We’ve interviewed several successful women from around the world to show that women in STEM have many different stories, career paths and points of view. What do they like about their jobs? What is their inspiration and who are their role models? How they have enjoyed their human rights, in learning or at work?
We’ve asked these questions to Flora Barriele, Database Administrator from France, working for a local government in Lausanne, Switzerland.
What do you like about your job?
In my Database Administrator job, contrary to popular opinion, I can express my creativity every day: I like looking for answers to a wide range of problems, troubleshooting issues I have never encountered before, proposing solutions to fulfill real business needs. I also enjoy collaborating, learning and teaching. The IT field is evolving all the time and there is always something new to learn about.
Why have you decided to pursue a career in this field? What was your inspiration?
As far as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by computers.
When I was 7, my parents had this weird machine that I was not allowed to use, which I am sure aroused my curiosity. They let me use it at the age of 11, and later I started programming because I thought it was cool to tell the computer to do things and watch it obey. My best friend’s father was into computers too, he showed me how to install Linux on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I was hooked. I was lucky enough my parents were supportive of my choices.
Do you have role models?
“My first role model was my mum. She is a medical biologist, and she is also the boss of a hospital laboratory. Her experience showed me that you can be a woman AND a scientist, a mother AND a boss.
Moreover, later during my career, I met an extraordinary person, not only he is incredibly skilled, but he is also benevolent, curious, always willing to help, and an excellent ally to women in STEM.”
Did you have a turning point in your career?
I studied general computer science at university. When students graduate, usually they don’t really know what kind of job they can have. At the beginning of my career, I worked on several topics, including databases. I kept working on databases for a while, but I quickly had to stop because priorities changed at my company. It made me realize that’s what I really wanted to do. So when I had the opportunity to find a new job, I immediately started looking for databases jobs with a lot of technical challenges.
What do you think is one example of one way you have enjoyed your human rights, in learning or at work?
The fact that I had the opportunity to go to school and study computer science is a perfect example of how I have enjoyed my human rights. Another example I have in mind is that I have never been prevented from working and having a career, some people are not that fortunate in our world.
Are there any challenges facing women in your educational or work settings, and if so, what do you see as one possible solution?
We are not used to seeing women computer engineers, so when there is a woman in an IT office, people tend to think she could do any kind of job, except computer engineer. Therefore, some people won’t spontaneously ask her for help, take her seriously or even hear what she has to say. Unfortunately, this bias is unconsciously fixed in some minds, but I know things can change, with education, awareness, open-mindedness, and allies.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone just starting in your field?
Ask questions. Or don’t be afraid to ask questions.
A lot of novices refrain from asking questions, afraid to look like they are not up to the job. But I believe it is the opposite: asking questions is an excellent opportunity to show your interest, curiosity and motivation to learn more and be trustworthy.