Aigerim Katayeva is a product designer at Yandex, Grace Hoppers Celebration Scholar, and a mentor of the winning team of the Technovation Challenge in 2017.
I’ve known Aigerim for close to five years already, and have seen her tremendous growth in the IT industry. I got really inspired by her talk at Women Techmakers in Almaty, that I asked her for a second interview.
What do I want to do after high school graduation? Like many at my age, I fuzzily could imagine what major should I choose. My decision which major and university were based on future perspectives and significance. I’d been dreaming to study at Kazakh-British Technical University but I didn’t have enough scores* to get a scholarship. Like most of my classmates, I decided to study at IT University.
*Unified National Testing (UNT) has been serving as senior students’ final high school assessment since 2004.
Honestly, I loved studying at IT University. Most of my teachers were young professors who studied overseas under the Bolashak program. I call them broad-minded people who are passionate about IT and wanted to share their knowledge with us. Many of them have become my role models. Perhaps some of the students and alumni of IT University won’t agree with me, but I tried to make the most out of this university.
About Bachelor’s Degree in general
A Bachelor’s degree is probably more about gaining soft skills rather than education. In search of that, I was an active member of AIESEC which greatly influenced my views. Imagine, you are 18-20 and you are doing great social projects about leadership, sustainable growth with your team. I was surrounded by people who shared the same views on development, life, and growth.
Mentoring experience of the winning Technovation team
In 2017 I had the priceless opportunity to mentor team for Technovation Global Challenge. It was an exciting journey that lasted for about one year, where I learned and experienced a bunch of things I could not even imagine. By having great teamwork we managed to go through all stages and win 1st place in San Francisco.
I want to believe that our achievement helped more girls believe in themselves and venture into STEM. So in the following years, the number of participating teams increased, local companies began to support and help girls. It seems to be very cool.
Read more in details here: 1st place at Technovation Challenge, or how mentoring experience changed my life
About GHC and my first interviews with Apple, Amazon, LinkedIn, and Microsoft
Grace Hopper Celebration is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. Co-founded by Dr. Anita Borg and Dr. Telle Whitney in 1994 and inspired by the legacy of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, the AnitaB.org flagship event Grace Hopper Celebration brings the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront.
During three days of the conference, Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley startups conduct quick rounds of interviews. It’s a great chance to try yourself to apply for the largest tech companies, understand where you are right now and what you should aim for. Besides, the interview series, there are workshops and mentorship rounds. I was lucky to listen to Priscilla Chan, the founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
You can learn more about the application process directly on the website. In short: you need to be a student who studies IT and write a motivation letter a year before the event.
Working as a Product Designer at Yandex
Even at university programming was not easy for me but I really enjoyed the part before development – analysis, interviews with customers, prototyping and design. In parallel with Technovation, GHC, and studying at Nazarbayev University, I worked as a product designer at the UNICEF Innovation Lab, and later at a startup. Thus, I am still involved in technology and IT, but I hardly write code.
It turns out that I had a long way to fully understand what I will do in life.
Last year Yandex came to Almaty with a workshop. It was necessary to do a test task to pass. As a person without a degree in design, I almost felt like an imposter. Therefore, it was important for me to go to this workshop and ask questions that concerned me. After attending the workshop, I forgot about it and Yandex. A month later, HR contacted me and invited me for an interview.
I never thought that I would work in Moscow but I really liked how the company treats its employees and the fact that there you can learn a lot. The first three months of the internship were difficult, but then I managed to adapt to the fast rhythm and what was expected from me.
Detailed information on internships and vacancies is on the website of the Yandex Academy. But due to the current situation, the process of recruitment may change.
How to prepare for your next design interview?
I would strongly recommend this book if you are a designer: Solving Product Design Exercises by Artiom Dashinsky
Building the right communication with developers is really important. The main thing is to understand that you are one team and you have one goal. Make detailed guides and specs, structure user flow in detail. It is also important to make prototypes and detailed animations of everything you need.
More believe in yourself and don’t care what other people say. Don’t be in a rush to get a master’s degree. I am always curious to know what’s happening in the world, hence I love traveling and reading. The most important thing for me is the people who surround me who help expand the boundaries and develop together.