PEOPLE | Jan 17, 2020

Chiara Russo, story of a (lady) engineer

Codemotion's CEO and co-founder tells her entrepreneurial story, emphasizing the importance of gender equality in the IT industry.

Chiara Russo is what you would call a lady engineer. A graduate in computer engineering, since 2011 she has been the CEO and co-founder of Codemotion, a startup born from the meeting with her business partner Mara Marzocchi, a psychologist passionate about technology. “Mara and I – says Chiara Russo – used to organize some events related to software development and programming in our free time, as we both worked. We did it because we were passionate and for fun, even at night, even though we were both very busy. And after going on like this for some time, we decided to quit our jobs and to invest everything in Codemotion. Now I can say with great results and satisfaction”.

A lot of progress has been made since then, as Codemotion today is no longer just a conference, but a multichannel platform which, on the one hand supports developers in their professional growth and, on the other, helps companies to hire developers. The conference has become the largest in Europe and the community includes about 570,000 developers and more than 300 companies as clients. The conferences are organized in 5 countries, there are dozens of organized hackathons and multiple professionals trained.

Codemotion – continues Chiara Russo – is a company which grows constantly, is attractive and collects investments, including international ones. This year we have achieved a turnover of 4 million and we expect to reach 6.5 million next year. Total investment is close to 6 million and we now have 54 people working for us. I think I’m truly lucky, as I do a job that I’m passionate about and enjoy, therefore, despite the hard work and the many difficult moments, given the growth and success we’re also achieving internationally, I can say that when Mara and I decided to set up this startup, we did something right”.

Why is “community building” important for developers?

“Codemotion today is a reference point for developers in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany and we aim to achieve European leadership by 2021. During this year we would like to expand our community of developers, so much so that we are investing heavily in internationalization. That’s because developers need to exchange views, to exchange materials and therefore to have a “place” to do so, because it is part of their training and professional growth. Being able to support people who code both live and online is clearly an added value: developers can not only connect with companies, but also benefit from a platform which offers content, training and opportunities for professional growth”.

Perhaps because of your professional history, there is a focus on the activities you do to bring girls closer to the digital world. Is that so?

“Definitely. Mara and I are the living proof that you can work in the digital sector without giving up your femininity and be able to reconcile your professional and personal lives. We would like to see many more girls approaching professions related to digital technologies and it is also for this reason that we organize activities with children and young people aimed at bringing them closer to coding and computational thinking. And every time we do this we have to somehow struggle with stereotypes, with families conditioned by prejudices who, for example, avoid enrolling a girl in a coding class, but maybe enroll her brother. The activities we have proposed during these years want to make girls understand that programming is fun, requires creativity, and above all, looking at the future, offers job opportunities. It is not possible that today only 13% of the world’s computer science graduates should consist of women, and that only 1 in 3 should continue to work in the field after graduation”.

What were the difficulties encountered as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

“Just one year after the foundation of Codemotion, my daughter Margherita was born: certainly, reconciling the family and professional environment is always complex, but leading an international and constantly growing reality like ours is a challenge for everyone and, honestly, being a woman was not an obstacle. It is true that there are not many female success stories, there is often a lack of female role models which can be an example to stimulate and support the action of other women. In this sense, I would like the story of Codemotion to be an inspiration to the many women who would like to approach the world of entrepreneurship. It takes a lot of organization and a great deal of willpower, certainly, but it can be done”.

What advice would you give today to a girl who wishes to work in this sector?

“First of all, I’d invite her to give it a try! Technological innovation and digitalization are at the heart of the transformation which every sector of work is going through now. The role of software skills is key to generate growth in the market and crucial to increase the competitiveness of any company. It is impossible to think that women should be cut off from such an important job and career opportunity: on the contrary, digital transformation really is the key to access the professions of the future and in Codemotion we are working precisely in this direction”.

Sonia Montegiove