Telling Our Stories – Cristina Marquez

Each year we meet wonderful women at womENcourage. This year was no different, and in the rest of the year, we will have womENcourage participants telling their stories in blog posts. This month’s blog post is by Cristina Marquez. She is a Data Scientist in Networks and Telecommunications, with extensive experience in Big Data, 5G, Statistical Modeling and Resource Efficiency using development tools such as Python, and Machine Learning (ML). She visited MIT recently, where she could use her hands-on experience in entrepreneurship and start-up projects. Cristina is very active in initiatives aimed to increase the participation of girls and women in STEM, such as ACM-Women and Technovation.

How did I start in computing?

When I was a child, I watched a TV series where I’ve seen this concept of the Internet and since then, I wanted to understand it. I have always dreamed of being an agent in the interplay between the digital and physical worlds, and my constant exposure to computers and videogames from a young age influenced me towards pursuing a B.Sc. degree in Telecommunications Engineering. I studied two M.Sc. degrees and now I am about to finish my PhD in Telematics Engineering. Looking back now, it seems like this journey was a straight line, but it had its ups and downs.

I also felt that I could do more beyond contributing to computing, and my interest in improving the gender diversity in STEM guided me to participate in Technovation Girls 2018 or ACM WomENcourage 2020. I would strongly recommend the upcoming WomenENcourage event, as I am planning to go too. 

My experience at ACM WomENcourage

First of all, I would like to thank the organizers and volunteers for their amazing work in this virtual edition. It has been the first time I attended this conference, and I loved it! Although we missed the social interaction and culture exchange events, I enjoyed the hackathon experience a lot. The feeling of bringing ideas to reality and to present them to the highly-skilled audience (which included representatives from IBM, Amazon, Azercell and PASHA Bank) was great!

What are the challenges I faced?

During my career, some people doubted either the work I developed or my skills to do it. As an observer, I have seen how discrimination could be when you have a different skin colour, dress code, sexual identity or hobbies, which are never representative of your technical skills. I am convinced that this will change for the better in the upcoming years, but there is a long path to go.

What are my hopes for the future?

I think that the following years in technology are crucial in establishing regulations and systems towards a better usage of it as well as an informed and inclusive society. 

Moreover, I cannot emphasize enough that women are essential in STEM. I expect more and more sectors to be inclusive and have diversity polities, in order to follow an equal number of directors and employees of different genders. However, it is difficult to reach this goal when women participation in STEM is globally low. I hope this trend would change in the future, and we will see more women taking the lead while keeping a healthy work/life balance. 

Therefore, I encourage all women who have doubts about studying STEM subjects to take the leap. They will learn a lot, it will be a worthy life experience, and it will help reduce the gender gap faster! Concluding, I am firmly convinced that there is massive underrepresented talent in the field that would boost technology towards better initiatives and products.

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