Gisela Rossi

Engineering Lead, Pollen

How I came to STEM

When the time came to pick a university degree I was at a  crossroads. I had explored extracurricular activities in design, the social sciences, and STEM. I enjoyed all of them greatly, which made the decision of favouring one discipline particularly daunting. So I considered all options with an open mind and visited several universities and departments.

At the time my brother was at university studying mathematics and spoke very highly of his whole department, which included Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science and Astronomy. I visited it and was immediately hooked. The atmosphere was vibrant and friendly. There was a passion for the knowledge I could deeply relate to.

I choose the degree in Computer Science, and that has been my career path since. I think it’s important to emphasise that neither I knew any programmers or computer scientists before I went to university nor I had written a single line of code, so if that is your situation and you’re considering Computer Science I can tell you: just go for it, you’ll make it work regardless.

Why I love what I do

First a little bit about my role: I’m a software engineer, and my main responsibility is to plan and implement software projects. This means communicating with other people and doing research to understand the scope of the project, the main goals, limitations, and the actors involved.

A good part of the time goes into coding and testing those projects. The coding part combines understanding what others have done before you and designing elegant solutions on top of that. The testing involves making sure the code you wrote does what other people are expecting it to do.

My role also involves mentoring other software engineers in good practices that are learned throughout the years.

I love the creative and human part of what I do. The human side involves mentoring, sharing knowledge, exchanging ideas and learning from others.

The creative part is related to software projects. Although computer science is a very logical discipline, the most accurate way to think about it as a profession is to look at it as a craft.

I can compare it to oil painting which is my hobby: you need a lot of skills and knowledge that you develop during your studies and years of experience. But in the end, each piece is unique, you’ll build incrementally, correct mistakes, maybe someone else will make a few strokes on your painting, you’ll try new colour mixes, and in the end, it will be a unique work of craft-womanship.

What I’m proud of, & what I’m hoping to achieve through the WYPB

I acknowledge that I’ve been granted many opportunities that other women have not. I’ve been privileged to get an education in a world in which many women are denied to do so. I’ve been privileged to have enjoyed the freedom to work, travel, and choose when to marry, in a world where many women will never know these freedoms.

This has been the unfortunate situation of many women in the past and still is the reality of many women today. This is why I feel a deep commitment to using all my privileges and my skills to press for equality.

Furthermore, even when I recognise myself as a privileged woman, I’ve recognised & suffered a great deal of discrimination as a woman, & I want to be part of a positive movement, taking positive action to create better outcomes for women in the future. This has been especially the case since I joined STEM fields to get my Bachelors and Masters in Computer Science and later on started working as a Software Engineer.

At university, I was the only woman from my class to graduate from both degrees. By the time I graduated, I fully understood that things within STEM wouldn’t get better without action and I wanted to be a force for change in my professional field. Since then I’ve volunteered in several initiatives through the years trying to find where I can have an impact on this cause I’m passionate about.

In this context, I came across WISE and WYPB, and I was impressed by its mission and its initiatives. I’m looking forward to joining the WYPB and lead initiatives to, on the one hand, help inspire young girls to dare join STEM fields, and on the other hand help professional women secure equality both in presence and pay.

As women, we know the road to equality is long, but we travel it together. My ultimate goal is to make other women’s journey more rewarding.


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