Women in management and development positions in the company

Strong Women at Ottobock

The successful influencer says, “Life isn’t about losing a limb!”

A conversation with Zainab Al-Eqabi

A unique meeting took place in March 2021 in Duderstadt headquarter with Zainab Al Eqabi from the Marketing and Social Media department at Otto Bock Middle East. It was a special meeting with a very special person, because Zainab Al Eqabi is not only an Ottobock employee – she is also a user. And she’s an Instagram influencer with 1.5 million followers. An influencer who is a credit to her name. Anyone who meets Zainab can immediately sense her intelligence, her empathy and the love she has for people. She is a woman who makes an impression and has something to say. Zainab motivates her listeners to change their perspective. She gets people to move past social taboos, she sets people straight, she confronts and she gives people courage.

Her own story is not a secret. Born in Iraq, Zainab lost her left leg due to a leftover bomb from the Gulf War when she was seven years old.

We caught up with Zainab for an interview.

Zainab al Eqabi

Besides your successful Instagram channel and your job in the Marketing and Social Media department at Otto Bock Middle East, you are also an important ambassador for our users at Ottobock. How did your connection with Ottobock come about?

It initially happened because I was looking for a prosthesis that was appropriate for me when I was still a child. Later on, I came across Ottobock through one of their excibitions. That is where I met the team. We had discussions and meetings later on and it did not take much time until I started to work as a patient ambassador. That is how the journey started. I then participated in Heinrich’s Running Clinic in Dubai in 2015. I love sports and had so much fun at the event. I am very happy to be working for Ottobock.

You’ve been in Duderstadt since the beginning of March, and you’re getting a new prosthesis. What’s new and better about it?

I’m exchanging the C-Leg I had until now for a Genium X3, and I am already excited about the completely new opportunities I’ll have. For example, being able to use both sides when climbing stairs instead of going step by step, as I have until now. And I’m excited to have the waterproof variant of the Genium X3. Because I love diving. Who knows, maybe I’ll do a triathlon at some point.

How much longer do we get to have you with us here in Duderstadt?

Right now, I’m still having a socket adjusted. And I’m practising every day here in Patient Care. Christopher Eckernmann and Daniela Wüstefeld and everyone else are giving me fantastic help in learning to walk with the new prosthesis and are sharing valuable tips on how I can make my gait pattern even smoother.

Is there any wish you’d like Ottobock to fulfil?

Oh, yes! I love dressing up, and my big dream is wearing high heels. I’m a woman who loves fashion, and a height-adjustable prosthetic foot would be a big plus in my life. If Ottobock were to work on a foot like that, I would be all over it.

Let’s see what our colleagues in Marketing and Development have to say about that. We will let you know – and we hope the rest of your stay in Duderstadt is lovely and look forward to seeing you again. Thank you for your time!

International Women's Day

Theme week

People around the world are celebrating International Women's Day on March 8th, drawing attention to women's rights and equality. This day publicises achievements of the movement and encourages people to get involved in gender equality, also at work. On the 110th anniversary of International Women's Day, female employees of Ottobock talk about their careers and leadership by women as well as sharing tips for more self-acceptance.

Ottobock began introducing female employees from around the world in social media a week before International Women's Day. They shared their empowerment and self-care messages on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

To raise awareness for the topic among Ottobock employees, the company also published a series of interviews with female managers and specialists on its intranet. Women talked about challenges at work, how they made their way to Ottobock and differences between men and women in day-to-day work.

"Follow your heart! Women approach subjects differently – an enrichment for everyone."

Dr.-Ing. Simone Oehler, Director Verification at Ottobock

Interview with female IT specialists

5 questions to 6 women software developers

Almost everyone in IT knows this tech pioneer: British mathematician Ada Lovelace is considered the world's first computer programmer. In 1843 she developed an algorithm for the precursor of the computer. Lovelace was a rarity in her day. Some 180 years later, there are still just a few women working in the field. A look at the tech departments and computer science courses of this world reveals mostly men at the computers. According to Germany's Bitkom digital association, only one of every seven applicants for IT jobs is a woman. "Women Who Code", a non-profit organisation that aims to bring more women into the well-paid industry, states that they are unnecessarily reluctant to enter the tech world.

For International Women's Day, six female developers at Ottobock talk about their motivations, job highlights and difficulties − and provide valuable tips for newcomers.

Anna Meixner (Vienna)

Position: Developer in Biomechanics & Control; Ruleset (prosthesis control)
Studies: Engineering & Sport technology

1. What motivated you to become a developer?
I have always been fascinated by the complexity of the human body. But I was even more interested in using technology to increase human performance. That's why I studied sports technology. I would never have imagined that I would be responsible for control devices prostheses as a software developer.

2. What do you like most about your job (and what annoys you)?
What I like most is working with our users and seeing their smiling faces when a new control concept works well. The most annoying part is all the documentation covering user tests and the code.

3. What is your favourite programming language and why?
I like working with numbers and measurement data, so I think Matlab is super. What I find really fascinating is being able to solve problems with the help of artificial intelligence.

4. What coding projects do you pursue when not at work?
I prefer spending my free time in the climbing gym and at the football field or tennis court.

5. A tip for other women to get started:
You don't have to be a computer nerd to be interested in software development!

Elke Fiby (Vienna)

Position: Software developer
Studies: Software engineering

1. What motivated you to become a developer?
I have always loved logic and mathematics, which is why a classmate in the sixth form approached me. That's how I came into contact with programming languages when I was fifteen, and that's when I discovered that programming was my thing. Very soon, it became clear to me that I also wanted to do this professionally.

2. What do you like most about your job (and what annoys you)?
Bugs – on the one hand they are annoying because they always appear when you don't need them. On the other hand, it's also a great feeling when you finally get to the bottom of a complicated bug and can fix it.

3. What is your favourite programming language and why?
I never really had any preferences, but I have been working only with C# for a long time. So it has now become my preferred programming language.

4. What coding projects do you pursue when not at work?

I already spend 38 hours a week sitting in front of my computer at work, so it's not really where I want to be during my leisure time. So I only do a few small exercises sometimes, especially when there are big innovations that I would like to try out.

5. A tip for other women to get started:
Don't be afraid to enter a male-dominated profession – it is an opportunity to stand out from others! In general, I think everyone should do what they enjoy and what suits them.

Christine Freudensprung (Vienna)

Position: Software developer for user software
Studies: Computer science

1. What motivated you to become a software developer?
To be honest, it was a coincidence. Even as a child, I knew that I wanted to work in the technical field. After my high-school diploma, I applied for a job at Ottobock in the testing department and worked there for a few years until I got the idea to go to the university. After some consideration, I decided to study computer science and then everything went its way. Next, I moved internally to the software development department, and I have been thrilled with my new job here.

2. What do you like most about your job (and what annoys you)?
There are always new challenges! Almost no day is the same because you always have to find new ways of solving a task. What I don't like are long meetings that lead to little output at the end.

3. What is your favourite programming language and why?
At university, I worked with JAVA, and at the company I switched exclusively to C#. I like programming in C# because it is continuously being developed further, and new features are always being added.

4. What coding projects do you pursue when not at work?
None, as my second job is being Mum to my 2-year-old son!

5. A tip for other women to get started:
If you are interested in a technical education, then just do it and don't wait for other peoples' opinions!

Marie-Theres Franke (Duderstadt)

Position: Software developer, iFab Customer Center
Studies: Computer engineering

1. What motivated you to become a developer?
A career guidance test and my primary school teacher's assessment showed that I am particularly good at making logical connections. So I came up with the result "Computer Science and Database Processing". I was sceptical because I was not a "nerd" in my childhood and had not spent much time with computers. Good career prospects, working hours and pay motivated me to start studying.

2. What do you like most about your job (and what annoys you)?
A new challenge every day! And creating added value for people with disabilities. I have a grandfather who has been a transfemoral amputee since the age of 17, and I also have a close relative with multiple sclerosis. So I am aware of the problems of daily life. The profession is also easy to combine with family life because you can work at home. I find it annoying when men in the same profession find it hard to accept that a woman can have the same qualifications. Cultural backgrounds are often the cause. There are no problems in my current work environment, which is also because I have 16 years of work experience.

3. What is your favourite programming language and why?
Angular and C#, because I am a passionate web developer. C# with .NET Core at the back-end and Angular in the front-end are good tools for fast, modern web development. Some components, such as customer support, can now be implemented with so-called "low-code platform development" to reduce first-level support: for example, chatbots with translation into different languages in real-time.

4. What coding projects do you pursue when not at work?
Outside of work, I program my "Smart Home" in ETS and with Gira HomeServer.

5. A tip for other women to get started:
Pursue continued education to stay up to date. Heise online and Microsoft training with many free eBooks must be part of the evening reading. This helps you to deliver a convincing performance. Honesty: Nobody knows everything, not even experienced colleagues. Topics can be worked out well in self-study (YouTube, Channel 9 Microsoft) when they are needed in a project. Good communication: Requirements must be formulated clearly and unambiguously. If there are any questions, ask product management right away. Don't lose sight of the customer: As a developer, you often have a certain "way" in your mind of how the software should work. But many roads lead to Rome!

Dr Daniela Buchwald (Duderstadt)

Position: Software Test Engineer
Studies: Bioinformatics, Computer science, Neurobiology

1. What motivated you to become a developer?
I have always been totally fascinated by technology, watched a lot of science fiction, took old clocks apart (but never got them back together again properly) and played a lot of video games. At the same time, I found biology interesting. I had many books about the life and anatomy of different animals and found evolution very exciting. When I found out that bioinformatics was a subject that combined both, I knew immediately what I wanted to study. During my studies, I attended a lecture on software testing and realised that this is an exciting field of work and that I enjoy it a lot.

2. What do you like best about your job (and what annoys you)?
I have always considered prostheses to be one of the best examples of how a combination of biological knowledge and technology can give people part of their quality of life back. Specifically, what I like about my job as a software test engineer is that the job is very varied and I can help that customers have a positive experience. As a result of the agile way of working, I am involved in projects at an early stage and can give feedback when the products are still in the planning stage.

3. What is your favourite programming language and why?
I don't really have a favourite programming language. Most of them have advantages in certain areas, but they also have their own peculiarities that can drive you crazy.

4. What coding projects do you pursue when not at work?
I am currently working on data that I collected during my doctoral thesis in order to publish it. Other than that, I think it is essential to be able to switch off and pursue other hobbies. I like to spend time doing other creative activities like drawing or model making and playing video or board games with friends.

5. A tip for other women to get started:
It is important not to be intimidated just because you are in the minority! During my Master's degree in computer science, I was the only woman in some lectures, sometimes there were only two of us. That can seem daunting at first, but there is nothing to be afraid of.

Bettina Weiss (Vienna)

Position: Senior Software Engineer; heads the software development teams for prostheses
Studies: Computer science

1. What motivated you to become a developer?
I grew up when the first home computers were making their appearance. They were not common yet at the time. I found it exciting to be able to automate and simplify activities. So I wanted to learn more about it.

2. What do you like most about your job (and what annoys you)?
At Ottobock, we develop software for products that improve people's everyday lives and, in some cases, even give them back a life. This is great motivation for me!

3. What is your favourite programming language and why?
Professionally C++, as I work in the embedded field where C is ubiquitous, and object-oriented C++ makes it easier to develop good, encapsulated designs. Personally, I love Prologue as it requires a different way of thinking and is fun.

4. What coding projects do you pursue when not at work?
None anymore.

5. A tip for other women to get started
Focus a lot on software design! Being able to design quickly and well is a clear advantage. Looking at designs of existing software systems on the internet and discussing them with others helps build knowledge. You learn programming by practising, so program as much and as variably as possible!

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