A single role does not define us
by Chrysovalantou Kalaitzidou
We are going through an era of crazy, one might say, speeds. A lot of information, almost always easily available, along with a multitude of options for both our professional development and our personal engagement and growth. However, the common denominator in both cases is time. But, you may agree when I say that, time is not enough for everything; in most cases, at least.
I had the pleasure of meeting Vasiliki in a creative writing class and we connected immediately. Beyond our love for writing, we realized how much more we have in common. One of the topics that dominates our meetings is how many things we take on (and how many more are patiently waiting buried in a drawer) and how difficult it is to manage the issue of time but also, what is it that ultimately really fills our cup, what is really important and how we often manage this… reality. So I decided to give you the opportunity to get to know a bit more my talented friend and colleague, Vasiliki Moschou.
Vassiliki is a graduate of the Department of Digital Systems, University of Piraeus, with a master’s degree in Information and Communications Technologies, from the Department of Informatics and Telecommunications of the – National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. She is an experienced Business Analyst/Software Engineer and currently works at ArcelorMittal HQ S.A in Luxembourg. In addition, she is co-founder and CTO of a start-up and managing director of a volunteer organization. At the same time, she has been exposed to the areas of mobile applications, architectural software design and digital marketing. If you ask her what her motivation is, she’ll say “to be flexible and self-organized, to elevate my mornings and to focus on progress, not perfection”.
What inspired you to work in computer science and technology?
I am not one of those people that say “Computers were always my passion; I knew exactly what I wanted to become since very little”. Instead, it took me time to love the field, slowly, step by step. In the first years of University it was hard, I kept questioning if that was truly what I wanted to do. But as the semesters passed, and I moved from theory into practice, I was amazed by how creative this domain can be, and how many opportunities can arise from developing software, researching, designing, and having the ability to create a tool on your own!
Towards the end of my Bachelor and during my internship, I approached technology from the educational perspective, as I was creating video tutorial content around several technological tools. I had a colleague back then, a software developer, and I was so inspired by his work that I realized how much more I wanted to do, not just learning how software works, but creating it myself. Soon after that, I found my first job as a Junior Web Developer, so I had the chance to play with the code, explore the web design, make changes and see the effect immediately. From web developing I moved to back-end* and then full-stack*, always looking for more opportunities to grow.
A lot of students struggle to choose a certain direction after the BSc. All STEM fields have so many different sub-fields. How did you choose your expertise?
I didn’t choose my expertise in advance. Theory is not enough for me. I always prefer to do something in practice, in order to understand if I really like it or not. I have been exposed to e-learning, web development, IT security, data science, data analytics. Out of all those areas, I decided to stay in the software and web development, mostly because it has a very interesting characteristic: it involves a lot the users and business domain. This domain consists of people that have a business need, requests for solutions to help their problem that can ease their daily work.
Tell us more about your current (main) occupation as a Software Engineer.
I am currently working as a Senior Software Engineer and Scrum Master* in a software development team that builds and engineers custom solutions for a rule management platform for the pricing steel industry domain. I contribute to the business analysis and I am responsible for the orchestration and planning of the work that will be delivered to the customers, I facilitate and help the development team to reach the milestones, and I also participate in the development and monitoring of our custom API* solutions. I am a big fan of working Agile* and I always aim to pass the same mindset and way of working on my team.
Apart from a Software Engineer you are also a co-founder & CTO of a start-up. Can you briefly explain what are the services you provide?
Our start-up, Proelefsis Technologies P.C., is established in Athens and provides a set of innovative and specialized services, software and hardware, for communication, information and technology applications in the private and public sector related to agricultural activities and the rural economy.
The rising production costs and lower selling prices make it difficult for small-scale producers to keep a stable income and a sustainable business. With the high demand for quality food, consumers are also easily misled by food labels and have no actual way of trusting the food they eat. These concerns and our experience with technology, made us build Proelefsis which offers verified information about every actor on the food supply chain. In particular, we offer a digital suite of tools helps food brands manage their crop and, with a unique QR code on the product label, the consumer can verify the quality of the food and navigate to the product journey. We are transforming the food system by empowering food brands to be traceable and transparent to the world through an innovative agricultural supply chain management system. Food brands can promote the high-quality characteristics of their products in international markets and better manage their crops with data-driven technologies, increasing their revenue stream and reducing the environmental footprint of the production process.
Recently you launched the Girls in Tech – Luxembourg chapter! How come you started this initiative? Why do you think these communities are essential?
Girls in Tech – Luxembourg is a very recent initiative, and I am still into the amazing path of discovering every day how it is to be in such a role. Over the last years, I had participated in multiple workshops aiming to support women in business and tech, that gave a me a better overview of the gender equality situation that exists globally. There is still a lot of bias everywhere, from both men and women, and it’s very important that we all do something about it.
Girls in Tech is a global non-profit organization focused on the engagement, education, and empowerment of women in technology. All women should feel inspired to pursue their dreams, empowered to be their best selves, connected to a supportive community, prepared to pursue modern careers, and confident throughout their journey.
My wish to run this chapter as Managing Director, was born from my own beliefs, my own self-doubting or even my own shyness to communicate my achievements to friends and colleagues. By observing my reactions to difficult situations, I started unlocking myself, recognizing my strong skills and accepting the areas where I still needed to improve. This is a non-stop exercise, that helps me grow every day until today. The more I was looking into myself, the more I wanted to share my experience and that I am not the only one struggling with these challenges, and surely not the only woman. Being a woman on a male dominated work field, it’s challenging from day one. You always have to prove yourself, study more, work more, do more and more.
It is known that Computer Science is one of the STEM fields where women representation is extremely limited. In your opinion, what are the reasons for this? How can we change it?
It is indeed more common to find men working in the STEM fields rather than women. Especially in Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering, males dominate. The previous generations, the culture and stereotypes have affected a lot the perspective of the society.
Education is definitely the key to change. In order to break the stereotypes, we need to introduce young girls to the world of science and technology, with more exposure to educational experiences, with school activities that are fun to follow but also learn, with role models close to children, successful women in the STEM fields, explaining that science is real, feasible, and it’s not something to fear. Similarly for boys, how sure can we be that all men really love what they do? And what if young boys were exposed more to the world of literature, poetry, and history – domains where the female gender dominates. In order to change the mindset, parents need to adjust, and teachers need to take initiatives and not follow the traditional teaching path that hasn’t changed for decades, but open the door to new methods, help children to discover their talents, no matter the gender.
It’s indeed remarkable that you can actually combine all these in a single career. So, I have to ask: How can one actually do this? What are the secrets behind a productive mind?
I believe the secret for everyone is to realize that we are not defined by one single title. Our studies don’t define who we will be in the future, they are just an addition to our experiences, our skills, and our passions. Once we realize that, we should start feeling more open to change, trying out new things, getting exposed to unknown paths, and finding the way to come out stronger and wiser.
For me, all the activities I do, even if they are not directly related to each other, all together define who I am and what I represent. Somehow, magically, they are all connected and make me feel fulfilled and destined to keep going.
This gives me a lot of energy, but sometimes it can become overwhelming. The key principle, is to have discipline and do some time management. If we count how many hours we spend in front of a TV, scrolling on our mobile phone, doing unproductive tasks, then we will realize that we have plenty of time. I always try to prioritize, to have a hierarchy on what I want to work on for the next weeks and months, and to accept that some other things might be left aside. As long as I accept that, there is no excuse of saying, “I don’t have the time to do this or that”, but instead I prefer to say “it’s not in my priorities to do it”. It’s very powerful to have control over how the day will unfold, and even if it’s not always accurate, it helps loosening the stress and stoping chasing the time and the deadlines.
There is much discussion on the so called ‘work-life balance’. I guess this has always been an issue, yet current generations face it with often negative consequences. Do you believe there is a magic trick and if yes, what is yours?
Over the last couple years, I have unfortunately gone to the extreme with work. Long working hours with minimum amount of sleep, tired eyes in front of a computer screen all day, and still feeling that it’s not enough.
But that’s exactly the problem of our generation: there is always too much of everything, too many demands we set on ourselves, everything and everyone is moving fast, it’s like we are in a constant competition of who lives the best life, not only professionally, but personally too. Instead of celebrating our achievements, we are judging our mistakes, we don’t reward ourselves, and we feel that we are never enough. We give importance to how the outside world sees us, but we forget that the world itself has its own problems, struggling to stand out from the others. And when we fall on the trap of over-working, we don’t give the necessary importance to our friends and family, who, at the end of the day, are the ones that matter the most.
Personally, I like trying out new things all the time. No matter the hours of working, I will always have my creative writing lesson on Thursdays, I will try not to skip my piano course, and I will definitely do some physical exercise on the weekends. Every activity gives me so much inspiration, which boosts my energy, helps with my productivity, and so does the quality time with my loved ones.
It’s important to set some rules, and to respect them. For example, not opening the laptop after 8pm, not checking on social media for 3 continuous hours or before going to sleep, not watching TV while having dinner with your family. Another “magic trick”, is walking outside. Being close to nature, no matter if it’s winter or summer, getting into the calmness of the sky, the trees, either walking alone or with a friend, it really helps a lot. Another important “trick” is sleeping. We just need to sleep! Sleep the full hours that are necessary for our body and mind to recharge. These tricks are not easy to achieve. It takes time to create a habit, so that it’s not a “task” anymore but it comes naturally. I am currently in process of improving my sleep, and throwing away the distractions, and the stress of the job. It’s tough, but I won’t give up. And if I fail, I will try again. Everyone should do the same.
Connect with Vasiliki on Linkedin
*Things you may need:
API: Application Programming Interface
Back-end: Back-end development means working on server-side software, which focuses on everything you can’t see on a website.
Front-end: Front-end web development is the development of the graphical user interface of a website so that users can view and interact with that website.
Full-stack: Full stack development is the end-to-end development of applications. It includes both the front end and back end of an application.
Agile methodology: Agile is an approach to software development that seeks the continuous delivery of working software created in rapid iterations by self-organizing and cross-functional teams.
Scrum: Scrum is an agile project management framework that helps teams structure and manage their work through a set of values, principles, and practices.
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