#FACES 15 with Irini Tafaki, Team Lead and Senior Cloud Engineer at NET2GRID
This month’s FACES profile is none other than Irini Tafaki, Senior Cloud Engineer, at NET2GRID. Irini has a Diploma in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and after working as a technical consultant she joined NET2GRID four years ago as a cloud engineer. Irini’s hard work and professional commitment led her to rise through the ranks, and she became a Senior Cloud Engineer and team lead/scrum master to the Featurers team in 2021. Let’s pass the mic to Irini to learn more about her impressive career at NET2GRID.
Irini, thank you for joining us today, we’re excited to get to know you better! One thing we do know for certain about you is that you’re highly technically skilled, from cloud computing to signal processing. What was it about tech that initially piqued your interest?
I was never one of those kids that followed up on every new game console that was available or had technology as their passion. Joining the Electrical and Computer Engineering school, I came across multiple domains (including electromagnetic field theory, telecommunication systems, electric energy generation, transmission and distribution, electronics etc) but the computer and software engineering fields were what I found most interesting and creative by far. Onwards, it kind of became my passion.
As the team leader of the Features department at NET2GRID, can you explain to us a bit what it is that you and your team do on a daily basis?
The Features team is responsible for the implementation and the availability of the services that NET2GRID provides to its customers. We own the cloud infrastructure in which we collect and store energy data in order for them to be processed by our Analytics team to generate energy insights, the integrations that NET2GRID supports for that data to be available to our customers, as well as new features that are continuously added in our product.
On a daily basis, our tasks mainly involve the design and implementation of new features, the monitoring of the platforms, and the deployment of new functionalities in live platforms. While this may sound a bit abstract, I find the work that we do really fascinating because we get to work with state-of-the-art cloud technologies. Our codebase is in multiple languages and frameworks so we have gained a lot of technical expertise and we are on top of our product in all its development phases, so aside from being creative we can also actively see the results of our efforts.
Being a software engineer requires a great deal of analytical thinking, but you’re also known around the office as a very warm and approachable person. Do you think possessing both hard and soft skills has contributed to your career success?
I do believe that both hard and soft skills are very important in software engineering and are essential for someone to be able to work as part of a team - whether that is either a small team like Features Team or a larger team like NET2GRID. Effective communication and collaboration are, in my opinion, the keys to achieving not only the desired results and quality but also the environment and culture where people feel happy being part of and are open to express their opinion and thoughts. This is how we get to iterate and improve what we do and how to best do it.
However, this is not always easy. Thinking as a developer and having the low-level implementation and challenges in mind, it is sometimes hard to explain and describe in a non-technical way what you build and how things work to people who are not technical or do not have the entire context behind the issue you are working on. The same goes with understanding the requirements coming from the customer and the value of the requested changes. It can sometimes seem like people are speaking totally different languages while using the same words, which is something I find very interesting and funny.
Part of the role of a software engineer is designing and creating computer systems to help solve real-world problems. During your daily work, are you often thinking of the end-user or is your work more abstract?
We are the end-users for the majority of the functionalities we deliver since we have installed hardware in our houses and are actively using NET2GRID services through the Ynni app. This has often helped us both in understanding the need and see the bigger picture behind what we are working on, while also thinking of edge cases that may appear and providing feedback to improve our product.
Of course, whether the focus during our daily tasks is more abstract or not has to do with the phase of the development. For instance, during the design or testing of the delivered functionality, the end-user experience is taken more into account than when reviewing the code changes of a specific task that is a small unit of work that will eventually add up to the delivered functionality.
Women are vastly underrepresented in STEM jobs, with some statistics pointing out that they make up only 28% of the workforce (source: AAUW). How do you think females can be better supported and encouraged in pursuing studying science, tech, engineering and mathematics from a young age? To be honest, I never felt discouraged studying or working in STEM because I am a woman. Maybe I was lucky but I hope that this is the rule and not the exception. And I believe that everyone should be supported to follow the education and career path that best fits his or her interests and inclinations despite the norms. However, what we’ve missed while growing up is female role models in STEM to look up to. There are many successful women whose stories would be really motivating for young females but we hardly ever hear about them. Women should be more encouraged to celebrate their victories.
With all the hard work you do for NET2GRID, you deserve some rest and relaxation! What does the perfect day outside the office look like to you?
During the summer holidays, a day at the beach with my friends and a few cocktails would be ideal!