Women in Technology Spotlight: Zina Ilchenko

Senior software engineer

Tell me a little bit about where you attended school and your work history.

I started my career teaching world history at a high school in Ukraine. When I came to the U.S., I barely spoke English, and I had never touched a computer in my life. I started working at a daycare, where the other teachers taught me the language. When I realized everyone was going to business and technical school, I decided to attend school in northeast Philadelphia, while working full-time. In 1998, I was hired by Ascensus.

What made you interested in pursuing a career in technology?

When my daughter entered high school she needed a computer, so I bought her one. I started exploring on it and ended up teaching myself how to type. Computers were a big trend back then and an emerging industry. I thought if other people could do it, then I could do it too.

What makes working on the IT team at Ascensus different or unique?

The type of work we do at Ascensus is special. We serve a large portion of our nation—more than 7 million Americans! Without our help, they wouldn’t be able to contribute to their retirement, education, or health savings accounts.

What advice would you give someone who wants to land a job in the technology field?

Learn what you can as early as possible. Talk to people who are in this industry and be interested in ongoing innovations. I never imagined that I’d go down this career path, but truly anyone of any age can do it.

What woman is your biggest inspiration and why?

One of my good friends who still lives in Ukraine really inspires me. We’ve been friends for more than 30 years and she has always overcome struggles in her life.

Did anyone or anything help you to get to where you are today?

There are many people who have helped me to get to where I am today. Especially, all of the women who taught me how to speak English at the daycare, and all of my teammates here at Ascensus. I have more of a business background, so when I need help understanding something technical, everyone always takes their time to help me.

Why do you like working for a company that helps people save?

Life has taught me that in order to survive, you need to save. I like that we help people save, so they have some sort of safety net in their lives. It’s so important to save for yourself, for your family, and for your future.