Telling our stories – Margarida Felício

Each year we meet incredible women at womENcourage™ celebrations. We ask womENcourage

participants to tell their stories in blog posts. We continue 2023 with Margarida Felício , who has a Masters in Design and Multimedia from the University of Coimbra, Portugal and attended womENcourage 2023 in Trondheim. She has worked in two projects concerning the retention and attraction of women to ICT and STEAM fields at the university of Coimbra.



My name is Margarida Felício, and I just finished my master’s degree in Design and Multimedia at
the University of Coimbra, Portugal. My journey was not very straightforward, I started by doing one year of Biology, followed by one year in Electrotechnical and Computer Engineering, until I found Design and Multimedia, a discipline that would allow me to always be learning new topics and using creative problem solving techniques. I have not looked back since. I don’t want you to think that these first years were a waste, we don’t always know what path to follow but I believe that, by trying different things, you will not only make that path clearer, but you can also bring a different perspective to the table. Once I started my master’s I developed a passion for accessible design and am currently seeking a career in Interaction Design that allows me to further explore inclusion and equity for all.

This past year I enrolled in two projects: INSPIRA which is an ongoing mentoring project within the Department of Informatics of the University of Coimbra, focused on retaining female talent within the ICT field; and equal.STEAM, a one year project that addressed the attraction and retention of women inthe STEAM fields within the University of Coimbra. Some of the work within these projects culminated in a poster and article entitled “Co-creating futures with INSPIRA, a mentoring program for women in informatics!” This was my first year attending the conference, where we were able to proudly present the poster thanks to the ACM womENcourage’s scholarship award.

One of the tipping points of my journey as a student was getting to know my master’s dissertation advisor, which I consider both a mentor and a friend. Not only did she open several paths, some of which I decided to follow (such as the projects mentioned above), but she also always strives to enhance my strengths
and work with me on my flaws. I really think that surrounding yourself, learning and sharing your thoughts with strong and caring people is one of the best pieces of advice I can provide women working in a field that is predominantly male dominated.

I have dealt with impostor syndrome several times throughout my academic journey, so it was interesting to get to know so many highly skilled professionals at the conference who report having felt the same way at some time. I think that if you are going through the same you should always keep in mind: if you do something that excites you, push through and be resilient, most of the time it’s all in your head and the best option is always to keep developing your skills and talk to others how you feel.

The biggest challenge I’ve embarked on is coincidently the one I’m most passionate about, my dissertation. Last year I developed an EMG prototype which enables the interaction with an interface, where I study how the accessibility of different authentication techniques might impact the lives of people living
with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. I plan to keep working on it in my free time, even though I have finished my studies. I think it is a project worthy of refinement which can make an impact, even if small, on people’s lives. This project was a tough challenge, especially because there were several areas of knowledge which I had no previous contact with, but how did I overcome it? By contacting people that have more experience in those areas, and you know what? I found that people are especially keen on helping those who show interest in their areas of knowledge and that knowing when to seek help is a valuable skill.

Besides the amazing talks, people and conference team, I think that the workshops and job fair were truly an enriching experience. I would like to give my praise to the cybersecurity workshop, where time flew by, and consisted of an escape room where the attendees could both learn about the topic, work as a team
and have lots of fun. Regarding the job fair, I think it is an amazing opportunity for students trying to find an internship or graduates finding a job, in a stress free and relaxed environment.

When things go wrong it is very easy to point them out, but when everything runs smoothly we tend to forget that that was only possible due to the hard work of several people. So I would like to give a loud praise to all the members of the organizing team, for thinking of every single detail. One of the best
choices I made was to apply to be a student volunteer. I worked on the first day of the conference and after lunch I felt like I had had interactions with half the people there. This made it very easy to speak to a lot of interesting and knowledgeable people and I even dare say, make some friends.

I highly recommend attending the conference and signing up to be a student volunteer. Besides attending a highly valuable event and working alongside an amazing team, you will be able to bounce ideas
off with experts from different fields and learn from the experiences of both people that are just now starting their journey and veterans that have far more advice than you could ever hope for. Concerning womENcourage 2024, there is only one thing to be said:

What are you waiting for?
See you in Madrid!

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