As part of a special edition of ‘Mums in Tech’ series in collaboration with Le Wagon, MotherBoard caught up with Vittoria Sajeva, Conservation Housekeeper at Westminster Abbey.
The purpose of the’MotherBoard’ content series is to highlight incredible working mums within tech & data, as well as individuals and businesses that are supportive and progressive within their approach to creating more inclusive tech & data teams for women.
Vittoria: Hello, I am Vittoria. I have a master’s in Conservation Science and since I moved to London (almost ten years ago) I have been working for museums and occasionally for conservation firms. In the last few years, I specialised in Preventive Conservation and Collection Care which is the part of conservation that looks after art collections. I always found it quite difficult to explain my skills and my job to people that are not in my field but as someone once described me: I am a highly specialised cleaner!
Vittoria: It was a long process for me, which took almost a couple of years to take form. I have always loved the field I am working in but, especially after I gave birth to my son, I started to feel the pressure. Making a career in conservation means committing lots of time and money to a job that you probably won’t see a return on your efforts. On top of that, my sector was hit very hard during the pandemic, meaning fewer jobs, a reduction in the average salary and highly skilled competition. Working for private firms is not that easy as well, especially for women at a fertile age. For expecting mothers it is almost impossible. Therefore, I started to look at different career paths.
It was when my baby started to mimic some noises that I realised how difficult it was for him to learn to speak. It was like me trying to read Python code, I thought. But if he could learn to speak, maybe I could learn Python as well!
It took some time for me to choose what to do next. Luckily, I had a great inspirational source beside me. My husband is a Python Developer. During the pandemic, he was working from home all the time and I always passed by his screen full of code. Sometimes I ask him to explain some lines and symbols. It was when my baby started to mimic some noises that I realised how difficult it was for him to learn to speak. It was like me trying to read Python code, I thought. But if he could learn to speak, maybe I could learn Python as well!
In the end, Python is a way to communicate between a man and a computer. So I bought my first Python book and at the end of it, I went forward and enrolled in a boot camp.
Vittoria: It wasn’t easy, to be honest. Since both my husband and I are foreign, we don’t have any support around us, a part of paid child care. This means that we have to be very coordinated with our timetable and our jobs as well.
I choose to follow a part-time boot camp with lessons twice a week in the evening and one full day at the campus on Saturday. During the week I commit my days off to listen to the pre-recorded lessons and complete the assignments. On the day when we had evening sessions, I picked up my son from nursery at five, set him up for the afternoon (ignoring his request to play with him) and then was ready to start at six thirty. Having the Saturdays at the campus was very good, as I could concentrate more. But again, I always felt a bit behind since most of my classmates (who were lovely by the way!) were younger and had time to review concepts before the lesson. I have no time to do so. Socialising as well was a bit of a stretch for me. By the end of our Saturdays, most of the students went out for drinks, I had to rush home so I could at least wish good night to my son.
Vittoria: I think that women are still discriminated against in the job market regardless of the field they are in. We feel like if we find a manager who understands our need to work from home or maybe do flexible hours when our children are sick or it is school holidays. It would be great if the government could not only provide laws but engage more with companies on the topic, controlling that certain policies were respected and empowered.
Vittoria: Pregnancy is not the end of your journey, although many people (basically everyone) will tell you that. It is just a chapter of the book called Yourself. You can still achieve whatever you want! My new journey was also inspired by some incredible mums I met along the way.
Pregnancy is not the end of your journey, although many people (basically everyone) will tell you that. It is just a chapter of the book called Yourself.
Like a single mum, I met that works and studies accountancy while looking after her child. A young mum with two daughters, a full-time job, who is studying business. Every time I felt tired and unmotivated, I thought of them. I admired how strong they were and I thought that these were the kind of women I wanted to be. So I put myself together and went forward.