which is great,” she says. “But I wanted a role that was more technical and I wanted to find a company that I could stay with long-term, so that’s how I found Zühlke.”
For Kyrmyzy, the diversity of work was really appealing. Working alongside different companies across sectors means she never falls into monotony. And she counts many of her colleagues at Zühlke as friends, too. Since joining Zühlke, she’s learned a lot. What’s most appealing for Kyrmyzy about the role is the pace and speed at which she learns.
“These are things you can’t learn from a book, but from experience. There are a lot of opportunities to learn and grow at Zühlke, which I love,” she says.
When she was just starting out in her career, Kyrmyzy found support and friendship in the tech community. She followed Android engineers on Twitter and reached out to them for feedback and advice. Three years ago, while working in Kuala Lumpur, Kyrmyzy contacted an engineer online, an ex-Googler, who founded his own company at that time. He was visiting the country and offered to give a talk at the company Kyrmyzy worked for. For Kyrmyzy, it was unthinkable that someone in such a senior position at one of the world’s most prestigious tech companies (not to mention a published author) would take so much time out of their busy schedule to help her. But he did. And the advice he gave Kyrmyzy resonated.
“I was cautious of being active in the tech community – my inexperience felt like a weakness. He told me ‘don’t be afraid to fail’. That inspired me to contribute and give back to the tech community,” she says.
Early in her career, Kyrmyzy found listening to the stories of successful female software engineers at tech talks so inspiring it galvanised her into action. Finally, the way ahead seemed clear. They appeared confident and successful. But behind their success was a series of struggles and failures. They’d fought hard to get there, but being human, doubt and fear crept in.
“When I heard them speaking, they described the same troubles that I was experiencing then. Their advice was ‘to fake it until you make it,’ and it obviously worked because they’re working as CTO’s and Team Leads,” she says. Knowing you’re not alone in your struggle onwards can be hugely helpful. When things get hard, we’re more likely to give up. For Kyrmyzy, seeing other women describe how they overcame familiar struggles gave her the impetus to keep pursuing her dreams.
These days, Kyrmyzy is intent on giving back to the community and helping young girls and women alike achieve their goals and bring more diversity to the tech scene. She gives talks at a Google developer students club, sharing her thoughts with students on what it’s like to be an Android engineer, how to find work as a fresh graduate and typical career paths. Reflecting on her experience, Kyrmyzy feels a little envious of new graduates. When she started out, they never had the same support, so they didn’t know where to begin and they made a lot of mistakes. But she’s content knowing that the workshops and events she takes part in could be enough to inspire recent graduates to follow a path like hers. What’s most rewarding for Kyrmyzy is seeing graduates leave her talks inspired.
The welcoming nature of the community means anyone with an interest in tech can join and learn, and share experiences with others. For Kyrmyzy, joining the community was life-changing and helped her on her journey to becoming an Android engineer.
But getting started in a male dominated industry isn’t always easy. And the gender gap is high––only 26% of tech positions are filled by women. The pandemic has also made it harder for women to enter tech positions, as the duty of childcare often falls squarely on their shoulders. “My advice is don’t be shy, don’t be afraid to fail and fail fast. That means you’ll grow faster and you can always learn from your mistakes,” she says. “And engage with the wider tech community online because they’re always happy to help anyone starting out.”
Now, more than ever before, online tech communities are agents of change in the making––helping provide access to knowledge and information for all.
And crucially, they offer access to mentors who are an invaluable to anyone trying to get ahead in the industry.