​Chalmers alumni Andjela Kusmuk has previously worked with launching a gaming venture for Amazon Web Services.​​​​​​​​​​

Her mission is to inspire others

After finishing her master’s studies at Chalmers, Andjela Kusmuk started working at ​companies like Netlight and Amazon. Now she wants to inspire young women going into the tech industry - with her own Youtube channel.
Since she left Chalmers in 2015, Andjela Kusmuk has, among other things, been responsible for consulting at the IT company Netlight, developed Amazon's Nordic gaming venture and given an inspiring TED talk on how computer games can lead to gender equality in the technology industry. Now she leads a part of the technical development at the investment company EQT.

“I have always loved technology, whether it was fixing a broken computer or writing commands for a machine so that it did as I said. There is so much else in the world that is ruled by emotions and thoughts. So, it’s a nice change to be able to search for a logical solution and concrete results”, says Andjela Kusmuk.

After finishing her studies ​in Mechanical Engineering at Jönköping University, she continued on to the master's programme in Production Engineering at Chalmers.

“I chose Mechanical Engineering since my study advisor directed me away from Physics and Computer Engineering. She thought my previous experience in programming wouldn’t be enough. Today I am very happy that I chose Mechanical Engineering, but for a long time, I was anxious about my choice and felt great insecurity. I wouldn’t want any other girl in my position to have that same experience,” she says.

She describes her first lecture at Chalmers as “exciting”. The lecture itself was given by a younger female professor who talked about how future production is affected by the ageing population.

“She was incredibly knowledgeable in her subject and engaging as a teacher. A really strong role model who has inspired me in many ways.”

Shares
advice on Youtube

She wants to convey a similar feeling in the new Youtube channel IT-Girls Tech which she runs with EQT colleague Elin Bäcklund. Together, they alternate easily accessible "know-how" about machine learning and coding with more tangible tips, such as how to succeed in a job interview. The channel is currently aimed towards young Swedish girls.

“Young girls generally do not see technology as something creative or even something that suits their personality. Therefore, a big change needs to take place to get them interested and able to see all the possibilities in the industry.”

“If at least ten girls who watch our Youtube channel apply to, for example, Chalmers, then we would have fulfilled our purpose and set the ball in motion”.
The technology industry itself offers many benefits that could really be attractive for the female population, she says.

“There are many young people who dream of becoming an influencer, without realising what an incredible amount of technology lies behind that type of work. The cameras you record with, the software required to edit a video. Why not work on developing that instead? It is creative, well paid and there is never a shortage of interesting challenges at work.”
Gender equality is not only important to approach a more balanced gender distribution, but also because it gives better results overall, she says.

“Studies from MIT, among others, show that diversified workplaces meet their financial goals faster and perform better.”


Women can find different solutions

Another aspect that highlights the need for equality in the industry, according to her, is that women can come up with different technical solutions than men.

“The contraceptive Natural Cycles is a brilliant example of this. It was founded by a woman, Men had probably never thought about the idea that hormones in contraceptives are bad because they do not use them themselves. This is part of the reason why the industry is generally better at solving "male" problems than "female" in business. There are not as many female entrepreneurs or engineers and those that do exist are analysed under different conditions than men. Therefore, capital is not distributed equally.”

She lights up when she talks about new companies started by women and other technological innovations and achievements. She explains why she sees it as her responsibility to be a role model and inspire others.

“If more women go into technical education, more tech-companies will also be started by women. These women will, in turn, have sufficiently important positions to be able to financially pave the way for more women who want to develop their innovations. It is as simple as that.”

Helped Amazon launch a new venture

Two years ago, she helped Amazon launch its game development venture in northern Europe. The work consisted of taking care of all startups in The nordic region, meeting company founders and helping them to develop their business and technology-secure their products. She got to help them with everything from "go-to-market" strategies to architectural optimisation.

“It was of course a great opportunity for someone as young as me. I was still relatively new in the industry but got the chance to combine my technical background with my great interest in gaming and the contacts I built up during my time as a consultant.”
“What was cool about Amazon was all the freedom. You got to come up with your own ideas and brainstorm as much as you wanted. As long as you could show figures on what you wanted to achieve and how you would get there, you got the opportunity to kick-start your own initiatives. There was an openness to change that was very exciting to be a part of, we reorganised at least every six months."


W
orks with developing AI

During the time at Amazon, Andjela Kusmuk was headhunted by EQT, where she currently works with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, among other things.

“AI may not be the first thought when you think of investment companies, but I think it will become increasingly common. My colleague Elin and I lead three technical teams in a domain together. In short, our work is about training the algorithms to become better at finding the right choice more easily when it comes to buying and selling companies.”
That she finally ended up where she is today is not something she could have predicted. She thinks that this shows the true value of her education.

“My strength is that I am good at solving problems regardless of which industry I work in. That is the mindset you get from Chalmers. Tasks can be solved in many different ways and you have to test many different solutions until you succeed. That, combined with a sense of numbers, is probably my favourite trait about myself.”
To stop worrying about choosing the "wrong education" is a piece of advice that Andjela Kusmuk wants to give young people who are considering a technical education in the future.

“Just because you choose a certain programme now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will determine your entire future. See it more as a means to achieve your goals. With a technical education, you can decide for yourself where you direct your energy. Technology is available in all industries and you can work with basically anything”.

Text: Vedrana Sivac


Links

Master's programme in Production Engineering​

Andjela Kusmuks TED-talk about gaming and equality

Andjela Kusmuks Youtube channel IT-Girls Tech (in Swedish) ​


Published: Fri 10 Jul 2020.