Meet Uber Sofia’s Women in Tech

Established in 2014 as one of Uber’s first distributed technical sites, the Uber Sofia, Bulgaria office houses our tax and compliance engineering teams. With over 50 engineers and counting, this group is responsible for developing and scaling technologies that provide our services with key reporting and compliance capabilities, including generating invoices and email receipts related to trips or food deliveries, assembling periodic tax reports for our partners, and facilitating real-time tax calculation in line with local regulations around the world.

Uber Sofia is also home to a vibrant community of women technologists, from software engineers and data analysts to designers and program managers. With women making up over 44.6 percent of Bulgaria’s booming technology workforcethe second highest percentage in the EU after Lithuania and far exceeding the EU’s average of 32 percentwe take pride in our LadyEng group.

In addition to their technical work, these women and allies are active members of Bulgaria’s engineering community, hosting meetups as part of LadyEng, volunteering at hackathons and workshops, speaking at local meetups, and growing the larger women in tech community in Sofia by being actively involved with non-profit organizations such as Coding Girls and DEV.BG.

Read on to learn more about the women in tech at Uber Sofia:

Elena Deneva, Software Engineer

Describe your work at Uber.

I have been at Uber for over three years now, working as a software engineer on the Tax and Compliance Engineering team. My goal is to make the process of tax reporting as easy as possible for driver-partners all over the world. The friendly working environment at the company inspires me and makes my desire to gain new technical knowledge even stronger.

What excites you most about the future of transportation?

I am proud to say that I work at a company I truly believe will change the way the world moves.

What technologies are you most excited about?

I work primarily on the backend, but am not scared when I’m needed for the frontend from time to time. I am very passionate about learning new things, especially languages. I am so grateful to Uber for giving me the opportunities to learn Go, Python, JavaScript, and Java. Even though Uber is a huge company now, I am amazed at how quickly we move. No matter if it is rolling out to a new market or building new technology, we are very passionate about the task at hand.

What drives you?

Even though I come from a small town, I dare to dream big. It requires a certain amount of skill, determination, and commitment, all of which I developed during my study at Sofia University.

Mathematics, physics, and computer science have been my passions for years. Now that I am actually leveraging my computer science skills here at Uber, I’ve discovered just how exciting and challenging the world of engineering is. Right now, I’m particularly interested in distributed systems and software engineering algorithms.

Outside of my work at Uber, I am currently learning snowboarding and squash. And something that I will never stop doing is traveling.

How can Sofia’s technical community create more inclusive and diverse teams?

I think diversity is still something under-appreciated in Sofia. Before I joined the technology industry, I didn’t realize how important diversity and inclusion was for building better teams. Now, as a woman in tech, I’ve experienced it myself; it’s great to have a tight-knit community of women and allies, all with their different perspectives and working styles. I truly feel like it makes me a better engineer and a healthier person.

As part of Uber’s LadyEng employee resource group, I would emphasize the importance of gender diversity. I think change, at least in Bulgaria, will come through education, starting in high school but maybe earlier. We should host workshops for high school students, showing young women that computer science is not only for their male counterparts.

What makes the Uber Sofia office special?

My colleagues are very inspiring, curious, and knowledgeable people. I have always been supported by them in any initiative I start, especially when I don’t feel confident. A great example is a meetup we organized in the summer of 2018 where I was one of the speakers. Performing in front of an audience is one thing that makes me feel very uncomfortable, however, with the support of the team and the preparation, it turned out to be quite fun.

We are not just colleagues, we are family.

Marina Ilieva, Software Engineer

How did you get into engineering?

My interest in engineering first came when I was little and my grandpa told me stories about his profession as a chemical engineer. Later, in high school, the most interesting subjects for me were math, chemistry, and information technologies. Therefore, Computer Engineering was the obvious choice for my bachelor’s degree.

What was it like studying engineering at university?

Before interning at Uber, I completed a double degree in Computer Engineering and Informatics from Technical University Sofia and Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg. Studying engineering at university was challenging, but rewarding as well. The insane amount of theoretical knowledge that I gained throughout those four years in fields like mathematics, electrical engineering, theoretical and technical informatics, networking, software engineering, and machine learning shaped the way I approach problems. My education taught me how to achieve my goals and how to solve various problems in a limited timeframe. In my opinion, education is not only about knowing the theory, it’s also about finding and developing your personal interests.

Why did you decide to join Uber?

I joined Uber in July 2018 as an intern, and joined full-time in January 2019. All the lessons that I learned studying at university and attending various academies and courses to expand my theoretical skills were not enough to call myself a software engineer. Coming to Uber, I got the opportunity to surround myself with talented professionals, learning from them and working with them not only to build distributed systems for our tax and compliance technologies, but also develop my own skills as an engineer.  Uber is the place where I have all the ingredients for the start to a burgeoning career.

Where do you see yourself in five years? What do you need to do to get there?

I definitely would like to further develop my engineering skills, something I hope to achieve during my time at Uber. Beyond that, I would like my work to positively affect the day-to-day life of people around the world, for instance, building systems to improve user experiences on the Uber platform. The biggest reward for every professional is to know that their work affected someone in a positive way, making their lives easier or perhaps better.

Has mentorship played a role in your professional career development?

I did a lot of different things to acquire more knowledge and technical skills in addition to attending my classes at Technical University Sofia. For instance, I participated in a lot of different academies that taught Swift, C++, C#, and other programming languages, and even spent a semester at Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg. All these activities provided me with theoretical knowledge about computer science, but what really prepared me to work in tech was attending a mentorship program with x8academy, an alternative coding academy that pairs professional engineers with up-and-coming programmers. There, I spent time with mentors, doing various exercises and learning how to apply different development practices and so leveraged my theoretical knowledge for real, practical skills that now I can apply to my job at Uber. My mentorship continued here at Uber with Mariana, who is a great software engineer and is sharing her expertise with me so that I can continue my growth as an engineer.

Adriana Dimanova, Software Engineer

How did you get into engineering?

I was one of those people who didn’t know what she wanted to do after finishing high school. So I ended up choosing a university degree I didn’t like and knew I didn’t want to pursue as a career. I continued my search for something that I would truly enjoy doing and, as you might expect, software engineering was what I found. I took a pretty intensive engineering course, learned some on my own, and got myself a job. I think they liked me because I was so excited about engineering. I came with a project to show to them without them asking me to and they offered me the job on the spot. I remember how happy I was. I ended up dropping out of university and going all into engineering.  

Why did you decide to join Uber?

The opportunity to develop on a global scale first got me interested, since I’ve always been attracted to difficult technical challenges. I always seem to go for roles that are difficult and motivate me.

For me, the Uber tech stack is an inherent challenge to navigate—always growing, always changing. The company is so dynamic that there is always something new to learn and you are provided with a lot of opportunities to do so: team meetings, email lists with updates on what other teams are doing, in-house courses, and a lot more.

The awesome engineers I met during my interviews was another reason why I chose Uber. I felt like there was a lot I could learn from them.

What makes working for Uber different than other technology companies?

In addition to the impact, scale, and scope of our technologies, what has impressed me the most about working at Uber is the level of professionalism of the developers. They are really smart and knowledgeable.

What excites you most about the future of transportation? What technologies are you most excited about?

I can’t wait for self-driving vehicles to hit the road. I believe that would make the streets a lot safer and less congested. Before we get there, any technology that helps you stay safe on the road is great. We at Uber take rider and driver safety seriously. One of our latest efforts that we are quite proud of is the immediate crash assistance.

What do we need to do to get more women into tech?

If we can share our passion and excitement for technology as well as our reasoning as to why it is a good career path to pursue, I have little doubt more women will want to join. I think the issue is in not communicating about these opportunities and providing a more welcoming environment for women.

Gabriela Georgieva, Software Engineering Intern

How did you get into engineering?

I finished my degree in Computer Science at the University of Glasgow in summer 2018, and have been working at Uber since mid-September 2018.

Although at the moment I could not be more passionate about software engineering, new technologies, and programming efficient solutions to difficult problems, until about three years ago it had not even occurred to me that I could be an engineer. In high school, I was one of those people who was interested in pretty much every single subject that existed, especially the ones related to science and art. Thus, when it came to choosing a degree to study at university, I was very uncertain about which one I would pursue a career in. Taking advice from friends and family, I signed up for a joint degree in Economics and Business & Management at the University of Glasgow, hoping that I would not miss the challenges of learning various things every day, as I was used to in high school.

Fortunately, I was very lucky in this regard. At my university, students were supposed to take a specific number of credits each year. However, the credits for introductory courses were generally too few and all first-year students had to take one to two additional subjects, unrelated to their degree. Looking through the list of available courses ranging from Music and the History of Arts to Languages and Biology, a course called Introduction to Computational Thinking caught my attention. For no specific reason, I was very curious about what a course like this could offer me and boldly (and quite randomly), took it as my additional subject.

I loved this course from the first lecture. Because it was a beginners’ course, it featured not only the technicalities of programming, but the function and structure of different technical constructs and patterns. We were also encouraged to use our creativity to create new scenarios and then think about them as a computer would. This course essentially marked the start of my journey into computer science.  

At the end of the year, I was so interested in engineering that I dropped my current major and convinced the university’s School of Computing Science to take me on board, catching up with all of their requirements by taking additional courses during my second year. The thing that I most loved about my new major was that I was learning new things every day, which is what I always knew I wanted in a field of study, and later, career.

What was it like studying engineering at university?

As I only got into engineering during my first year at university, when I joined my new classmates from the Engineering department, I immediately felt a bit behind. Getting to know them, I realized almost everyone had been programming for at least five to seven years prior; in fact, one of my new friends first held a mouse when he was five-years-old.

So during the next three years I had to learn a lot in order to catch up to my classmates. This was definitely challenging but my interest in the field kept me motivated. What also helped me achieve this is my determination to improve my skills. During my studies, I always tried to broaden my technical knowledge as much as I could, no matter the topic. Of course I had a few favorites which I always came back to in order to deepen my knowledge (like Computer Networking), but I was mostly dedicated to getting a good background in the different fields inside computer science so I could later build on this much more easily. Having the chance to learn about and work on small projects in areas like Object-Oriented Programming, Functional Programming, Artificial Intelligence, Operating Systems, Database Systems, HCI, Machine Learning, Algorithmics and Data Structures, and Professional Software Engineering Practices was something I am extremely grateful for.

Where do you see yourself in five years? What do you need to get there?

I believe that the things we do as engineers, given the exponential development of technology, are extremely exciting and it gives me a sense of belonging to something big and powerful! I also know that in order to grow as an industry, we should work together and frankly, I have always enjoyed exchanging knowledge with others. In five years time I would strive to be able to inspire people (not only women) to learn more and more, so we can achieve more together. In order for me to do that with confidence, I must continue to learn and improve my skills with the same ferocity I brought to university.

How do you feel as a woman in an industry that is still considered male-dominated?

It is true that at the moment men make up a higher portion of the workforce in the field, but it was just the opposite last century, until the mid-1980s. The problem of women not being as interested in computer science as they were then is an issue the industry is working on by finally creating computer and video games targeting girls and hosting workshops around the world to teach girls how to code.

Even though the industry has more men at the moment, this is not something that affects me in my day-to-day life. At university and then Uber Sofia, my colleagues do not act in any way that makes me feel excluded or disadvantaged. I feel as equal a part of the team as everyone else. I have not felt different attitudes based on my gender, and personally, I do the same: treat everyone equally no matter their gender or background. I may be an optimist, but at least in Sofia, I feel as if gender inequality in tech is becoming a smaller problem every year and I am very hopeful the numbers will even out in the future.

Raya Karova, Product Designer

How did you first get interested in product design?

While studying business administration, finance, and accounting back in college, I was quick to realize that my personality was not fit for that world. I wasn’t really sure where I belonged as I was always torn between science and art. Finally, I found my place exactly there: at the intersection of user needs, business goals, technology, and aesthetics—in other words, product design. I have been a product designer for eight years now and absolutely love my job.

What projects are you working on at Uber?

Right now I am focused on improving the design of our rides and Uber Eats receipts so that they clearly present all the financial information involved but also act as a way for us to build better rider-driver-partner and eater-restaurant-partner connections. I also work on a variety of projects where the main focus is improving the user experience around providing and obtaining tax and invoice information.

What is most challenging about your role?

The most challenging aspect of my job is stakeholder management. As a product designer, I often need to act as the glue in a cross-functional team comprised of people with different skills, ideas, and perspectives to make sure that at the end, everything we do leads to our common goal: serving user needs.

You spent time working at the Uber HQ in San Francisco before moving back to your home country of Bulgaria to join our Sofia Office. What has that transition been like?

The transition has been great. For the most part, this is because Uber has a great culture that promotes mobility within the company, making sure employees are where they want to be. Uber employees everywhere contribute a lot to this culture as they make you feel welcome anywhere you go. We are a big global family and location does not matter much.

Why did you decide to transfer to our Sofia Office?

Moving to Sofia was a personal decision and having the Uber office here just made that decision easier. Luckily, the company fully supported me with the move through its very employee-centric mobility program.

How do you achieve a strong work-life balance?

Work-life balance for me, as for many people and especially working parents, is a moving target. I am lucky to be part of a culture where everybody understands my needs, respects my flexible schedule and helps me plan better, be more efficient and more productive. All of that gets me closer to achieving work-life balance every day.

Ralitsa Grigorova, Data Analyst

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to Uber.

I have an academic background in business and economics. In 2015, I learned about Big Data and got really enthusiastic about Big Data analytics and how much power data holds. I even wrote my master’s thesis on this topic.

I am super happy I have the opportunity to use this type of analytics at Uber; in my role, I get to discover the underlying stories behind huge volumes of data. With 10 billion-plus rides and the ability to break them down to all the components of a fare, which might be hundreds, plus the ability to follow money movement from when the ride was requested until the partners received their payouts, we have very granular data that allows us to detect and respond to trends and anomalies.

What projects are you working on at Uber?

As a data analyst, I support everything related to tax and compliance. Deep diving into our huge data universe, I provide city teams with data that they report to tax authorities around the globe, which makes my job particularly time-sensitive. In addition, I also support internal and external audits and closing accounting books during tax season in various regions of the globe.

The volume of our global operations makes my work challenging because of the sheer volume of data that needs to be handled. I need to optimize my work so that it scales—writing complex queries is just one side of the coin, I also need to optimize them so that they produce output fast and cost the least dollar amount possible.  Moreover, under the seamless end-user experience lies a highly complex and customizable system that handles all of our LOBs and hundreds of thousands of use cases. This results in complex data models that require excellent familiarity. In addition, complexity arises from the particular domain I’m working in—taxes. Many of the tax jurisdictions Uber operates in have highly complex tax rules that need to be accounted for. Failure to do so has a highly negative impact for our partners and us, and could result in fines and cease of operations. My job is to validate the accuracy of the data that exits our systems before it’s filed to tax authorities.

What did you do before you came to Uber?

After getting my master degree in Economics and Management, I worked as a research analyst for three years, covering the investment landscape in emerging markets, mainly in India.

Working at a remote site, how connected are you to HQ? How do you work with our other engineering offices across the world?

In many ways, the working world is getting more connected, especially at a company like Uber. In less than three months on the job, I got the chance to visit San Francisco for three weeks, meet a bunch of amazing people, including Dara Khosrowshahi, our CEO, and work out of our super funky HQ. So far, I have worked with city teams across the globe—in the USA, Colombia, Turkey, Lithuania, and more.

Our internal tools ease collaboration significantly, but at the end of the day it is all about Uber’s DNA—we are building something big together, all hands in. Ten billion trips in eight years didn’t happen by itself.

Where do you see yourself in five years? What do you need to get there?

I am still intrigued by data, so I cannot discount a possible career in data science. However, with so much going on here, I see a world of opportunities—product management is another interesting path or maybe moving to the front lines with a job in communications operations? My favorite thing is that this brand new world is at arm’s length at Uber, and, through our technologies, we keep re-inventing it every day.

Eva Shirokova, Facilities Manager

Why did you decide to join Uber?

I joined Uber to provoke myself. My first thought, when I was offered that opportunity, was “Well, let’s see what interesting work can an American company offer me?” Then, once I started, the benefits came: to know, communicate, and collaborate with people from all over the world, to be challenged on a daily basis to step out of my comfort zone, and to adapt to the constant growth of the company. And last, but not least, share with my son the opportunities afforded by technologies like the Uber platform, as well as working at a company like Uber.

It is very important that I can show my son that there are people and organizations (made up of me, my colleagues, and the company at large), who are diverse and inclusive, supportive and caring. Yes, Uber is a business and it is focused on outcomes, but the company is also dedicated to serving its people, with their talents, differences, personal stories, and dreams.

What do you do at Uber?

In short, I challenge myself every day. As a Facilities manager, I manage all facilities functions, including daily operations in the office, office improvement projects, and, in collaboration with regional and global teams, office moves and builds. I am part of the global Uber Facilities team (part of the Workplaces & Real Estate team) and together we work to provide best-in-class facility services, applying the global company’s high standards and adapting them based on local needs. On a daily basis, I work internally with the business leaders and employees and collaborate with various regional and global Uber teams, vendors, and partners, with the mission to establish the best workplace experience for Uber teams.

What is most challenging about your role?

Changes! The Facilities team adapts as the business changes—uncomfortable sometimes and charming all the time, this is the reality of working in a fast-growing tech company. We play the role of a strategic partner to the business, and two necessary characteristics are to be flexible and adaptable. Uber has multiple businesses and that brings the need to establish and maintain different kinds of office environments. We need to provide sustainable and inspiring workplaces, where Uber employees can unleash their talents and drive change.

Our office, for example, is a technical office and that brings its own challenges. Employees  want the best workplace experience. Fighting for talent,  tech companies are in a constant battle to provide better and innovative workplace environments and services for their employees—creative working spaces, high-quality furniture and equipment, safe and healthy environment, attractive food programs, inspiring collaborative and recreational areas, and fun events and celebrations. At the end of the day, I feel satisfied when I know that people are happy to come to work and feel comfortable, safe, and productive in our officeit is really rewarding to know that I do provide such an important support to our employees.

What’s the most exciting part of what you do?

The opportunity to communicate and collaborate with people from all over the globe (Uber operates in more than 600 cities and 80 countries worldwide). This global scope gives me the sense of getting to know all these places through the people that I encounter. It is a really strange feeling when I go to another Uber office in another city or country—I feel at home. And maybe that comes down to the type of people that work at Uber—diverse, inclusive, supportive, helpful, and collaborative.

What drives you?

Let’s put it like this: I am driven by an intrinsic motivation to love what I do and to find ways to do it well, the necessity to do meaningful work and a passion for making the connections, the true excitement of effective team collaboration, the real satisfaction of achieved results, the temptation to face new challenges, the curiosity for new things, and a hunger for continuous learning and development.

Eva Prodanova, Site Program Manager

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Uber.

I became interested in psychology, namely the development of the personality and its characteristics, while I was in high school.

With a master’s in Organizational Behaviour and Consulting of Organizations, I am currently pursuing a PhD in the formations of organizational culture and group effectiveness in newly started ventures, combining the two fields that I am passionate about: organizational psychology and entrepreneurship. In 2014, I was selected to take part in the Bulgarian Young Leaders Program, through which I was given the chance to go through an intensive course in entrepreneurship at Babson College in Boston, Massachusetts. I also received a 2016 Fulbright Scholarship as a visiting researcher at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California.

I decided to take the job as the site program manager for Uber Sofia because it seemed like the perfect opportunity to utilize my passions. Moreover, the chance to work with different nationalities and in a company with a successfully-designed culture in a growth phase, was irresistible to me.

What’s a Site Program Manager?

It’s a really fun job to have! That role was designed for all offices outside of San Francisco. It has two different focuses: external and internal office and culture building. Since the Uber Sofia team is fairly small (just around 60 people), compared to teams in Seattle or San Francisco, we do not have a brand manager or a marketing person, or someone who deals with recruitment events. So anything that falls into partner relations, events, and employer-branding related initiatives are part of my wheelhouse. The external part of my job is a lot of fun, but as an organizational psychologist, my passion is the internal part of this role: supporting team-building events and establishing the culture that we want to have, running any initiatives that deal with bettering the health of the organization and our employees.

What is most challenging about your role?

I am one of three people in our office who are not technical. While I studied mathematics and programming many years ago, I went into psychology. Sometimes it is challenging to grab engineers’ attention, since my role is all but code-related, and it may be difficult to see the value of hosting an event or speaking at a meetup. However, when they understand its value and that it will help grow their careers, their satisfaction is imminent.

It might sound like a cliche, but challenges of that sort make the job fun, as you need to be creative and think what and how to change the next time to get a different outcome. Other than that, there are still many tech talks I do not understand (haha). We often joke that I need to go through a “how to speak to engineers for dummies” course to be able to fully engage and use as many complicated terms as possible. The team in Sofia has been extremely supportive and very collaborative, so here I can only add that my huge thanks go to them! I joined in July 2018, so more to come, meaning new challenges, but to be fair, this is the exact thing that attracted me to this role at Uber.

Outside of Uber, what drives you?

Music, yoga, kayaking, and reading are my biggest passions outside of work. Professionally, I am eager to find out what turns companies into successful organizations, what cultural patterns startups follow in order to grow into stable businesses. A couple of years ago, I decided to explore this a bit further and started a PhD on the topic. Hopefully in six months I’ll be able to share the results of the first survey on the culture and effectiveness matters done among startups in Bulgaria.

Eva Kyovkarova, Technical Recruiting Coordinator

How did you get into technical recruiting?

During my high school years, I was a swimmer, but (un)fortunately when adulthood came, I had to take a turn in my career path. Luckily enough, it turned out that sports not only makes you more patient, determined, and punctual but it also makes you constantly meet new people. So that eagerness for getting to know different individuals encouraged me to pursue my bachelor’s in Social Pedagogy in Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski.

That being said, I easily understood that the HR environment will be the one I would want to grow in. I was doing (mostly) technical recruitment for the past two years and quite recently decided to switch to a more of a coordinating role at Uber.

Why did you decide to join Uber?

It’s definitely a pleasure being part of one of the fastest growing technology companies, but me starting at Uber was an absolute accident.

A friend of mine is working in the Amsterdam office, so we wanted to catch up on some personal stuff, but it turned out that Uber might be looking for a person with my profile, so she introduced me to the Recruiting Team. We clicked immediately and there was not a single bit of hesitation when I accepted the role. Now, what I like most about my role is the unlimitedness and variety of the opportunities there are to grow your career beyond your current position.

What is it like recruiting for a technology company as a non-technical employee?

At first, it’s very weird and you’re constantly doubting your skills, but for me, that’s the kind of challenge that keeps me on my toes. It’s a whole process of making yourself feel comfortable in this industry and every single small step makes you trust your capabilities a bit more. Of course, I still can’t write a single row of code, but can spot a talented developer on a CV at first sight.

What is most challenging about your role?

Well, my current role is not the most challenging technology-wise, although I love it, because it’s very dynamic. It’s mostly related to communication and coordination, which does not require specific technical knowledge. However, there’s no “one-communication-style-fits-all” so you always need to find the best way to collaborate with managers, candidates, interviewers, etc.

I would say that the biggest challenge would be to try and make both sides in the process happy. Usually, there are a lot of unforeseen situations, which require to be handled with calmness and patience.

Do you have any advice for young women who are pursuing careers in tech?

The greatest thing about our generation is that we have unlimited opportunities to follow our dreams and passions. So do what drives you forward, what keeps you busy, and what challenges you. If that means pursuing a career in tech—go ahead and keep going. It’s definitely worth it.

If working with Uber Sofia to tackle some of the industry’s biggest engineering and data science challenges at scale appeals to you, apply for a role on our team!

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