Role Model Valentina Contini; gray background; portrait photo

Role Model: Valentina Contini

Role Model: Valentina Contini

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 am Italian but have been living in Germany for 10 years. I grew up in a little village on Lago Maggiore, Northern Italy, until I was 18 and left to go study in Milan. I was the first one in my family to get a University degree. Well, my sister got one, too, but being four years younger, I was first 🙂 

I got a master in energy engineering and then started a career as engineer in the automotive industry working on sportscar and later e-mobility. A few months ago I changed career completely to become an innovation strategist for digitalisation.

I was always a nerd/punk and interested in tech, I wasn’t very popular whichwas fine by me because I am quite shy. Iin retrospect, I think that being one of the few women at university wasn’t really an advantage, but we can only play the hand we are dealt and make the best out of it, can’t we? And I’d say I am doing good.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

My mom is a feminist who was very engaged in the political movement at the end of the 1960s.

My mom kept telling me that as a woman, I would have to work twice as hard to get half as far as a man. I didn't want to believe her, but even though times have changed, I still have to work harder to get as far as a man. I still have to fight with myself to ask for what I am worth. But I am getting there.
Valentina Contini
Valentina Contini

How did you become interested in tech?

My parents, while not especially tech savvy, owned an Atari 2600 – the sexy one with wooden details – and I started playing video games: Pong, space invaders… I was hooked!

Afterwards at middle school, a very forward thinking math professor taught us to code with turbo pascal. From here, everything started to accelerate fast: I got my first personal computer (386), forced my parents to allow me to use internet with a 56k modem, downloaded music on Napster, used ICQ to chat… well, now you know how old I am.

You have a Master of Science in Energy Engineering from Politecnico di Milano. Why this particular field of study?

Because I wanted to save the world! My mom’s activist genes obviously made their way into mine and I was a firm believer that renewable energies would save the world. In my studies, I realised that they worked in theory but in practice most technologies were still too young, so I focused on my other passion: internal combustion engines and how to make them more efficient without losing the emotionality that comes with them.

You are very involved in volunteering, among other things, as a mentor for mentorme. Care to share what you enjoy about it and maybe even share an anectode?

I love to share my experiences, my mistakes, my perspective. If I can help even only one person to improve, I’ve reached my goal. But it’s not always easy. My first mentee was older than me and I thought she had made a mistake choosing me as her mentor.

Another mentee came to me with a business idea she was super excited about and I had to talk her down because for my work, I had just completed a feasibility study on the technical solution and worked on different business cases that showed it to not yet being viable.

What other decisive steps significantly influenced and shaped your career?

Moving to Germany after 5 years of work in Italy. It was a big step into uncertainty, but it turned out great. A lot of people tried to convince me to stay in Italy, but I wouldn’t have had the great experiences I had here.

I founded my own company and also shut it down. I met extremely interesting people that made me understand better what is really important for me and helped me in my career change. I met my now husband and father of my kids. All this helped me get where I am now.

Self-development is important to you: you attend several training courses at renowned institutes and universities every year. Where does this drive come from?

I just can’t stop learning. I am fueled by curiosity and learning new things every day. Even my career change was pushed by this need of constantly learning new things, as in my old job I felt I wasn’t learning enough anymore. I would say that cusiority is who I am.

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

I am proud of having worked on people’s dreams, that’s how I saw my job at Lamborghini.

I am proud of having contributed to development of e-mobility for big automotive brands.

I am proud of helping people make their companies future-ready as much as I can.

What has been your toughest challenge you faced while working in tech?

Not being selected for a development program because “I wasn’t visible enough”, as if my worth and my potential were only valued by the fact that people know who I am and what I do.

After that I looked for mentors inside the company by myself, started a grassroot innovation community in the company and started working on my personal brand outside the company. Then I was visible, but not in a positive way in the eyes of many managers.

How does digitization impact your and other women’s career opportunities?

Digitization gives women the opportunity to not having to choose between a family and a “career” anymore. It’s still a huge balancing act, but remote or hybrid work and flexible working hours are possible only thanks to digitization, and they are the foundation for more career opportunities. On top of that, digitization removes borders. I can be in Germany and work for a company in the US or in Japan. Still not very common, but thanks to the pandemic (and web3), things are now moving faster in that direction.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

Don't doubt yourself all the time. You are good enough and often - if not always - so much more than enough. Be true to yourself, because wearing a mask is exhausting and you won't ever be able to meet everyone else's expectations, so focus on yours.
Valentina Contini
Valentina Contini

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