1- What is your academic background?
My background is in science, pure science. As a kid, I always preferred Maths and Science. My dad is a scientist, so he constantly inspired me through his work, and my mom always encouraged me to follow my dreams, so it was an easy decision to pursue science. I got a bachelor’s degree in Physics and a master’s in Laser Physics at Havana University, following which I came to Barcelona to do a PhD in Photonics. It was an international PhD program run by the European Union across four universities. My PhD project was in Quantum Mechanics and I split my research between the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) and the European Laboratory for Non-Linear Spectroscopy (LENS) in Florence. I studied the interactions of atoms and molecules with strong field lasers, which involved a lot of coding, programming and data visualisation.
2 - When and why did you decide to work in the technology industry?
When I was about to finish my PhD, a critical juncture where I needed to decide whether to pursue a career in the academic or private sector. While doing fundamental science is rewarding in many ways, it’s very difficult to see the actual impact of your discoveries on society - at least in the short term.
At the end of my PhD, I started to get more involved with ‘Technology Transfer’, facilitating collaboration between academia and industry. My academic background meant I could understand the academic partners’ perspective, which, combined with my strong scientific knowledge, allowed me to look at bridging the gap between technology and business.
3 - What attracted you to blockchain in particular?
Blockchain is an emerging technology that is starting to gain real momentum now. There is so much to be discovered and understood within blockchain, making it a really interesting challenge. The technology is mostly known for cryptocurrency, but there are so many business cases where it can be applied. Unlike quantum mechanics, blockchain moves so fast that the landscape changes on a month-to-month basis. The potential of the technology is incredible: in a world where trust is so important, blockchain is the future.
4 - What are the benefits of working for a tech start-up?
For me, the main benefit is that there are no fixed roles. Everyone does a bit of everything across every department, so you get involved at all stages of product development. This gives you the opportunity to know your product inside out, which is key when you are in the Business Development side of things. In a start-up, you have access to everyone in the business and you have freedom to learn and innovate. Working relationships are very close and there is a trusting and friendly environment where everyone is open to suggestions and collaborations.
5 - What do you think has been your biggest career achievement to date?
That’s a difficult one but if I had to choose one, I would say finishing my PhD, because that was a personal challenge as well as an academic one. I had to leave behind my friends and family and start a whole new life completely out of my comfort zone.
6 - Do you think women are underrepresented in the technology industry?
Yes, unfortunately, I believe they are. The difficulties for women in technology are well known. While it’s true that over the last decade universities and institutions have made amazing efforts towards positive girls’ inclusion, women continue to be underrepresented in the scientific community.
It is a fact that the number of women in technical positions is very low, women are rarely promoted to leading roles and – when they are – are often paid less. Stereotyping, unconscious biases and cultural influences have all contributed to this. We desperately need to address this issue, not just in science but in society at large.
7 - Who are your women role models and (not necessarily in science)?
There are so many names that come to mind: the women in my family, my teachers at primary school, my colleagues and co-workers, and even fictitious characters from my favorites authors.
My women role models have evolved over time as I have evolved as a woman and as a professional. I have to thank all the women I have been surrounded by and who have impacted me. I would have to mention first my mom, Miriam, my science mentor Maru, and my confidant and guide Maria for all of their support and guidance, but there are also many others.
8 - What advice would you give women thinking about/starting a career in technology?
Do not doubt yourself and go for it! It is a challenging path, but then life is not easy. Technology is a really rewarding world where amazing things can happen, and it will give you the tools and the strength to follow your dreams. Both society and the world are changing; by working in technology, you can be part of this change.