Nerea Luis Mingueza is an Artificial Intelligence wngineer at Sngular. At 28 years old, she is a Cum Laude Doctor in Artificial Intelligence. She has founded the Free National Event “t3chFest” with more than 1600 attendees and 80 speakers on science and technology. In January 2018, she joined COTEC Foundation as an expert in technology, talent and gender.
These are just some of the merits she has obtained in the last two years. Her outreach activities have made her become a ‘women in tech’ benchmark. She has collaborated with Google, the Anita Borg Institute, the Royal House, Ministries, technological events, etc. At the same time, she continues publishing scientific articles on automatic multi-agent planning. Nerea has recently received the Order of Civil Merit Decoration.
W4IT: How did you get to where you are right now in your career?
Nerea Luis Mingueza: When I went to the United States of America in 2016, I was not sure what to do. I have always liked the academic world, but I was aware that in Spain it was very difficult to fit in with the profile I had. I didn’t like to constantly write papers and arrange it with the teaching part that was the most attractive to me. I did not see the research career in the long term since I would have to go outside of Spain for 5 years and live in different countries with a lot of uncertainty.
Due to the expertise that I gained through my PhD and different initiatives in Spain, I saw myself in more technical/advising roles, also as a speaker in events and conferences. I knew many companies through the T3chfest event and so, Sngular contacted me.
W4IT: What has been the role of technology and digital skills on this path?
NLM: Actually, everything. In the beginning, you start learning with everything that has to do with computing. I specialised in Artificial Intelligence (AI) – because I was struck by getting the code to make decisions and learn from data, and in intelligent robotics. When it comes to those two disciplines, you have to be very rigorous and understand very well how systems are structured in order to get to the physical part: human interaction. It is a discipline that has many layers – it is what I have learned along the way – but there is a great technical component to it and a lot of trial and error.
W4IT: What are the benefits of working in the tech sector / in digital for a woman?
NLM: It is not so much about gender but more about allowing you to work in an innovative part of the sector. If you are working in technology, you can be in a company that makes cinema, predictive models, analysis of streaming platforms, retail, and so on. It is a very fortunate discipline, very transversal. Technology begins to heavily influence e.g. the healthcare sector, too.
Working in the tech sector, I don’t have time to get bored, something new always comes up.
W4IT: How do companies benefit from having women in ICT positions?
NLM: It depends. In recent years, women’s lack of participation in ICT has become visible as a real problem. The role of women has been promoted as a result of studies carried out and it becomes very relevant.
The boom from 2017-2018 in terms of bringing more women into tech has remained unchanged and more women have been hired since. There are always entities that take advantage of these movements, for example, for the brand. In the academic world, the balance of the team is usually scored, so they are aware to count with women in the research teams.
Becoming an indicator does not have to be bad, as long as there is a human part to it, and empathy with the person. You have to know that you are hiring them for their worth and professionalism.
W4IT: Do you think we should have more women in the tech sector / digital jobs? Why?
W4IT: It is certainly necessary. The problem is that we are very few, more and more are being recycled, and they come from other areas. There is still a long way to go, for example, very few of the women get Director jobs.
Hence, we have to fight for ourselves. We are few but we are more organised, we are in contact, and it helps to make us visible and not have a feeling of insecurity. Having a network and being able to deal with different problems together is very positive and helps a lot. This mentoring will help more women to stay in the sector.
Sadly, it has been noted that over the years, women end up leaving their tech positions to take on less technical and more administrative positions.
W4IT: Why is developing digital skills important? What opportunities can it bring, especially for women?
NLM: It gives you freedom and a sense of empowerment. Using digital skills as tools to get more competences allows you to self-educate and grow. We do the bare minimum that makes us feel safe with what we need on a day-to-day basis, but testing out technology can really make you realise you can use it for other things.
Digital skills give you economic power. Tech is a sector that has no unemployment, and it reinvents itself very quickly. Independence and the ability to decide what you want to do without being so context-dependent is also a great upside.
W4IT: What advice do you have for young women who would like to start their career in tech / digital?
NLM: Searching in Google is the best tool. When you have a hobby and next to it you put the word tech, you will find something that can inspire your future digital career. Once you look it up on the Internet, turns out that there are many applications of technology you had no idea about and might be interested in.