Marjorie Rojas Rincón is a Colombian electronic engineer, co-founder of PlusInn and a member of Smart Building Alliance, living and working in Switzerland. Engineering has been her dream job since she was little and she followed her passion and talent. In the interview, Marjorie has told us about her background, successes, challenges she has overcome and support she has got from her family and coworkers.
What do you like about your job/studies?
University taught me how to learn. That’s what I liked the most about my studies. My engineering background also showed me a strong link between technology and progress.
For me, thinking like an engineer is remaining optimistic, challenging the status quo and building a better world!
What I most love about my activity is that I’m constantly looking to leverage existing services, mechanisms or ideas to improve situations they weren’t initially intended for, especially when it comes to daily life. The whole point is to find a balance between work and life. The association I’m a part of (Smart Building Alliance), attempts to do just that: it encourages people, institutions and companies to be part of and co-create a connected ecosystem in harmony with the environment: Smart cities.
Why have you decided to pursue a career in this field? What was your inspiration?
When I was a young teenager, Mathematics and Physics were like a game! So I just wanted to continue playing and get to know more about the many applications of this “world of numbers”. My curiosity for functional things also played a big role. I’ve also been lucky to study in a school where teachers and most of the pedagogic team cared about talents. Moreover, I grew up with a father who made me believe that I was able to become whatever I wanted in life!
Do you have role models?
During my short time working at CFF (Swiss railway), I had the opportunity to have an amazing woman as a boss. Even though she didn’t have a technical background, she was there, managing the operations and maintenance training department. She earned everybody’s respect and people constantly appreciated and admired her leadership skills!
Additionally, I have to mention my two sisters and partners. They are also engineers who, despite facing many challenges, are pursuing their goals and doing what they love!
Did you have a turning point in your career?
I never regretted being involved in engineering, but at one point during my studies, I had serious doubts regarding my electronics engineering choice. I couldn’t help but wonder what my job could be in a more concrete area, working on more tangible things, studying more comprehensible topics for the wider population. I came to think that mechanical or civil engineering could be my real vocation in life! My parents supported me a lot and encouraged me to do rebuild my confidence by improving my artistic skills.
The other important moment that changed my life completely was becoming a mom! Especially because this beautiful event happened just after moving back to Switzerland (repatriating due to my husband’s work), which unfortunately made it extremely difficult to restart my professional life. The complexity of finding a work-life balance in these circumstances was a bit overwhelming.
What do you think is one example of one way you have enjoyed your human rights, in learning or at work?
My two sisters and I, even coming from a family of lawyers, had the freedom to decide what we wanted to become as professionals. We could choose the university we wanted to attend in Colombia and were later accepted in other universities outside the country. Today, I can do what I love, I can follow my instinct as an entrepreneur, thanks to the support of my husband. This is my reality, but sadly it’s not always like that for a lot of married women!
Are there any challenges facing women in your educational or work settings, and if so, what do you see as one possible solution?
Coming from a Latin culture and especially as an engineer, professors and classmates seemed to have conscious (or unconscious!) bias towards women. For some of them, experience showed that it was part of the process and their way of challenging women to help them control their emotions and become stronger.
As a woman in Colombia, it was really difficult to get a real technical job and most opportunities were in commercial roles. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like it was difficult to “get your hands dirty” with more practical tasks.
To improve the situation, I think women need to avoid thinking as victims and behave themselves as empowered confident individuals. We are what we reflect! If we know what we want, we have to persevere and be ready to seize good opportunities when they come up.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone just starting in your field?
We live in an amazingly connected world.
Staying human (interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, being natural…) will one day be the most sought-after talent in town!
So stay curious, keep learning, but not just in your area of expertise. If you haven’t done this lately, try developing the other side of your brain through, for example, artistic, social, spiritual, humanitarian or philosophical activities.