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 Albania, in a little city on the coast, called Durres. It was here that my love for the water and the sea was born 😊. After completing high-school, I went on to pursue my studies in Computer Science at the University of Tirana. Then I moved to Germany, initially for an exchange semester, but then decided to stay and continue with my PhD studies, which I finished in January 2007.
How did you become interested in tech?
Initially, I was exposed to Computer Science thanks to my younger brother. When the time came to decide, it was not only because of my skills and interests (I was better in math than other subjects 😊), but also as a result of the economic situation back then in Albania. Having a technical background, was almost a guarantee to get a well-paid job and be financially independent. And to be honest, in Albania, following a technical path, is not that male-dominated as in western countries. For example, during my computer science studies, I would say the female-male-ratio was roughly 50/50, whereas when I started my PhD studies, it was around 20/80.
What other decisive steps significantly influenced and shaped your career?
My life journey so far has been particularly colorful. I was born and grew up in a communist country; I experienced the change of the political system and all different challenges, be it social or economic. I was 23 years old when I moved to Germany – my first time visiting a western country and it was quite the “culture shock”. All these experiences in one way or another significantly shaped not only my personality but my career as well.
What valuable advice did you get from your parents?
Education was in the center of a lot of advices from my parents, probably because both of them were teachers. Being independent was one of the key messages as they saw a strong correlation between good education and being independent. Another one coming from my mom, was to be kind to others. By now, I believe kindness to be an underestimated superpower!
What aspects of your work are you proudest of?
Currently, I work for the business unit Banking Services at SIX, which is a true high-performance unit, with an impressive growth mindset, operating in a highly changing and competitive environment. Having said this, leading the data science effort together with some other like-minded people and being able to shape strategic decisions with data driven insights, makes me very proud.
What drives you at work?
My passion about what we do, coupled with the purpose to help our business become better by “speaking data”. Last but not least, the people. Discussing topics with my colleagues and sometimes being able to help them is a source of positive energy and fulfillment.
What has been your biggest disappointment (challenge) in your career and how did you overcome it?
I’m not the youngest one anymore and as such I’ve had my disappointments 😉. One of the biggest challenges was the “culture shock” when I moved to Germany. To overcome this phase, it was crucial to get curious about the new environment, and learn to let go as well as to be open to new experiences. Recently a study was published in HBR, which highlights how living-abroad-experiences can help us to get a clearer understanding of ourselves. This was definitely the case with me, too.
Later in my professional career, having the courage to show vulnerability as well as embracing failure were two other challenges that I would like to highlight. To overcome these, it was helpful for me to understand the relevant concepts as well as my underlying beliefs. I’m still learning.
How does digitization impact your and other women’s career opportunities?
I personally believe digitization created more opportunities for me. Starting with easier access to learning opportunities as well as more career options. I trust that these two aspects are valid for other women too.
On the other side, it brings also more challenges in form of uncertainties or rapid change and as such, it is key to build up the required skills and have the right mindset.
What advice would you give other women in tech?
Be yourself, be courageous and dare to show up! And always remember: