My Journey in Technology by Michaela-Areti Zervou
This month’s blog post is from Michaela-Areti Zervou, who graduated from the University of Crete with a BSc and MSc specialization in Modelling and Analysis within Applied Sciences. She is currently working on her PhD at the same university and is a Graduate Research assistant at Signal Processing Laboratory.
I am a PhD candidate at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Crete, Greece. However, my story is not all written in the Computer Science (CS) department. I started as a mathematician actually. To be honest, I was not really happy with my choice for several years until I discovered computational mathematics. Therefore, after completing my degree, I decided to pursue a master’s degree (MSc) at the Computational and Applied Mathematics Department. Unfortunately, it was even harder for me because in contrast to what I was expecting there was no programming but more and more difficult math! Thankfully, I completed that degree too; however, I was really disappointed with what my career would be like after that. So, I applied for a second master’s degree (MSc) in Computer Science to enable me to combine all of my interests but most importantly, become finally happy and confident with what I do. It took me a lot of effort to admit that to myself and was not an easy decision to make, but again, being in an unwanted career that defines what you do for the rest of your life, is unhealthy for you and probably quite miserable.
Let me be honest though… It was a pretty hard path to follow! I had to start over again, learn as much as I could, as fast as I could, from scratch, so that I could be able to catch up with the rest of the CS students. To be more specific, I have attended and successfully passed 12 CS courses along with my master thesis! The fact that I was one of the few females in there, never crossed my mind as a disadvantage. However, there were a few negative comments in the beginning from other colleagues, related to my non-CS background. What really matters though is that I made it, no matter how long it took! If I made it, everyone else can do it too! It is very important to follow your dreams no matter how much you may “suffer”. Based on my personal experience I can tell you that it is much harder and suffocating being someone else and do something else just because it is “safe” or within your comfort zone, than being who you truly want to be.
This was my first experience at womenENcourage and it was pretty amazing! I really enjoyed the HACKATHON that gave me the opportunity to work with a team. I had to work with people that I have just met, that spoke a different language, from completely different fields of study to mine and these pushed my limits regarding my patience and my communication skills. I truly enjoyed meeting all those girls around the world, connecting with them and trying to work on an idea as a team. Being a member of a team takes effort: you have to be accurate, act fast, cooperate, listen to what others have to say, accept them as they are but most importantly, feel useful, achieve the goals and be creative. At the end, we did not win the prize but we were quite satisfied and proud of our work. Every team member worked hard on their part and it was a true win to see the sparkle on our faces as we finalized our project. It was a memorable experience and I could do it all over again!
I also participated in the POSTER sessions where I was able to share my work and explore the work of others. It was a great honor for me to see others being interested in my work and giving their thoughts and feedback on it. I was given lots of ideas for further study and new interesting applications based on my proposed technique. This is how research grows! To this end, workshops and talks were also helpful. Listening to the speakers talking on topics not necessarily in my area of interest helped me learn more and expand my view on important current problems in computing.
Another favorite part of the womENcourage program was the closing dinner. The food was delicious and plenty for everyone and the entertainment was out of this world! There was a huge party thrown at the end, where everyone was dancing and having fun, no matter if they knew each other or not!
The best part though for me was the CAREER FAIR session. I had never been to such an event and I am really thankful for the opportunity. I was able to speak with Oracle, Google, ENI, IBM, Accenture and other large companies about what I do and whether I can apply to their companies in the future. I was given pretty good advice and clarifications on several questions I had. Moreover, I collected lots of goodies!
In conclusion, womenENcourage was more than a conference for me. It was an opportunity to experience things I could not even imagine, create new friendships, be responsible and cooperative in a team, and enjoy the work and the talks of very talented individuals. It was a great time and a feeling I would cherish forever.
Women are powerful and deserve equal opportunities computing.
I would strongly recommend the upcoming womenENcourage event, as I am planning to go too. A great thank you for everything, especially to the very kind and helpful organizers and volunteers.