Interview by Sombra González
Every month we ask one individual in our network a few questions about their way into tech, their motivation and their lessons learned.
Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about where you’re from!
I grew up in the southern part of Germany, between Freiburg and Basel. My parents’ families come from the northern part and the very west of Germany, so we were often travelling around those areas of Germany. As I wanted to get to know a region of the country I haven’t been to before, I moved to Leipzig where I started my studies. I studied Computer Science (and French linguistic and philosophy of language as minor subjects) in Germany, France and Switzerland. Subsequently, I did a PhD in semantic and algebraic information theory and now, I am working as an IT architect focussing on data and analytics. Fascinated by its bilingualism, I settled down in the canton of Fribourg where I live with my family.
What valuable advice did you get from your parents?
The values my parents told me are respect for each other, trust and self-confidence. They exemplified lifelong learning through their own lives. As my parents did not have the possibility to choose their education freely, my mother has always stressed how important it is to find one’s own way. She told me that the easiest way to succeed in your work is to do it with enthusiasm.
How did you become interested in tech?
As a child, I loved to accompany my father to work. He worked as an aircraft mechanic and let me climb into the planes, explained the instruments and the physics behind them. This gave me a very playful and intuitive approach to tech and laid the foundations for my interest in STEM fields at school.
During my last school year, I had the opportunity to get in touch with programming, again in a very playful, but also structured way. One of the schools math teachers was fascinated by computer science and gave programming lessons on a voluntary basis. She asked me about my plans for the future at a time when I was very undecided about my choice of field of study. As I play the cello and I did not want my hobby to become my profession, music was the only field of study I was excluding. Immediately, she suggested studying Computer Science to me, and I still remember my thoughts: “Why not? Give it a try, otherwise you won’t know whether you like it.”
What aspects of your work are you proudest of?
A lot of my work consists in structuring circumstances which seem to be chaotic in the beginning. I have a gift for giving them an internal logic. Situations which are not yet ordered and still show creative leeway appeal to me. When coherence comes up and when others pick up the results of my work because it makes theirs more simple, I am very happy, proud and satisfied.
What drives you at work?
I really love my role as an IT architect as it offers me the possibility to shape a domain from a technical perspective and at the same time accompany people who are affected by my work. Only if I achieve my goals on both levels, my work is successful.
More generally, I’m intrinsically motivated to shape digitalisation. If women do not participate actively, digitalisation will be a purely male story. That shouldn’t happen, as digitalisation is impacting the whole society, which consists in equal shares of men and women.
What has been your toughest challenge you faced while working in tech?
There were lots of challenges, but the toughest was (and still is) to pick my own way. Being the only woman in a team of over 30 people is just one aspect. But to find my own way, with a different background and job history was really challenging. I did not pass through the typical carrier moving from a senior software developer to an IT architect. In my work as an IT architect, I have always been stressing the enterprise focus. For me, architecture, and more generally IT, are not an end in themselves, but act as a catalyst for some specific change in the business. Bringing together these aspects with the daily IT challenges has been earned hard. Not giving up and following my own path is still tough.
What advice would you give other women in tech?
Embrace being different: You may not be like the others, and that’s a good thing. Be genuine: Say what you are thinking. And, above all, keep up your perseverance.