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The story of Karyna Skorobahatko

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Chess, Linguistics, and Economics vs. IT: The Story of Karyna Skorobahatko

Social media are buzzing with ads promising you a quick start and easy success with programming. But is it really that ‘easy’ when it takes years of painstaking work to become a true professional?

Here is the story of Karyna Skorobahatko, Agile Project Manager at P2H. Karyna is a professional chess player who graduated with a degree in international economics and studied several foreign languages but eventually made a career in the software industry. Read on to learn how to juggle chess, cybernetics, and linguistics to become a successful PM in an international company. We’ll let Karyna speak for herself.

‘I Got Into It Completely By Accident’

When I applied to Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University, my top priorities were economics and everything related to it—international economics, economic relations, and general economics. Unfortunately, my score was too low to qualify for a full scholarship for this major, so I chose my fourth priority, computer science and cybernetics, instead.

At that time, I knew nothing about IT. I attended a school with a focus on humanities. I had a C1 level in German, and my second foreign language was English. I also learned Polish at school and Spanish through self-study. My programming skills were limited to Excel from computer science classes at school. So how did cybernetics come into play? My brother, who attended the Physics and Mathematics Lyceum, once showed me how to program with Python, and it looked quite fascinating. So programming ended up on my priority list.

Studying at Two Universities at Once

Although I majored in computer science, economics remained my passion. I knew that economic knowledge, strong communication skills, and a solid understanding of financial processes were necessary to succeed in the IT industry. So, after completing my first year, I took another test for the academic subjects required for admission to the economics department. This time, the score was enough for me to enroll at Kyiv National University of Economics, where I majored in international economics. So I studied at two universities at the same time and earned two degrees—in computer science and international economics. Now, I am studying computer science at Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University, majoring in IT project management. It also helps that many of my relatives and friends work in the software industry, so I have a strong support network and access to valuable knowledge and resources.

My Chess Career Began At The Age Of Four

My parents took me to chess for the first time when I was about four years old. My first coach, Dmytro Semenov, enjoyed working with children and created a stress-free environment for kids like me. Later, tournaments and championships contributed to my motivation. At some point, I won the Kyiv Chess Championship and qualified as a candidate for the master’s title. I participated in tournaments all over Ukraine: Lviv, Odesa, Mykolaiv. Every year my family and I traveled to Odesa and participated in the tournament there at the same time. First came the game, and then we went to the beach to relax—that’s how every summer of my childhood went.

Becoming a Champion Is Always A Big Stress

When preparing for tournaments, I changed many coaches and clubs because I had different requirements for a coach at different stages of my career. If, in the beginning, it is important to introduce a child to the game and get them interested in it, then later, the goal is to help them become a champion. That requires a very different approach to training.

Sometimes I would leave class in tears because many coaches based their teaching method on yelling, which I did not like. Funding was another problem because private lessons, which are much more effective than group lessons, are also much more expensive.

Chess Greatly Contributed To My Professional Career

My experiences in chess had a significant impact on developing my communication skills and provided me with great networking opportunities. I even led chess workshops at my former workplace. I also ran a chess club at a charity affiliated with the Catholic Church. Later, I got requests for one-on-one lessons, and before Covid, I went to people’s homes and taught them chess.

Besides the thrill of the game itself, chess also provides an opportunity to make small talk and establish closer contact. Chess problems stimulate thinking, imagination, and memory. As you practice, you study chess debuts—the first 10-20 moves you need to memorize in advance. The game always starts from the same position, so there can only be so many moves in the initial phase. And this limited number of possible moves is called debuts. You memorize them like a poem and then repeat them constantly.

Chess is not my only passion. I have tried many other activities: dancing, art, music, sports, orienteering, basketball, and billiards. I still like to draw flowers with pastels because I find it soothing and relaxing.

The Secret to My Productivity Is to Write Down and Act

My rule is to always write everything down, even five-minute assignments. This makes it easier for the brain to grasp the scope of the work to be done. I have two separate notebooks, one for studying and one for work, where I write down all my work tasks.

Small tasks can add up to a massive amount of work. That’s why you need to prioritize them.

Also, I have this mind game that greatly increases my productivity. When I am scared to do something or do not know how to approach a task, I always do it first. I challenge myself—and I accept a challenge.

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