womENcourage past chair – the importance of working together

This year we are going to have the 10th womENcourage celebration, which will be hosted in Trondheim, Norway! We are so excited to share the journey we had so far and looking forward to bigger, greater and more exciting celebrations to come. We are acknowledging this milestone of 10 years with a series of blogs from past chairs who organized this event successfully so far. This month we have Andreína Francisco who was co-chair of womENcourage 2015.

1. Brief introduction about yourself: who are you, what do you currently do, and how are you connected to the computing field?

My name is Andreína Francisco, and I’m currently an assistant professor in artificial intelligence (AI) at the Department of Information Technology at Uppsala University.  I’m originally from Venezuela, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived in Spain, Sweden, and Singapore. My current research focuses on developing hybrid AI methods to support decision-making in large life science applications such as drug discovery and the water-energy-food-ecosystem nexus.  I’m also the head teacher in courses about artificial intelligence and cryptology. In my free time, I enjoy playing board games with my six-year-old, hanging out with friends, running, eating out, travelling, and experiencing new things.

2. How did you hear about ACM-W Europe and then about womENcourage?

I first learned about ACM-WE when I met Virginia Grande, my awesome womENcourage co-chair, back in 2013. Virginia was looking for people interested in chartering an ACM-W student chapter, and a common friend introduced us. Ever since that meeting, we’ve been close friends and have ventured into many projects together. I think all the memories, tears, sweat, and laughs that we shared while organizing womENcourage 2015 created an unbreakable extraordinary bond.

3. How were the days of the event?

To be honest, it’s all a bit hazy. I remember meeting a lot of great people. I remember the amazing energy in the room. I remember how we were all ecstatic to see this project finally come to life after so many long hours of work. I remember being constantly busy making sure everything was under control. At the same time, it’s all kind of in bits and pieces, as if it was all part of a dream. A dream come true for sure! Not everything worked out as planned, but everything worked out in the end. I believe people enjoyed the event, and I believe we made a difference, and that’s what really counts. 

4. What was your takeaway from the entire process and from the event itself?

This was just such an unforgettable experience! And I think it’s probably all about the team. I had a good and supportive team who were truly committed to the event. There are many different ways to organize a celebration event, but it’s important to have people by your side. I remember that Virginia and I worked very closely with Bev Bachmayer and Reyyan Ayfer, and I think we wouldn’t have been able to make it without their trust and support. We also learned that keeping track of the budget was a lot of work!

5. What would be your advice to other people that wish to organize either womENcourage in the future or any other celebration of women in computing? 

Talk to people who have organized any sort of event in the past, especially if they’ve done so in your country or university: they’ll be able to give you invaluable insights into processes and regulations. Also, every little bit of help counts! Most people won’t be able to dedicate as many hours as they would like to such a project, but small amounts of time can still make a big difference, especially when we all work together.

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