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I learned Python on maternity leave

Understanding payment transaction data and finding ways to make the best business use of it. This is one of the activities of the Dateio data team. Is it possible to balance working in a fast-growing technology company with a large family? We interviewed Hana Kosova, who is a data engineer and mother of three young children.

In our new Data Girls series, we interview four female colleagues from different Dateio teams.

The information gathered from payment transactions enables us to provide clients with better insights into their financial behavior. It also serves as the basis for targeted marketing campaigns, which merchants can use to offer precisely targeted offers to specific clients. Processing the “raw” data collected from payment institutions and adding additional data such as the exact merchant identification and location of the payment location is the task of the team working on the Tapix product.

Can you please explain the work of your team in more detail?

Our team deals with the so-called “enrichment” of payment transactions. These are card payments at the merchant, either in branch or online, or transfers between bank accounts. As part of the enrichment process, we add structured information to the payment records to help better identify the transaction and enable further analytical processing. 

What do you do if you are unable to process a transaction automatically?

First we extract the data (scraping, using Google API, etc.), then we edit it.When a payment comes in that we haven’t yet enriched, we use various scripts to identify the name of the store. If we only processed the data manually, it would be time consuming and expensive. That’s why we develop automation tools in our data engineering team, which we gradually improve and develop further. 

Educating yourself on parenting? The advantage is that you can progress at your own pace

You have three children. Did you deal with not losing touch with your industry during maternity leave?

I was already partially involved in data work before my children were born as part of my previous job at a financial and economic consulting firm. It wasn’t about automated data processing using algorithms, but more about understanding data and analysing it. 

While on maternity leave, I continued to work for my previous employer for five to ten hours a week, but I also wanted to further my education. I was looking for some intellectual activity where I could spread my time around the needs of my family. As the number of children increases, it is more and more likely that one of the children will be ill and your own interests will have to be temporarily neglected. Through self-study, I learned how to program in Python and the basics of SQL. This led me to data engineering. I enjoyed it, and when my youngest child started kindergarten, I found a job at Dateio, specifically on the Tapix team.

How do you keep up with your fellow graduates and technology even today, when you still have the carousel of schools and preschools to work with?

The basic premise is that you love your work and enjoy it. This makes it easy to keep working in the evenings when things are more relaxed. Self-education is an integral part of my job and the willingness to learn new technologies is terribly important in my job. So being successful in my field doesn’t depend too much on age, but rather on being open to new approaches to solving a given problem. 

But at the same time, the most valuable experience is what you have already programmed and what problems you have solved. Thanks to them, you can then decide much more quickly how to solve a given type of problem.

An integral part of success is being efficient and focusing on the real problems that need to be solved. One of the things that being a parent has taught me is the ability to prioritize well. In this, the motherhood experience is invaluable. 

You’ve been at Dateio for two years. You’re in charge of a department where you manage junior colleagues. How did you get into this leadership position?

I joined at a time when Dateio was starting to grow significantly. At that time there were three of us in our team, today there are about ten of us. In our company, if someone is skilled and proactive, they can very quickly be given space and try new things. 

We have a colleague who started as a temp to do manual transaction enrichment. He gradually learned SQL, Python and now has moved on to work as a data analyst. When we see potential in someone, they get a chance.

Can’t do something up front? Never mind!

So is this a job especially for people who can adapt quickly and like to learn new things?

In our work, we have to be largely innovative, invent new approaches, try new things. We don’t work according to ready-made procedures, but we design solutions ourselves. 

Our work is based on the fact that we use, say, five different approaches. For each source, the data collection is different and you can’t use one approach everywhere. That’s why every new project is interesting and the work is varied. If we used only one approach, we would solve at most 20-30% of the data than if we combined multiple approaches. I see this as our strength when I compare us to our competitors. 

We appreciate anyone who is able to look at a problem from a different perspective. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do something up front. A lot of people are afraid of not knowing SQL. I only got significantly better at SQL when I was solving specific problems. But you have to have the aptitude to keep learning and be able to adapt. That’s what we’re looking for here. 

As a mom, how do you feel about flexibility and the ability to work from home?

Everyone in the company is free to choose where they work from. We don’t differentiate between whether someone works from home or from the office. We have a great team here, so most of our colleagues come to work from the office. I like to go to the office because I like to have social contacts with my colleagues. I only stay in the home office if we are taking the kids to the doctor and I can’t make it to the office on time. A lot of my colleagues have young children and they all understand what that means.  

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The thing that fulfills me the most is the freedom with which we can approach solving individual problems. You are happier and come to work happier when your boss gives you space and says, “sure, try it your way.” At the same time, we try to divide the work in the team according to what everyone is most interested in, to do what they are good at. 

Do you go out together for teambuilding or sports?

We recently had a teambuilding in the Krkonoše Mountains and it included a hike to Sněžka. At the same time we have company-wide parties and several times a year we organise teambuilding within individual teams. The last time our Tapix team went on an escape trip, before that we went paintballing. We also have voluntary sporting events, it’s always an introduction to a sport that we get to try out. We’ve had pole dancing, yoga, for example. I like that I get to try sports that I wouldn’t have thought to try.

Is there anything that surprised you about people’s shopping behaviour that you can reveal?

I’ve been surprised by how often people gamble. 🙂