Tania Ash is a Cloud Platform Architect, CTO in UBS Bank. Tania specialises in cloud big data complex solutions for advanced analytics, migrations to the cloud, data security, and innovations. She is also Certified Professional in Azure, AWS, GCP and is skilled in multi-cloud data solutions. Her current research area is focused on creating a general approach for cloud design patterns automation. She is passionate about inclusion and diversity, and is one of the founders of UBS Women in Cloud community which was launched this year. Tania is involved in several initiatives that aim to empower more females and minorities to pursue careers in technology and delivers educational sessions and coding clubs for local schools.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background
I was born in Latvia when it was still part of the Soviet Union. Due to the collapse of the country, people of my generation often started working while still in school. I did the same. There were almost no specialists in the field of programming, and personal computers had already appeared, so finding a job was not a problem. Very long story short – standard career steps in Latvia, in my earlier twenties I was a lead DB developer, I was the first woman in Latvia who passed MS SQL certifications in both areas – MS SQL dev and admin, then I was a head of IT in a small tech company. However, my career was totally ruined after moving to the UK. Even find a good volunteering place here was a problem, so I started from the very beginning as a freelancer. I did MSc in University of London, then a good but very stressful job for Public sector as an enterprise architect, where I tried to balance between my 6 months old daughter (my third child) and a new job. At this position I discovered Cloud Tech and fell in love. Then back again to the beginning “welcome to the world of Cloud developers!”. Now I am part of CTO Team, focusing on Cloud Data Tech in Fintech industry.
What is your typical day like?
We all work from home now. As part of CTO Team I have many calls during the day. In the Covid times you always need to find balance between new challenges for your family and your job responsibilities. So I often jump from one call to another with my daughter on my lap. The most interesting part of the day is when I can focus on Cloud architecture and find solutions on some challenges. I am still a developer in my heart, so try-and-test is in my blood and makes me happy.
What influenced you to pursue a career in Tech?
In my earlier years I wanted to be a doctor like my mother, but starting from my teenage years I always dreamed to be a scientist. Somewhere in parallel universes, I still solve complex differential equations or build spaceships. But the Soviet Union and the entire structure underneath collapsed and I had to quickly find a place in these ruins where a 15-year-old girl could find the means to live and help her family. So my excellent school teachers and the economic crisis gave me my direction. My mother was a good professional who was always thinking about self-improvement, she studied a lot and tried to instill the same values in her daughters. I remember how she could talk for hours about the news of medicine, probably her example served as a guiding light for me into the world of new technologies.
How has your background prepared you to succeed in the industry?
I grew up in a poor family but with great values. I think great teachers, a good level of school math, an opportunity to focus on studies during teenage years, and the values of my parents were the main factors which helped me. But even with all these things you need a strong helping hand from time to time in your life and without this help, I would now be delivering pizza in a London pizza restaurant. I was lucky that the first one to which I applied did not take me.
What has been your most career defining moment that you are proud of?
I worked very hard on each position and as I told I like to try-and-test, not climbing to the career ladder. So I am proud of my projects and not of my career. My career is more about people who believe in me, even I can be an alien in their eyes or ears
How does it feel to be a woman in a male-dominated field? What are some of the biggest challenges that women who work or want to work in tech face today?
It’s not easy, but the situation is changing now. I can say that all my colleagues are very supportive and I didn’t have any serious problems starting from the beginning of my career in IT. Most of my line managers with only one exception were really interested in helping me, so I am a lucky girl. The main issue for me is that the society here in the UK is not ready for full day working women. We don’t have a right system of nurseries and schools which can provide a child care for the full day for affordable prices. In Latvia I didn’t have this problem and it was a shock for me how hard to find a good solution here.
Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?
Be curious. You should love this stuff. Try to find the area which is interesting for you. Spend some time every day to check news and research in the industry, switch from Facebook to “PC World news” and you can see that it is really helps you. Like with physical exercises – do it, and love it. Another piece of advice – allow people to help you. Work in IT is usually about collaboration – communities, colleagues, meet ups.
What do you think companies can do to encourage more women to both attract and stay in tech careers?
For me the answer is child care. As it’s the most important topic in my life. I don’t like to split our world into “men” and “women” and have some special opportunities “only for men” or “only for women”, but I think help with childcare for working parents can help a lot. We also need a good examples like women in science, women in IT and others. It’s a male dominant industry now and when a teenage girl decides what is a good example for her future career she should be able to easily find this example around her. Probably some special events or programs at school can help.
Any resources that you would recommend? eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc.
Channel 9 – my favorite. In pre-covid era I liked meetups (meetup.com), usually I visited about 2-3 per week. I like LinkedIn news feeds and I have some colleagues which regularly share interesting articles about Cloud Tech.
Fun fact about you?
I am really envy those who made the dancing robots of Boston Dynamics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn3KWM1kuAw). Why can’t that be me????