Female superheroes who are changing the Estonian tech landscape

Sander Nõmmik
Author Sander Nõmmik

The Estonian IT scene is booming. Home to the greatest number of start-up unicorns per capita, the country’s rapid digitalization is expected to result in a shortfall of over 8,000 techies by next year.

According to Eurostat, only 19.4% of tech specialists in Estonia are women. The proportion of women in tech is even lower in the United Kingdom (17.6%), in Finland and Sweden the proportion is a bit higher (21.8% in Finland and 20.9% in Sweden). Women are still under-represented in the digital sector both in Europe and elsewhere.

What kind of stories are helping to change the landscape in Estonia? There are many bright examples of Estonian women in tech. These are women who are founders, CEOs, mentors and developers of companies who are passionate about technology and have introduced us to many IT solutions we have grown to love.

Janika Liiv is a founder and team lead of Refresh Conference, a product, design and front-end conference. Prior to starting Refresh Conference, Liiv co-founded and worked as a software engineer at Clanbeat, a one-on-one meeting software, which helps new managers become better team leaders.

Kaidi Ruusalepp is CEO and founder of Funderbeam, a global investing and trading platform for investors to buy and sell equity stakes in private companies. Ruusalepp was the first IT lawyer in Estonia and a co-author of the Estonian Digital Signatures Act of 2000 – landmark legislation that enables secure digital identities.

Kristel Kruustük is a founder and CEO of Testlio, a software testing and QA management platform. “Testlio was born out of my frustration with the crowdsourced software testing industry – I wanted to help companies build quality apps in a smart and efficient way, with the best testers and QA experts,” explains Kruustük.

Triin Kask is the CEO and founder of Nevercode, an established continuous integration and delivery service provider for mobile app developers. “Nevercode was born out of an idea that mobile app development could be so much easier if we could automate the process from code creation to actually publishing the app to GooglePlay or Appstore. That is what we’ve done today,” said Kask.

Helen Kokk is a UX / UI designer with more than 10 years of experience. She is currently a user experience and service design lead at Nortal, a multinational strategic change and technology company. Kokk is also a co-founder and mentor of Your Design Works, a tool that teaches how to design a homepage in 48 hours.

Janika Leoste is a robotics educator at Future Robotics. Leoste works with school teachers with regard to popularizing STE(A)M and robotics in the educational sector with a goal of relaying the necessary STE(A)M education to children through teachers, thereby helping with the emergence of a generation of highly educated young people. As of 2017, Leoste is also a doctoral student at Tallinn University, researching the influence of educational robotics on mathematics learning outcomes in basic school.

Triin Mahlakõiv is a co-founder and team lead of North Star AI, an independent non-profit organization and community project with a mission to solve AI talent shortage in the region, share experiences about the application of AI technologies and introduce discussions about advancements in AI technologies. Mahlakõiv is also a founder and COO of Digital Communication Network, with which she helped create a community to empower independent journalists, digital influencers and PR professionals with digital tools, knowledge sharing programmes and grants.

Fortunately, the situation is improving as there are many more empowering women who have devoted themselves to changing both the Estonian and global tech landscape and who should be highlighted in articles like this one. Recent data from Estonian universities also shows that there are more women studying IT in Estonia this year than there have been previously. The proportion of women School of IT of TalTech is 28%; whereas, at the Institute of Computer Science of University of Tartu, that the number reaches 26%.“During the last five years the number of female students in the Institute of Computer Science has increased by 8% and the increase has mainly come from master’s studies due to the new curriculum „Infotehnoloogia mitteinformaatikutele / Conversion Master in IT,” said Kersti Roosimäe, senior specialist for study information analysis at University of Tartu.

Read more about empowering tech events and initiatives for women in Estonia.

Estonian companies invite specialists from around the world to come and accelerate their career in Estonia. Currently, there are more than 500 English-language job offers on the workinestonia.com website for international talent. If you have already relocated to Estonia, the International House of Estonia will help you get settled in.