“My startup job makes me feel like I have an impact. Google did not.”

Last year, we lost a dear colleague here at Kickresume. But it’s not like she’s dead to us, or anything. She just went off to do cooler things. Things like developing a vaginal probe in China (which is not exactly true but that’s what she told us back then 😅).

But we understand. Developing a resume builder simply doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Anyway, we thought her story was awesome and everybody would like to hear it too. Which is why we decided to interview her for our blog.

By the way, more interviews are soon to follow. Not just with our former colleagues, but also with other wonderful  people we have the privilege of knowing. And most of them come from the ranks of you—our Kickresume users.

Oh, and don’t forget to take a look at Barbora’s resume at the bottom of this page. We though it’d be nice, you know, to attach a full story to a resume like this.

Barbora will tell you:

  • Why IT isn’t just for boys (that would be just stupid);
  • How girls are developing a device that’s going to help women monitor their fertile days;
  • How they test the device on themselves;
  • What is it like to work for an American start up in China and how’s life there;
  • How to get an internship at Google and how to get invited to their conferences;
  • And then some.

What would you tell someone if they asked you about becoming a programmer?

I think the most important thing is to enjoy it. Studying computer science simply because you can score a well-paid job is stupid because, sooner or later, it will become stale. In retrospect, I understand that school teaches you to think in a certain way. Learning a specific programming language is not a problem, the key is to know how the principles behind it work.

I’ve heard you did an internship at at Google. That’s pretty cool! How did you get there?

I managed to get there twice for a summer internship. I sent them my CV because they had a program for college freshmen. Back then I didn’t get in. Still, they kept my CV in the database and came back to me when I finished my bachelor’s. They wanted to know if I was interested in a full-time job.

Finally, we agreed on a summer internship. Then the hiring process began, which consisted of several technical interviews. After several successful rounds, one team had to pick me. When I applied for the internship the second time, I did not have to go through the interview process again, as it was within one year.

What exactly did you do during your internship there?

The first time round, I worked mostly on minor tasks for my team. I worked on internal tools to make the data overview easier/clearer for my colleagues and also on the availability of monitoring and alerts when something goes wrong.

The second time, I worked on a great pipeline that handled the user data and it had to be optimized and rewritten in another programming language.

What is it like to be a woman in such a male-dominated field? 

It’s great, there’s never a long queue for the ladies’ room at IT events 😂. Personally, I have a good experience. Boys never behaved to me differently just because I am a girl and I never felt like I had any disadvantage.

There are plenty of opportunities for us women too. For example, female programmers also have the chance to attend a conference that Google organizes every year in San Francisco. Even I got there twice thanks to the competition called Code Jam to IO for Women, where 150 girls can win tickets for this event. Not only they paid for my ticket, they also covered a large part of my travel expenses.

Also, I had the chance to work for Google full-time. But as a coincidence, during that year a friend of mine recommended me to a company based in San Francisco. So, during the conference I met a co-founder of the company and she introduced me to their philosophy and what they are working on.

That sounds awesome. Did the company appeal to you so much that you decided to work for them right after the meeting in San Francisco?

I needed some time to think about it, because originally my friend told me that I could work remotely from Slovakia or maybe it would alternate with San Francisco. But at the meeting, she informed me that I will have to spend a lot of time in China in Shenzhen, which quite surprised me. However, their project attracted me so much that I’ve said to myself that it is a unique opportunity. So I went for it.

What is the project about and what kind of company is it?

It’s basically a very fresh startup founded about a year and a half ago. Our first product which we are currently working on is kegg. It’s a vaginal probe that helps women get pregnant. I’m more invested in it than in any other project that I’ve worked on before. It’s also pretty diverse, which means that I can keep learning a lot of new things there.

So, basically you’re programming a software for a vaginal probe.

Yes, but since we are only four developers in the company, I have more tasks. Partly, I work on a firmware which is a software that helps to run our device and I test it at the same time. Also, I work on a server where are algorithms and data processing. I also manage our website and work in Google Analytics.

How does the device work?

In the vagina, the woman has the so-called cervical mucus, which changes during the cycle and during the ovulation it changes so it is permeable for sperms. This period can be calculated but calculations are not always accurate as there are many factors that can delay the fertility phase.

With our device, we can directly detect the fluid-structure changes and, based on that, determine whether a so-called fertile window has begun. It is a phase when the woman has the highest chance of conceiving a baby.

The device works by inserting it into the vagina, turning on the measurement and taking it out after two minutes. The acquired data are sent to the server, analyzed and synchronized with the mobile app in a few seconds. Therefore, the user has all the data within the app and can view all of her cycles in graphs or also check the prediction when she may expect the next menstruation.

Does it mean that its primary use is to tell women when they have the highest chance of getting pregnant?

Yes, and it’s mainly intended for women who have problems getting pregnant and use different methods to succeed. Our first tester already got pregnant by the way. 😆

Are you also testing it?

Yes, I’m also testing it. Basically, we already have an almost functional version of the device, but still, some new issues are occurring and we have to resolve these issues and fine-tune the device before going to the market.

But there are already other similar products on the market that do the same thing. Is your product in any way different?

There are many products that can somehow determine fertile days such as bracelets that measure heartbeat, or thermometers for that measure the woman’s temperature during her cycle, as the temperature increases during the ovulation. However, these forms are often very inaccurate and especially it does not work for women who have an irregular cycle.

The point of our device is that fertile days can be determined by direct measurement and it does not necessarily need to know previous cycles. One product that measures cervical mucus already exists, but it is older and looks much worse. It’s a probe attached to a device that’s about a cell phone size, and it looks really deterrent and outdated. We are trying to create something new, modern and better.

Why China when the company was set up in America?

Due to the nature of the product and finances. All the necessary parts were much more expensive and it took much longer to get them. China’s manufacturing is next-gen, they can produce everything faster and more efficiently. So, we go there for business visits for which we receive Visa for a maximum of two months. During this time, we meet with various factories and resolve business affairs with them. Then, we return for a while to Slovakia or Czech Republic, or sometimes to San Francisco.

It used to be that “Made in China” was a mark of low quality. Is it still true?

Of course, we need to be careful about this because we have to meet certain certifications. We put emphasis on purchasing quality components. We always have the opportunity to go directly to the factory and see the whole production process. At the same time, we can identify any shortcomings in the tests that we do.

There is also a very good book about the entire process of hardware development, The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware, written in Shenzhen by the experienced author Andrew Huang. It gave us many helpful tips on what to avoid. The author was very interested in this topic and tested, for example, SD cards that he bought in multiple stores, and then inspected them to see if they were fake, what were the differences between them, and so on.

What about work and life there? What do you think are the main differences compared to Europe?

I don’t know if it’s just because China itself is so different, but the startup job is definitely different than working for Google. When the deadline is nearing, we’re working six-day weeks, ten to twelve hours per day. But I never felt like I did not have enough energy. So, it’s different in the sense that I work a lot more. But we have nothing else to do in China, so most of us don’t mind 😄.

As for the life, it’s very different. I’ve already experienced a typhoon. Trees were falling and bushes got ripped out. I’ve also grown used to the fact that there’s no drinkable tap water and that we have to buy bottled water. I was especially surprised to find out that they have cameras everywhere and everybody is being watched, but it’s not impossible to get used to it. Also, people are always staring at their phones. Almost nobody talks on the subway or in the street. It seems like everybody’s living in their bubble.

I guess that working six days a week needs a strong dose of motivation.

It’s only four of us. That means there’s lot of work and it’s also quite difficult to find someone who would be willing to travel to China and had all the necessary skills. Searching for employees in China is not very logical for us because we want to spend most of our time in the Czech Republic after completing our product.

The idea for the future is to have technical team in Czech Republic, travelling to San Francisco for conferences and only part of team working on hardware travelling to China.

You’ve compared working at a startup vs. Google. Which do you prefer?

At Google you usually do just one thing. It is true that you can rotate in the teams or projects, but most of the time you can change it after a year spent in one team. Job for startup is much more diverse and, in particular, I feel like I have a much bigger impact on the world. But of course, Google also has its advantages.

You seem to be motivated by the fact that working on such product will help many women.

Absolutely. What motivates me the most is the fact that I can influence where the development is going and also the fact that everyone in the company really cares about the product itself. And we’re always happy to find more equally enthusiastic people like us because we’re still hiring. Anyone interested in learning more can contact me at barbora@kegg.tech.


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