From “Discover Tech” to “Women in Technology Hackathon 2021” to working at Printify — all within a year.
Riga, Latvia — Pauls Siliņš, Co-Creator at Riga TechGirls interviewed Ance Bumbule, Designer at Printify for Riga TechGirls. Ance is a Graphic Designer with more than 8 years of experience. Currently working with Printify as a Designer for their Marketing Team, with aspirations to transition into Product Design. Her motto is: “Great design gives you great responses”.
Pauls: Before joining Printify and participating in the “Women in Technology Hackathon 2021: Women. Technology. Sustainability.” and the “Discover Tech” program, you worked as a graphic designer for an advertising agency. What made you want to switch to the IT industry?
Ance: After my maternity leave, my previous employer made unreasonable demands that I wasn’t willing to go along with. It was a tough decision because I was really loyal to this company, but I decided to quit.
Then it dawned on me — what do I do now? With a two year gap in my resume, I decided I was going to start freelancing and help out with my husband’s company. I liked the projects that I worked on, but I also started to notice that these projects didn’t bring me the excitement and fulfilment that they used to. So I started to question — why am I doing these things?
That was the moment when I thought: “Is this it? Where do I go from here? How do I grow and change direction?”
I’ve always been interested in and good with technology. So when I came across an article about “Discover Tech”, I read the description and thought that this was something interesting. It’s a free course for women who want to change their career — I was intrigued and, well, I applied.
Pauls: How did “Discover Tech” affect your life — what did you learn from the program and what did you take away from it?
Ance: Being a new mom had taken a toll on my self-esteem. I know there are women out there who will tell you that there’s no such thing as “mom brain”, but for me, it certainly felt like there was. I’ve always thought of myself as intelligent, a quick learner and able to understand and catch up with everything fast. But after my son was born, I felt like my head was not working properly. Those traits were a big part of my personality, so I somehow felt like I’d lost a big part of myself and I didn’t know if I was ever going to get it back.
When I started participating in the “Discover Tech” program, I noticed that all the information that I was soaking up really stimulated my brain. And this was combined with a dose of excitement and the butterflies of having new experiences. “Discover Tech” was the point when everything shifted for me.
But I have an important side note here: I wanted to change and I was ready to put in the work to change. If a person doesn’t want to change or is not ready for it, they can join as many programs as they want but it won’t do any good.
Pauls: You also participated in the “Women in Technology Hackathon 2021: Women. Technology. Sustainability.”. Was the decision to participate an easy one?
Ance: No, not at all. It was weeks of inner debates. Constantly in my mind, I was saying: “Yes! No. Maybe? Maybe it will be cool. What will I do there? Yes, I will definitely join! No, I can’t, it’s three days — how will I manage my life?”
But I was still interested.
My husband and I figured out how to manage our family so that I could have those three days to myself. I was still pretty unsure until the last minute because I was extremely scared of going into something like that alone. I didn’t think that I had any particular set of skills, especially IT skills. Also, being incredibly shy — as I was — starting a conversation with a stranger for me was like the end of the world.
However, I was encouraged when other women, talking from their experience, said things like: “You don’t need to be an expert at programming. Maybe you have a different set of skills that might be useful!”
I convinced myself that even if I don’t think that much of my own abilities I could still participate and have a great experience. And who knows, maybe I would make some new acquaintances — which I did!
Pauls: Regarding the hackathon — what were your expectations and how was the experience in reality?
Ance: I thought that I would not even go through with the first steps and I’d just head home. But as it happened online and I was already at home, it wasn’t really an option.
I didn’t have a team, nor did I have an idea, so the first step for me was to convince someone that I could be of use in their team. I was trying to choose a group that I could relate to and somehow it happened rather organically.
The first day was extremely confusing. I was trying to understand what to do, what’s expected of me and what would happen if I failed. But everyone was a little bit confused. This gave me the assurance that it’s not just me who’s trying to figure out how to do this and by the second day, we were pretty much in the zone and buzzing like a busy beehive.
During the hackathon, I learned a lot. I was using tools that I had never used before, so I had to learn on the go. The hackathon started feeling like an accomplishment at the point when my team members and the team mentor acknowledged what I had done.
I definitely didn’t expect it to be as exciting and fun as it was. And one key thing — it was extremely supportive. I felt safe.
Pauls: Keeping on the topic of hackathons. Clearly, they are not always easy, as you also mentioned. What are the main lessons you learned from it? What did you take away?
Ance: At Printify, one of our values is “we don’t know it all — we learn it all”. This is a very important part of a healthy professional mindset. I think that people usually put themselves under a lot of unnecessary pressure and set themselves up for failure. They think: “I need to know it all before I succeed, before I join, or participate in things.”
Instead, it’s important to give yourself the opportunity to grow by learning and taking these opportunities. Even if it’s scary and you don’t know how you’re going to do it at that exact moment, just say yes and figure it out along the way. You might be surprised how resourceful you can be under pressure, and you might not know how much potential you have until you’re put in that position, where you have to deal with it. That’s the main thing that I took away from this hackathon.
Also, it’s not really about winning. When we got into the Top 10, we were all really excited. The thing is, we began with nothing. It was just an idea — just a vaguely formed idea but we finished with a prototype and pitch video. When we didn’t get into the Top 3, it didn’t matter anymore because we had already done a lot and succeeded in our own way.
Pauls: During the hackathon, you also got the chance to hear from Alex MacLeod, the head of design at Printify. What was it that made you want to reach out to him or Printify?
Ance: Back then I didn’t know much about Printify. During the hackathon, there was a round of introductions by the judges, and when Alex introduced himself, he was talking about Printify and caught my attention. Alex mentioned that he had just started with a team of designers and that he’s on the mission of finding new talent to join his design team.
After the hackathon, I looked him up on LinkedIn and he looked very experienced and seemed like a very good connection to have. After another lengthy inner debate of whether to send a connection request or not, my husband came into the room saying: “Just do it. Stop thinking about it and just do it.”
At that moment I didn’t even anticipate that this tiny decision was going to lead me to a really good opportunity later on.
Pauls: How did the situation develop from there?
Ance: He invited me to a meeting. Looking back, I think that it was an interview in disguise even though we were just talking about design and other things. At the end of the meeting, he said: “We are looking for graphic designers in our marketing team. Would you be interested?” And I said: “At Printify? Hell yeah!”
Pauls: Transitions are usually not all that easy when you start working at a new place. Especially if you are switching your professional fields completely — from advertising to tech, to startups. How was your experience with joining Printify, how was the initial phase?
Ance: I was waiting for a catch. I was really waiting for when they would show their true face and what was really going on. Because it seemed surreal, as everyone at Printify was being nice, helpful, professional, and supportive. For example, I was surprised about how pleasant the interviews were. It was more like a conversation and getting to know each other rather than the usual kind of interrogative style that you can get with interviews.
Also, the onboarding experience was very welcoming and well planned. They kind of sway you in gently, if I can say that. In all the processes from recruitment to daily tasks, I noticed the feedback culture that now helps me to learn and grow every day.
Overall, the team at Printify is very diverse and everyone is highly talented. I know that I can have a random watercooler conversation and it’s going to be a blast.
Pauls: What is everyday life like there now, once you’ve gotten used to it and what are the main differences between how it is there and to what you were previously used to?
Ance: Here at Printify, I am valued, I am taken care of and I am fairly compensated, treated with respect and listened to. It’s very empowering when your employer wants you to feel good, grow, and never forgets to thank you for the good work you’ve done. I know that we all are responsible for our accomplishments. They don’t punish for mistakes. It’s instead a lesson learned. I find myself wanting to do better and wanting to succeed, to be a better version of myself.
Working at Printify is like a team sport with support and all the necessary resources to help everyone succeed together.
Pauls: We talked about major changes in your life throughout the last couple of years and that’s quite a lot to take in. It’s never easy and that’s why it certainly helps when there are people supporting you through all these steps. You’ve mentioned your husband. As I understood, he has been a huge support during this process. But apart from him and the new colleagues, are there other people in your life who supported your decisions and encouraged you to take these difficult steps?
Ance: My family was a huge support. I’m lucky enough to have a big and very supportive family. Everyone was helping me with both responsibility at home and mental support.
Also, there was this one person towards the end of the “Discover Tech” program.
We were talking regularly and just asking each other — how are you doing, how’s your progress and things like that. It was very nice. Family is a certain kind of support that you need at home but they don’t necessarily understand what exactly you’re doing. So, a friend inside the industry is a true gem.
Pauls: Seeing that you like to take chances even if they scare you and that you like to challenge yourself, what do you see as your next challenge, your next milestone?
Ance: Last year I didn’t get into the Riga TechGirls mentorship program but this year I did! So, I’m a proud UX/UI track mentee and that means I never stopped learning — I’m taking one thing at a time and then moving to the next thing. Basically, I’m just continuously learning. I feel like a sponge — whenever something is offered, I absorb it!
With the support of my colleagues, my mentor and obviously my family, my plan is to transition from graphic design to product design (hopefully within Printify, because I really like working here!).
Pauls: Thank you so much for your time! Do you have anything else to add?
Ance: Always remember that when the doors are closed and for whatever reason, the windows are also shut, don’t be afraid and just go through the creepy basement.
There are a million opportunities and ways you can achieve and do something!