Telling Our Stories – Maria Konstantinou

Each year we meet incredible women at womENcourage™ celebrations. We ask womENcourage participants to tell their stories in blog posts. We continue 2022 with Maria Konstantinou,  who was an LL.M. candidate in International Technology Law at Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam when she participated in the event.She holds an LL.M. in Finance from Goethe University Frankfurt and an LL.B. from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

My womENcourage Experience

By Maria Konstantinou

After working in compliance and consulting for a couple of years, I felt increasingly fascinated by the ways and scale in which innovation is disrupting legislation and how digitalization is invading everyday life. For this reason, I decided to pursue another degree, in order to study the legal issues underpinning existing and emerging technologies. In parallel to my master, I have been working as a researcher within an interdisciplinary project, analyzing privacy and security requirements under the GDPR. Upon the completion of my master’s degree, I intend to continue researching and exploring areas of technology law, such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and the digital economy.

When I decided with my research team (the supportive supervisors Magdalena and Dayana, and my wonderful research partner Tina) to submit our poster to womENcourage I felt both excited and nervous. Excited because of the novel challenge of submitting work to a conference for the first time. Nervous about the possibly demanding questions directed to us from potential experts in case our submission would be accepted. When we received the news of our acceptance, we were incredibly enthusiastic about the idea of presenting our year-long research. This was the first conference participation for both of us! Also, we received a student scholarship for our participation, which meant our role in the conference would be twofold: first, we would present our work at one of the poster sessions and, second, we would be volunteering for the coordination of conference activities. Each role provided a different perspective and experience about the conference.  

Listening to keynote speakers and panel discussions among academics and industry professionals we had the chance to learn about new developments in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, and to reflect on multidisciplinary perspectives on emerging technologies and the opportunities of women in the tech sphere—in and out of academia. Meanwhile, we not only had the opportunity to jump in and out of poster sessions, interacting with researchers on topical security, biomedical or gender issues, but also to present our own poster—together with my partner Tina—on privacy and security under the GDPR, engaging in productive discussions with the participants that kindly joined our poster room.  

Our role as scholarship holders and volunteers required that we assume other responsibilities as well. Specifically, we hosted online workshops and tutorials on the most inspiring tech topics and IT career trajectories, while we also made sure all sessions run smoothly and assistance was provided swiftly when needed. Therefore, assisting the conference as volunteers truly made us feel as vital parts of womENcourage, always under the guidance of our amazing coordinator, Emilia, who checked on us daily after the sessions.  

Personally, the highlight of the conference was the hackathon. As a beginner coder with a legal background, participating in the hackathon allowed me to collaborate with two sharp programmers, to brainstorm ideas and to help implement our project and build an interactive website. The hackathon challenge made me feel that my first conference experience was so fulfilling and diverse that it will be difficult for another to surpass – or even match – in the future. As it turned out, the excitement and nervousness of a master student participating at a conference for the first time are both overwhelming and unforgettable.  

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