IT Fire – Arianna Blasi

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Arianna Blasi
 

Arianna Blasi

Research Assistant at Università della Svizzera Italiana

Born: 1993

“May your curiosity be stronger than your fears. I believe no human being is fearless, and no life choice is easy. But passion and grit can lead your way through it all.”

How did you get into the IT industry?

What was your first encounter with IT?  When, how and why did you catch fire then?
I used to mess a lot with my parents’ computer as a kid. A single machine could achieve so many things! I was simply fascinated. I could use computers better than adults basically because I would spend a lot of my free time with them.

How old were you at that time?
About eight years.

How old were you when it became serious and you had to decide
a) on an apprenticeship?

b) on a field of study?
13 years and 23 years, respectively.

What alternative professions or fields of study were you also interested in at the time? Please describe the considerations you made.
I was interested in the sciences in general, and also in psychology. But my curiosity towards computers was simply too strong and genuine, something I would enjoy even in my free time.

What information did you have at that time about education and the opportunities afterwards?
I was aware that computer science was a field that would have likely guaranteed me a nice job in the future. Especially because I picked a technical highschool. But I wouldn’t say this was my main drive at all.

What spoke against it from your point of view at the time?
From my own point of view, absolutely nothing.

Who, which people, which circumstances spoke against a career in IT for you at that time? Describe your doubts and resistance as vividly as possible.
Some conservative adults, like my parents, would have liked me to pursue some “classical” studies, possibly not so male-dominated. My middle school teachers thought my mental skills would have gone wasted in a technical school: There was a lot of prejudice.

What was ultimately decisive for your decision to go into IT?
Being computers a childhood passion, I was simply too attached to the idea of studying them to let it go.

Who, which persons, supported you at that time?
My middle school music teacher! I bet he knew what it felt like to have a passion for a peculiar field of study while getting little external validation.

What was your path after your apprenticeship or studies?

What were your first steps after graduation?
Pursuing a PhD.

Where were you in your career 5 years after the end of your training/studies?
•  Professionally
I am in the fourth year after my MSc. I am completing my PhD, which involves research and teaching. Also, I am about to join Facebook for a summer internship.

•  Private situation
I can afford to live alone since I completed my MSc, and I am happy about my independence.

Did you have
a) The same salary as your male colleagues?

Yes

b) The same career opportunities? If no, why not?
Yes

Looking back, how do you assess the decision for IT?

Which of your expectations were met?
I expected my field of study to be stimulating, and I can say it consistently is.

What do you enjoy most about your current professional situation?
As a research assistant and PhD student I am free to implement and publish my own ideas. I also enjoy teaching to students.

Which of your expectations were not met?
Academia and research are not always as fair as one would expect, but I don’t think this is specific to our field.

Would you make the same decision again?
Yes! I enjoyed my computer science studies since my high-school diploma, and enjoyed my experiences in research.

What do you regret or criticise?
No regrets, maybe a few critiques. For example, computer science research should work more closely with industry. And some university courses may be taught more seriously than they are. Some professors lack both time and passion for teaching.

How had your career been different if you were a man?
Not too much different, I guess. I may have been lucky, of course, but I can say I still have many privileges, being a woman or not.

What would you do differently, and how exactly, if you could?
Sometimes I listen way too much to my insecurities. I would throw myself into new ideas or challenges with less self-doubt, if I could.

If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for?
Egoistically, to shut up my fears! But I am doing fairly well, and I think some other women would have the right to use that wand more than me. I made my own choices always. So, I’d grant independence to all the women in the world that cannot have it still.

What advice would you give to your daughter?

What advice would you give to your 15-year-old daughter if she would like to go into IT?
Don’t be preoccupied if something seems too difficult at first. Take it as a fun challenge, and you’ll enjoy learning a lot.

What is important to you in life from a professional point of view?
Three main things, maybe: To figure out what one genuinely enjoys doing, to remain humble, to recover quickly from failures.

What would a young woman retiring in 2061 have to consider when shaping her career?
Chose a career that is fulfilling and somewhat fun to you. Every job has its stressors, so, the only way to survive it well is looking for the best trade-offs.

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The SI Digital Magazine (SIDM) is the electronic members’ magazine of the Swiss Informatics Society SI.

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