We were fortunate to have the chance to speak with Maria Korneeva, on her journey from studying to be a German teacher, to pivoting to studying industrial engineering in Berlin. She's now working as a freelancer and owns her own business. Read on to learn to how she made the leap into tech and moving to Germany and the lessons she's learned along the way.


devmio: When did you become interested in tech; how did you first come into contact with it?

Maria Korneeva: As a child, I used to play with the punch cards my mother used for work. So, I knew very early on that you can get complex results from a computer program by using simple input methods.

However, I only gained my first practical programming experience in the 7th grade. I liked it so much that I chose computer science as my advanced course and wrote my final thesis on Polish notation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_notation). This notation makes it easier to process mathematical expressions by machine.

devmio: How did you get to your current job? What career paths did you take?

Maria Korneeva: My career path has been anything but straight so far. As a child, I wanted to sell ice cream, because I loved ice cream more than anything. But when I found out that even ice cream sellers aren’t allowed to eat ice cream all day long, I had to find another dream job.

The choice fell on education. Since both languages and math were equally easy for me, choosing a subject wasn’t easy. In the end, I studied German and cultural studies in order to become a teacher. But I also longed for something stringent, unambiguous and objective. Even a few years of being a project manager in the cultural sector couldn’t satisfy this longing. That’s why I decided to pursue the desire of my “algorithmic self” and study computer science. For this, I went to Germany (I grew up in Russia).

Since I hadn’t had anything to do with math or computer science for years at this point, I respected the task and decided to “defuse” my choice of studies by picking economics. That’s how I ended up studying industrial engineering with a focus on computer science — first in the TU Berlin Bachelor’s program, then in a part-time Master’s program at KIT. During my studies, I worked at KPMG IT Services and IBM, and after completing my Master’s degree, IBM took me on as a Technical Consultant. At Aleri, I was able to deepen my programming skills and take over technical leadership for the front-end. Now I’m continuing as a freelancer.

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devmio: Are there people who supported you, or were obstacles put in your way? Do you have a role model?

Maria Korneeva: All changes in my life came through spontaneous exchanges with people, often women. For instance, with Anna Trubitsyna, who recommended me for the working student job, Natalia Borygina, who mentioned the Deutschlandstipendium and showed me a funding opportunity for my studies, Sandra Osol, who told me about part-time studies, Brooke Averly, who became aware of my articles and suggested I write for ng-conf, and most recently Martina Kraus, who inspired me to become self-employed as my mentor at Women Developer Academy. Sometimes, the next step is just a conversation away and it’s fascinating — if not almost magical — what can happen as a result.

devmio: What position do you hold now? What does your daily work look like?

Maria Korneeva: I started my own business in April 2023 and I am now a freelancer. I summarize my profile as a “Frontend Technology Lead”. This means I see my role not only as implementing a feature, but also thinking along the entire business process and driving forward modern, sustainable solutions.

I’m allowed to work almost completely remotely for my current client, so I do most of my work from home, unless the weather is too nice — then the balcony or the park becomes my office for as long as my laptop battery lasts.

“Moving to Germany and starting a new career by studying computer science was the bravest thing I’ve done so far.”

devmio: What are you especially proud of in your professional career?

Maria Korneeva: Moving to Germany and starting a new career by studying computer science was the bravest thing I’ve done so far. It was a kink in my linear development — and some around me doubted its meaningfulness — but it proved to be a correct and necessary step out of my comfort zone.

devmio: Which technology or IT area would you like to work on more intensively in the future?

Maria Korneeva: Last year, I dove into the world of digital accessibility and I can’t get enough of it ever since. The topic has a huge importance for an inclusive world and borders on many other tech areas, such as AI support in assistive technologies, test automation, continuous integration, and deploying accessible(!) features.

devmio: If you have a different job for a week, what would it be?

Maria Korneeva: Then I would definitely be a guide. I love exploring new places and discovering stories about Cologne and sharing them with my fellow human beings. I like to engage with my surroundings and want to share my curiosity and enthusiasm with others.

devmio: Why are there so few women in the tech industry? What hurdles do women still have to overcome today?

Maria Korneeva: One of the reasons could be the preconception that later professional life will be full of discrimination and sexism. That doesn’t have to be the case — so far I have been able to work respectfully and professionally with all teams.

Maybe girls are not being picked up where their interests and tech may intersect. For example, the connection between computer games and game development is obvious, but what about other hobbies?

“The tech industry does not require a “male” or “female” skill set per se. Just as in many other fields, logical thinking, discipline, initiative and curiosity, along with efficient communication, empathy, and cooperation lead to success.”

devmio: Have the conditions for women in the tech and IT world changed since you started working in the field?

Maria Korneeva: From my perspective, different tech communities are playing a bigger role these days. There are interest groups for every taste that exchange ideas online and support each other, including a focus on “women in tech”. They’re easy to find over social media and offer another network in addition to a professional one.

devmio: Do you have any tips for women who want to enter the tech industry? What should other girls and women know about working in the tech industry?

Maria Korneeva: The tech industry does not require a “male” or “female” skill set per se. Just as in many other fields, logical thinking, discipline, initiative and curiosity, along with efficient communication, empathy, and cooperation lead to success.

What’s more, no one has to enter the tech industry alone — the tech community is wonderful and for everyone.