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Women in IT: Zhanara Amanzholova

Zhanara Amanzholova, Head of Development and Innovations Department at JSC AK “Altynalmas” and Project coordinator of “Digital Mine” project, tells in an interview with Profit.kz under “Women in IT” project about the “harmonious” strength of the female management model, and that competencies in the career play a key role.


— Zhanara, as it happens, IT, telecoms and the industries that emerged at the intersection with IT are a strictly male patrimony. However, some representatives of the beautiful half of humankind manage not only to survive, but also to be successful in this environment. Do you have any special secrets?


— I do not know any particular secrets, although, if you look closely, then you can find some settings events. After all, I chose the specialty based on the successes achieved in the school - and here I had obvious inclinations to math, exact sciences. Therefore, the choice fell on the engineering field, moreover, on the most advanced - information technology. Our graduates of “Computer science and computer technology” department with major in “Software systems”, by the way, were the third in KazNTU and was very strong - honors students, medalists. Not all of them have reached the final though - only 50%. Then there were years of additional education in business areas along with the main job to form a more holistic view of the subject.


Many of our cohort went abroad, and I did not think myself to be there, so there was not even a choice – only Kazakhstan, that is all. I started my career in postgraduate study where I was engaged in the automation of technological processes, later I started working in the publishing house, my commitment to technologies and some internal understanding of the principles of building business processes was already manifested here. Later, I joined the representative office of “LANIT” in Kazakhstan, and a little later, I became the head of the representative office. In “LANIT” we implemented very interesting projects, we were the first in the industry to start working with banks, and they were the most advanced in the use of IT tools in their activities at that time. These were solutions for managing business processes, project management, budgeting systems, and so on. The experience I gained at “LANIT” was extensive – there were few companies and specialists in Kazakhstan at that time who were as much competent as colleagues from Russia and from abroad. At “LANIT” we tried to fill these gaps - we created a network academy, an authorized training center for IT managers and specialists in various areas.


The gained experience and professional competencies at “LANIT” were very useful, and was later developed and implemented in the "Altynalmas" company, and my first project related to the implementation of ERP-system Microsoft Dynamics Axapta. This project lasted for five years, and during this time I had to master the full cycle of business processes, which are typical for the gold mining company, and in general for the mining and metals sector. An important postulate for any project manager is that he simply has to know very well and understand the subject area of ​​his project, all business processes related to the company's activities; otherwise, there are risks of failure. I thought for a long time after the implementation, and came to an independent conclusion that women can often be very successful in projects on the introduction of information technology. Moreover, even preferable - they are neat, able to plan the process better; they can rally a team that can provide complex tasks for the project. The disadvantages are that with regard to some complicated decisions and cold-blooded hard calculation, playing around with the situation - here men have undeniable advantages. I tried to create a model of a balanced team, where the most powerful specialists would be represented: no matter whether it is a man or a woman, the main thing is competence and personal qualities. I think that it turned out, as all projects for which we have been taking in the company to date have been completed and met the expectations of the company's management and shareholders.


If I go back to how I ended up in IT, my parents played a big role here. For example, my dad believed that this is the most interesting way of professional development, given my abilities and potential.


— Zhanara, as I understand, after the successful implementation of ERP, you decided to head the Development and Innovation Department, and to become the coordinator of the “Digital Mine” project?

— This was an offer from the president of the company - Kanashev Diyar, who set the implementation of the “Digital Mine” project as one of the strategic goals of the company. Yes, I accepted this proposal, and upon my initiative and vision a team and structure was organized - the department, which is called upon to engage in research and development in this direction. Emphasis is the development of digital technologies in the gold mining company, and their implementation. Therefore, now I am concentrating on our flagship project – “Digital Mine”. This is a large and very complex project, which can become one of the benchmarks for digitization in the mining industry of Kazakhstan in the future as part of the implementation of the tasks of the “Digital Kazakhstan. Industry 4.0” program.


— What qualities need to be educated in yourself to achieve success in business, where the strong half of humanity is running?

— Male domination in IT is a fact. Why did this happen? I have already said before that men have a mindset and natural qualities that contribute to this. However, this does not mean that the situation does not change, it just happens not so fast - after all, the mass interest of girls to the subject began to be formed only relatively recently.

About qualities. You need to learn how to assess the situation cool-headed, learn to keep a word, allow a minimum of emotions in the work processes. It is important to be able to see the picture as a whole and only then in details. You need developed logic – it should be traced in any decision-making process. Of some other qualities - it is personal harmony, balance, openness and honesty. If you do not have these, then there is a risk that you, as a leader, will lean towards some decision-making centers, act in someone's interests. And this can be incorrect subjective decisions with certain consequences of not quite a positive nature.

There is another important skill, which I have already mentioned, to rally people around, create a team, find an approach to each employee, and see their strengths and weaknesses, while being open and honest with the person in building communications.

Finally, it is very important to keep up with the trends of your field.


— By the way, how much time it takes you to keep up with the trends?

— This is a permanent process, I cannot say that “I do this specifically only one hour a day”, it is more accurate to say always. It’s just that my attention somehow switches to IT - whether I watch TV, or read, or surfing the Internet. And I certainly do not spend time in social networks - it's more interesting for me to update the world trends in automation of business processes. That is, I just live in it all. And I like this approach very much.


— There is an opinion that female leaders are more effective. Would you agree?

— I do not think that women are more successful, there are, of course, unique people, but this percentage is very small, it is incommensurable with the successes that men achieve as leaders. In general, I believe that women's energy is very soft, creative, warm and harmonious. It is strong, and it's just different if you compare it to the male energy. And if we, women, understand this, if we do not try to take on the management techniques that are characteristic of men, then everything turns out very well.


— Let's talk about the family and career. Are these two oceans compatible?

— To begin with, I raised my children on my own most of the time, so I did not have such questions - my children, grandparents and I are my family. The main thing is how to make it all in time (laughs). However, I have a good example - my parents. My mother was able to be successful in the family, and in building a career – in addition to the fact that she raised three children, she is also a teacher, an honored teacher of Kazakhstan, an excellent pupil of education and so on. She was engaged in teaching activities for up to 70 years.


— If you were woken up late at night and asked what kind of project you are proud of, what would you say?

— I have already mentioned some of the projects — these are “LANIT” projects in the banking sector. As for “Altynalmas”, here, in addition to the already mentioned ERP implementation project, I would note the efficiency improvement project, and finally, the large-scale “Digital Mine” project, which requires very high concentration. And if I bring it to its logical conclusion, I will get those effects that I expect from it - it will be a big and very serious milestone in my career.


— What’s next?

— This is a good question, I think that by completing the “Digital Mine” project, I would get undeniable competencies that could be used as an independent expert in this field. Such competencies are piece goods, so their relevance would be predetermined. Perhaps I could act as a consultant and adviser for the leaders of such projects in MMS. In general, I see interesting opportunities for myself here. There is another dream - to write a book. Well, we'll see ...


— The final question. What would you advise girls, women who would like to go to IT, but are afraid to take the first step?

— I would advise you to listen to yourself on an intuitive level: listen to your heart and if it tells you that this is the right way - go to IT, take this step! Set yourself goals, build ways to achieve them, work on yourself and you will succeed!

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