This week the Enplug Spotlight shines on Tina Denuit-Wojcik, our Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Tina earned a Masters in Computer Science from the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland, the country where she was born and raised. Tina speaks four languages (nine if you include programming languages!) and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 2015 CIO/CTO of the Year. Meet Tina!
What’s your proudest accomplishment at Enplug?
Releasing our app framework Software Development Kit to the world, and have people use it to create their own apps on the Enplug network.
When did you first start software development?
I had a programming class in high school, and I really liked it. I built a small database in Pascal.
What’s an aspect of being CTO that most people don’t realize?
There’s a lot of follow-up. Following up with our engineers about the work they’re doing, following up on customer problems, following up on releases and tests. That’s probably the single biggest thing I didn’t realize when starting the job. Things don’t happen unless you keep on top of them all the time.
In the almost 3 years you’ve been with Enplug, what was one of the most difficult challenges?
Aligning the individual goals of the engineers on my team with the goals of the company. We are all different and have different needs and career goals, and we are the most productive when we are excited about our job and our career prospects at Enplug. It’s my responsibility to make sure everyone can thrive and I take it seriously.
How many countries have you lived in?
Three, but two of them more than once. In chronological order: Poland, US, UK, US, UK, US. I know, I should probably settle somewhere once and for all, but I just don’t feel ready for that yet. For now, I enjoy the sense of freedom.
Which country has been your favorite?
You should be able to guess from my answer to #3. 🙂
Why motivated you to move out of Poland?
I wanted to work for Microsoft – that was the dream company at the time. Computer languages and compilers are one of my passions, and I wanted to be on the team developing one of the coolest technologies out there, which is C# and the .NET Framework.
Describe your time at Microsoft in three words or less.
Rain, drizzle, rain.
What app do you find yourself using most?
Visual Studio for work and Photoshop Lightroom for fun.
How did you get involved with photography?
I originally wanted to be an architect – I liked drawing and painting, but in my obsessive analytical mind a perfect painting has to be identical with reality. With this kind of attitude you might as well save yourself the trouble and switch to photography right away.
You applied for both Computer Science and Architecture – how’d you decide?
I love math and science and I couldn’t picture myself studying in a department where math is the dreaded class.
Name a person who has inspired you.
As part of onboarding at Motorola, we watched days worth of videos where the main architect was explaining the whole system in great detail. I was very impressed by the complexity of the whole design, and I wanted to be like this guy who was capable of creating something of this magnitude.
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I heard you like to dance. What are your favorite dance styles?
My favorite is international latin. But I like all of them. Brazilian samba, salsa, international ballroom… When I was working at Microsoft, I went dancing 4-5 times per week, but I don’t have that time here at Enplug. My husband (Bruno, who is Enplug’s Chief Software Architect) and I practice dancing once a week. The best thing that happened this year was the removal of the carpet in the office that exposed the perfect concrete floor. We don’t need to go very far anymore to practice.
Was that the trade-off? You teach Bruno to dance and he teaches you to ride a motorcycle?
It wasn’t put that way, but I guess that’s how it happened.
What’s the quickest/most conclusive way to know an engineer’s ability?
I only do interviews by asking applicants to write code on the whiteboard, see how people work through problems. At this point, I have an arsenal of coding questions, which I consistently use. That way, I can calibrate between different people. I learned that from Microsoft.
What’s a nice surprise you found at Enplug?
I didn’t expect that everyone would be so committed. We have a really cool culture where everyone is on the same page, giving 100%. This is the only environment where a startup can actually survive.
What’s your favorite nickname (besides Tina)?
Princess of Power. 🙂 My husband came up with that one.
What’s your least favorite nickname?
Justyna – nobody ever called me that at home, not even my parents or at school. In Poland, you used to only have a limited number of names you could officially choose from. Luckily they don’t have this anymore.
Motorcycle or car?
Motorcycle for sure. The only drawback is it’s bad for your hair. I quickly realized that those movie scenes – the ones where a girl steps off a motorcycle, takes off her helmet and her luxurious hair falls out in ripples – are totally not possible.
How do you decompress after each day?
It’s really tough. I’m still trying to figure it out.
Planning on going to Mars?
No, definitely not.
You’re great at a lot of things. What’s something that you’re not so great at?
Speaking with people I don’t know very well, and being in the spotlight.
What can be Enplug’s biggest product improvement?
Our biggest concern right now is our hardware. I’m really excited about the changes we are making in this area.
Best part of living in the Enplug House, back in the day?
It was my first time living together with a bunch of people, who were strangers to boot. It really stretched my comfort zone. I am glad I did this once in my life.
And the not-so-great aspect?
The inevitable noise of having so many people under one roof.
Question from Bruno: Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf?
Definitely werewolf – they’re hot-blooded. Vampires are dead.
Favorite author or book of all time?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Any hidden talents – besides ballroom dance?
I’m pretty good at learning foreign languages.
How many languages do you know?
German, English, French, and of course Polish.
How many coding languages do you know?
Any advice to your younger self?
Don’t worry, be happy.
Which of these was your favorite question?
Any advice to your younger self?
What has it been like, working as a female CTO in a clearly male-dominated field?
I am used to being the only girl in the class, on the team or on the floor, all my best friends are guys. There is a lot of bias in this field though, the bias is real and well documented. As a woman, if you are a hardcore programmer, you’ll have to prove yourself over and over again. It can get extremely frustrating and draining in the long term. The small upside is that this kind of environment forces you to stay on top of your game all the time. Most companies are like that but luckily there are exceptions. Enplug is proof that it is possible to build a company that is not gender-biased and a great work environment for everyone. At this point this is deeply engraved in our culture. It’s great to experience this first hand and I am very proud and happy to be part of it.