Elena Koryakina is SVP of Engineering at Parallels (part of Alludo) and oversees the Parallels R&D team and is responsible for developing high-performance cross-platform solutions.

Elena has been with Alludo for over 2 decades and her pivotal contributions laid the foundation for the development of Parallels Desktop. She has extensive experience in virtualisation, cloud, and server-specific technologies.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role.

After graduating with a Master’s in Computer Science with honours, I started working for Parallels from its very beginning. Initially, I started as a kernel developer, responsible for laying the groundwork for what eventually evolved into Parallels Desktop. I was the first one to run Windows in our virtualisation engine, which eventually became the foundation of what is Parallels Desktop today.

Subsequently, I moved on to the role of technical advisor and project manager/lead of different projects. As Parallels expanded, I took on the challenge of creating several teams from the ground up. Additionally, I actively participated in collaborative ventures with cross-project contributors and external partners, including mergers and acquisition projects. These experiences ignited my enthusiasm for exploring and mastering various new technologies.

I bring 24 years of valuable experience in crafting software solutions and spearheading innovative projects and teams, with a profound specialisation in virtualisation, cloud, and server technologies. My track record includes authoring 10 international patents and patent continuations. Currently, I hold the position of Senior Vice President of Engineering, where I lead the Parallels R&D team at Alludo.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

As a child, I attended a STEM class where my fascination with subjects like physics, chemistry, mathematics, and biology blossomed. While my grandmother hoped I would become a doctor to help people, my dream was to become a scientist and create something valuable for the world.

As a compromise, I initially enrolled in the Biological Medicine and Technology faculty. However, a last-minute encounter with students from the IT faculty convinced me to change my path. I saw IT and programming as versatile tools capable of shaping the future across various domains of life. This perspective resonated with my passion for physics, leading me to integrate programming into my academic journey. For my final diploma project titled “Mathematical Simulation of Kinetic Processes in Low-Pressure Emanating Charges,” I delved into complex mathematical models to simulate physics processes.

My enthusiasm for system programming, success in Assembly language, and the art of writing drivers captivated me, ultimately driving me to join a startup focused on virtualisation. At some point, I faced the decision of becoming a physics researcher or a kernel developer in the rapidly growing virtualisation field. This was a challenging choice, but one I have never regretted. Virtualisation was gaining momentum as a technology poised to shape the future, much like the exciting challenges presented by AI and ML today.

Today, I find my purpose in contributing to society by developing innovative products alongside our team, with a mission to improve our customers’ lives and simplify their work.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I often share the story of my initial transition into a management role with new managers who have recently moved from engineering positions and might be questioning their fit and potential for success. My early professional years were dedicated to hardcore programming, and I had prior experience as a technical advisor while simultaneously leading teams in programming and design development. Recognising my emerging soft skills, our leadership offered me the role of Project Manager for a crucial project.

I accepted the offer, but during the initial weeks in my new position, I experienced frustration and fatigue. Every day involved extensive communication with people, yet by evening, it felt as if there were no tangible outcomes, such as writing new code or personal research results. I even contemplated switching to a job that allowed for more research and had received an offer. I pondered what had gone wrong, but one day, I arrived at work for an event similar to a retrospective meeting where we discussed our recent milestone achievements. There, I witnessed a room full of happy faces, with everyone content with the substantial progress made by several teams in delivering complex features for our product.

That was when I realised the true impact of my work: coordinating, prioritising, solving cross-team issues, and facilitating communication and knowledge exchange had culminated into a significant accomplishment. Despite my deep technical knowledge, I couldn’t have achieved it alone within such a limited timeframe. This experience highlighted the importance of teamwork, underscoring the notion that “teamwork makes the dream work.” Subsequently, I invested more in developing my leadership skills, a decision that significantly shaped my future professional path.

I consistently prioritise supporting my colleagues during their transitions and growth. I firmly believe that the level of support provided during this transitional phase directly and immeasurably influences the success stories of each individual.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The past year presented us with a unique challenge: the need to revitalise and expand our engineering team. Simultaneously, in line with our strategic goals for greater diversity and diversification, the concept of establishing a new centre of excellence in a different location became an appealing solution. We embarked on a journey that involved extensive preliminary research in the new region, adapting our existing team to manage a distributed workforce while accommodating different time zones and cultures, revising our interview process, refreshing our onboarding program, and organising effective mentoring initiatives. These changes were implemented within an incredibly tight timeframe.

Our primary aim was to maintain a tightly integrated approach, ensuring that newcomers seamlessly integrated into our existing organisational structure and reported to our current engineering leaders. Achieving this, required additional efforts and prompted us to reevaluate some practices to facilitate a successful transition, all while minimising stress for our engineering leaders and preserving their motivation and enthusiasm for these changes.

Over the course of just six months, we successfully recruited and integrated 50 talented individuals into our team. During this process, I had the opportunity to visit new countries with different cultures for the first time. It was an exhilarating experience to reflect on how, just a few months earlier, the idea of establishing a new center of excellence had been mere speculation. Today, I found myself surrounded by a multitude of passionate professionals dedicated to enhancing our product and proposing innovative ideas. This undertaking undoubtedly stands as a significant milestone in the evolution of our engineering team and in my own professional journey.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your achieving success?  

My insatiable curiosity and unwavering commitment to both education and my profession have been guiding forces throughout my journey.

During my university years, my passion extended beyond STEM disciplines to encompass philosophy and psychology. Surprisingly, these interests have proven invaluable in my professional life. They have equipped me with effective communication skills, fostering trust and positivity, and aiding in conflict resolution.

In 2014, my company presented me with a unique opportunity: participation in an educational program. I chose Linda Hill’s “Staying on the Fast Track” at Harvard Business School. This transformative experience introduced me to accomplished individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds, enabling me to elevate my leadership abilities to new heights. Interacting with peers from various cultures who had excelled in their respective fields taught me to think innovatively when tackling unpredictable scenarios and adapt my leadership style to meet specific objectives.

In the realm of IT, every project and initiative demands a profound technical foundation to effectively communicate with fellow professionals. My personal development journey has been marked by a continuous quest for knowledge. It encompasses a broad spectrum, from creating drivers and emulating devices to running 64-bit guest operating systems on 32-bit host systems using x64 hardware, developing client-server applications, adapting applications for App stores, creating web services, diving into DevOps, mastering the intricacies of negotiating with external partners, overseeing mergers and acquisitions, and navigating the intricacies of budget preparation.

Throughout this journey, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by exceptional professionals. I recall my first experience with global team budgeting, a collaborative effort with the support of the finance team. Despite my numerous questions, they patiently explained the details of finance. This experience reinforced the importance of not confining oneself to a single department or area of expertise. The most innovative ideas and optimal solutions emerge at the intersection of diverse technologies and knowledge domains.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

I believe that most of these recommendations hold true for careers in various fields, not just in technology.

To thrive in any industry, it’s essential to remain adaptable and stay informed about changes in your field and related areas. Technologies evolve rapidly, often supplanting one another, so it’s crucial to maintain an open-minded approach, engage with fellow professionals, nurture curiosity, and be prepared for problem-solving challenges while prioritising continuous learning.

When contemplating entrepreneurship in the IT sector, you must always be prepared to seize the right market opportunities. Often, this moment arrives before we realise it, making it imperative to be at least one step ahead to achieve success. To accomplish this, you should have a well-conceived idea, an in-depth understanding of your market and target audience, and a talented team capable of transforming your vision into reality.

Establishing and fostering a collaborative environment that attracts professionals from diverse backgrounds around the world is key. Trust, openness, and the freedom to engage in discussions form the bedrock for innovative ideas and successful tech businesses. Leadership qualities such as listening, mentoring, delegation, and support, along with a touch of charisma, can also be significant assets in this endeavour.

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Over the past few years, I’ve observed significant positive changes in the tech industry regarding opportunities for women. Initiatives such as diversity programs in universities and media campaigns encouraging women to pursue tech careers have made a noticeable impact. However, when it comes to intensive hiring processes, I’ve noticed that the number of resumes from women remains disproportionately lower compared to the overall number of applicants.

That prompts me to reflect on the importance of breaking the stereotypes that deter women from considering tech professions from an early age, starting from their school years. It’s crucial to actively promote the advantages of working in the tech field. For instance, in today’s era of remote work especially in IT, there’s greater flexibility in structuring your workday. This flexibility can synergise well with periods of maternity leave, allowing for a more balanced approach to work and family life.

Additionally, there are numerous outstanding online learning platforms that enable individuals to stay up-to-date with their skills and knowledge, even during the demanding days of motherhood. By highlighting these aspects, we can continue to encourage and support women in pursuing fulfilling careers in the tech industry.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

During my time at university, the majority of students were men, but there were also numerous exceptionally talented women among us. Throughout my entire career, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside and being inspired by many talented women. I firmly believe that our focus should not be excessively on gender but rather on one’s passion for their work and the innovative ideas they can contribute.

Companies should strive to offer a greater number of challenging and innovative roles that are open to talented individuals, irrespective of their background. And sharing more success stories of women in the tech industry is vital.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I don’t believe in the power of a magic wand. Every new opportunity requires real dedication to pursuing what genuinely interests and matters to you. It’s important to reflect on the historical struggles of women in different countries who fought for the right to vote because they were determined to actively participate in shaping the world.

Let’s work together to inspire more women to join the tech industry. We should encourage support from various sectors, from families and schools to companies and governments, to help unlock the full potential of women in STEM. It’s crucial to convey to everyone that the fields of exact sciences and technology are open to all, regardless of their background or location.

We can achieve this by highlighting the success stories of those who have already found fulfilment and joy in tech. The key is to follow your passion and pursue what you love, just as these individuals have demonstrated.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I find great inspiration in Edith Eger’s books, “The Choice” and “The Gift,” which recount the incredible journey of a Holocaust survivor who not only rebuilt her life but also achieved remarkable success and even saved the lives of others.

In terms of professional literature, I highly recommend John Doerr’s “Measure What Matters.” This book provides valuable insights into best practices for achieving goals and fostering growth. It serves as an excellent resource for anyone looking to refresh their knowledge and skills in this area.

Read more from our inspirational women here.