Agate Ambulte is one of the young IT professionals we’re proud to know. Her energy and enthusiasm show in everything that she does from programming to strategic planning and inspiring people around her.
From industry to policymakers – Agate works not only as a strategic ICT advisor for Liepaja Municipality; she is also a board member of newly created Digital Innovation Park in Liepaja, and she has brought the IT community together by organising monthly networking events – “IT Waffle Meetup” for IT professionals and she is one of the co-founders of the Liepaja TechGirls community, which provides workshops and networking events to all women: those who already started their digital journey and those who still haven’t decided if there is a place for women in tech. After years of a successful career abroad, she has returned to Latvia to help the IT industry in Liepaja municipality grow. She agreed to share her story with the Women4IT team.
Woment4IT: Could you tell us more about who you are and what you do?
In short, I challenge myself in everything I do. In more details, I began to challenge myself every day and question everything I know the day after I started my studies in Computer Science. It was the best coincidence of events in my life. Before the studies, every person I asked for advice told me that studies in IT will be too hard and will not be interesting. I have heard from other ladies that people associate IT with something unrealistically hard and not for women. It’s good to listen to other people experience, but the key to my amazing IT adventure was starting to listen to myself and just go for it. I never regretted my choice.
I have been programming for 8 years, but now I’m quitting programming to create something for every person who wants to try their strength in IT or become a top-notch IT professional. I want to spread the joys and challenges of being a part of the IT industry. It can get tough but at the same time, it’s very rewarding. I feel that there could be a lot more information about what it is like to work in IT, what to look for, how to find your first job or how to successfully switch from a non-IT profession to something that is quite in-demand in the IT sector. I’m working at Liepaja City Municipality as the Advisor on IT and Smart Digital Solutions and my job is to bring the public sector closer to the IT industry – IT companies, IT entrepreneurs, IT professionals, and everyone interested in IT. Currently, my main focus is on kickstarting the Digital Innovation Park in Liepaja. I believe that it will be the main hub for IT in the city and will bring the IT industry much closer to those interested.
Sounds kind of strange but I feel that my job is also my hobby. I enjoy organizing different tech events as well. I love working with people that are interested in IT and I love the environment. It’s what gets me out of the bed in the morning. And the city of Liepaja makes it easy to find plenty of ways to relax and to stay fit with the help of sports activities. I exercise regularly since that keeps my body and mind in shape. It’s very important to work out and Liepaja has all the necessary components to have a world-class workout. In Liepaja, the IT community is very active in sports as well, which helps to find a workout buddy with whom you can discuss database architecture while running along the beautiful Liepaja beach.
Women4IT: We know you had an opportunity to work in 2 IT companies in the Belarus Hi-Tech Park. What are the main differences between the tech sector there and here in Latvia?
In my opinion, Minsk is an IT wonder city. In just a few years, Belarus has become a great IT development and outsourcing hub. I think the main keys are support from the government and the power of a driven community. People are always sharing their experience in many networking and experience-exchange events. Each year there are 16.000 new STEM professionals in Belarus, and almost every day they have multiple tech-related events to go to and gain some insight. Formal and non-formal education is very important, but in order to excel fast development you need tight communities that support you, point out your mistakes, guide to better solutions, encourage and give good advice. I think that there are many good initiatives in Latvia – we need to strengthen them to achieve rapid growth in tech and STEAM sectors.
Women4IT: And yet you decided to return to Latvia?
It was an interesting opportunity and I took it, but when the time came to finish my Master’s thesis, I returned to Latvia. Latvia is my home. I want to share my experience and bring many great opportunities for those who choose IT. Belarus inspired me in many ways. One of the greatest inspiration factors were my colleagues who were always very competent and very driven to gain and share knowledge. And the Belarus Hi-Tech Park is proof that you can rapidly develop the industry by supporting it in the right way. I can surely say that the IT experience in Belarus changed my view of the IT industry and inspired me to see beyond programming and brought ideas of how I can help to create an even more energetic and thriving IT ecosystem in Latvia.
Women4IT: What are the characteristics that helped you to get to where you are right now in your career?
Simple – I love what I do. I love challenging myself and I have never stopped learning new things. I love the process of learning and gaining new knowledge. Knowledge is power, especially in IT. It’s not only about learning stuff, it’s also about good attitude, self-development and constant growth – to be a better person, a better teammate and a better human.
Women4IT: You are currently giving back a lot to the IT society here in Liepaja and of course it takes a lot of your time. Why do you think it is important?
My motto in life is to stop waiting for others to solve something and instead just do it. I believe that every good thing I do comes back in double and currently, I feel that I have gained good experience, some knowledge and skills that I can share and provide to other people. It’s important to have great people around you, people that inspire you. I’m constantly inspired by the amazing people around me, so why wouldn’t I do everything in my power to have more and greater people around me, around Latvia, around the world?
I think it’s important to have more people in tech. I would love to create a shift in every person’s mind where you become a tech and idea developer, not just a consumer. I see that many people have made the shift and there will be plenty more.
Women4IT: What are the benefits of working in the tech sector / in digital for a woman and how do companies benefit from having women in ICT positions (tech/digital)?
I’ve heard from IT recruiters that women perform exceptionally well at tasks which include many intricate details. It’s beneficial for all to have a diverse group of people around you. It lets you see different perspectives and expands your perspective on many things. I love to see when women succeed and take full control of all their decisions. IT is a place where you can do it if you put in enough effort.
Women4IT: Are there any challenges of being a woman in the tech industry?
I’ve heard some bad stories, but in my experience, IT companies are interested in the best and smartest people, usually it doesn’t matter what your gender or beliefs are. Companies are interested in making money and in IT companies it depends on people. It’s very important to have great teams and individuals who can deliver a good job and make the workplace as welcoming and supporting as possible. Teams need to be well balanced and a safe place for growth and success.
I think one of the greatest challenges comes from society, how people view the role of a woman and beliefs in a family environment. It can depend on the country, religion and even family views. Those usually are the biggest influencers of our decisions – conscious or unconscious belief systems. That was the case for me. People around me weren’t informed enough about the IT sector, opportunities and challenges.
Nowadays more and more women are entering the tech scene and they are amazing at it!
But with all that said, I know that my experience can be different from other tech industry women’s experience. We create the society and culture around us. Let’s be inclusive and support each other!
Women4IT: Do you think we should have more women in the tech sector /digital jobs? Why?
This year in Latvia we will need 16 thousand new STEM professionals; in Europe, it’s close to half a million. There will be more and more tech-related jobs and we will need plenty of new specialists. I don’t see a reason why women couldn’t be a part of it.
I think that there could be a more equal balance, but the most important thing is that you love what you do! The balance could be achieved by informing the society and people around us, not just simply creating some criteria. It’s important to recruit people because of their knowledge and skills that help us all succeed in business and life altogether. In every team knowledge is important, but a positive attitude, mindset and soft skills are just as relevant to have. It’s what creates great teams and epic companies. Diverse teams are more capable of innovations and understanding different opinions. That’s the environment that I want to be in.
Women4IT: Why is developing digital skills important? What opportunities can it bring, especially for women?
Understanding and shifting your mindset from consumer to creator is very important in my opinion, especially in the technology field. I believe that digital skills empower us and bring many opportunities worldwide. It’s not a secret that you can earn more money by having better digital skills and knowledge. The environment is dynamic and people that want to gain and use digital skills usually are eager to learn and grow. I think that’s the kind of people we want around ourselves. Let’s be those people and a sea of knowledge, jobs, income, great people, travel and other opportunities will open for us!
Women4IT: What advice do you have for young women who would like to start their career in tech/digital?
A career in tech is the best that ever happened to me. It allowed me to enter a niche of life-long learning and self-improvement. I love the diverse people around me and the opportunities which arise from being a part of the tech industry. If you like the same things, my advice is to start NOW. Where to start? I started with building a foundation of academic knowledge but these days digital skills are getting more accessible so there is no excuse, just START. I would think a bit about what I like to do and what would be a better fit for me – do I like visual things like drawing and creating something or maybe I like organizing information and using my logic. That can highlight a path or direction where to start with your digital skills. There are many resources. Heck, you can even ask me on Facebook. I don’t know a single IT professional that has turned down giving some info about what they do and giving some guidance. Your education and knowledge are the one thing nobody can take away from you! As soon as I could, I combined my academic knowledge with practical experience. I always made work that I’m proud of and could attach to my resume and portfolio. Now every corner of the world can be my office, but still, I choose Liepaja as the centre of my world.
My advice would be not to listen to what other people think you can or can’t! I’ve heard a lot of different opinions on what a woman can and can’t. Whether it’s true in your case – that depends only on you. If you find that the tech scene is interesting, don’t wait! START! Every little bit of digital knowledge will help you in the long run. There will be no less tech – only more! And you can be the one creating it!