When Lucia Baldassini left Italy to study in Finland, it lit a fire of passion for studying abroad that led to a move to The Netherlands and a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence.

During my master’s, I participated in the Honours College High Tech System and Materials, during which I had the opportunity of working together with ASTRON (Dutch Institute for Radio Astronomy) and a group of fellow students to develop a new type of antenna dish.

As soon as I moved to Groningen, I started working part-time, first at an Italian restaurant as a dishwasher/kitchen-help/catering delivery person and then at Dataprovider.com, where I got a full-time position as Data Scientist after completing my studies. Less than a year ago, I obtained a promotion and became the team lead of the Data Science team. My role now involves not just my job as a data scientist, but also managing the daily activities of the team, delegating tasks, and ensuring that projects are completed within the given timeline, among other responsibilities.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have never really sat down and planned my career. However, there are specific choices that I made to contribute to my career. For example, when I first moved to the Netherlands, I started studying Minorities and Multilingualism but  soon realised that I wanted to do something more math-oriented (which was also the focus of my high school), and I decided to switch to Artificial Intelligence. I think this decision, together with moving to the Netherlands, has had the biggest impact on my career.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

In my few years of working experience, I cannot recall any career challenges. I think I was lucky to enter the job market recently, in a period in which the attitude towards women in IT has changed radically, at least here in The Netherlands. I also think that working in a rather young, non-hierarchical company helps. I can imagine that people might face more challenges in more traditional, long-standing organisations

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Definitely the biggest achievement is becoming the Team Lead of Data Science. It’s a role that is exciting and challenging at the same time. It is a new role for me so I still have some work to do to improve and become the best possible team lead I can be.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I think it is a combination of internal and external factors. Personally, I am a determined and ambitious person, and I always try to do my best to achieve a goal I set for myself. Of course, the surrounding environment is also very important. I believe that having family, friends and a work environment that support and believe in you is also crucial for achieving success.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

I think the best piece of advice is daring to try, and realising that everybody makes mistakes. “Nobody’s born knowing,” is an Italian saying. So, if a given career path is what you really want, just go for it! Your determination will also help in overcoming challenges that might be present along the way

What barriers for women working in tech are still to be overcome?

From my experience and looking at other companies here in The Netherlands, I feel that such barriers don’t really exist. I think that female and male IT graduates have equal opportunities in a company when it comes to career and remuneration.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

I think that companies should give equal opportunities to both men and women, and support and progress the career of everyone regardless of their gender. I am against the idea of a diversity hire. I think this actually diminishes the work of the person hired in this way. At least I would not feel good knowing I was hired not because of my competencies but to boost the number of women in a company.

I think that if we lack women in tech it is because we should introduce them to this world earlier on. I don’t have kids myself but I know that in the last decade, schools have started giving IT classes, which is a big step in the right direction. This will also help them get rid of the past misconception that the IT world is a “male job”.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

I think in an ideal world young girls will grow interested in IT from an earlier age because IT classes are part of the mandatory curriculum in school, for example. When this happens, gender diversity will naturally become the new reality for companies.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I think attending conferences is the best way of gaining knowledge and growing your network of people interested in the same topic. I have attended a couple of conferences, and I have always found interesting people to talk with while waiting for the next speaker.