Maria João Lopes, Software Developer for Industry 4.0 Applications at Bosch, PhD Student at Universidade de Aveiro

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Early years and where you came from?

From a very early age, I was always quite interested in science and tech. I remember loving science books that showed how to do some scientific experiments at home and I actually did them! Besides the physical sciences, IT was also something where I always had a genuine interest. I even used to fix my friends’ computers! When it was time to choose a career path, I chose to study Physics Engineering in Coimbra — it was truly a life-changing decision. The main reason why I chose it was that I really wanted to learn as much as possible about different subjects as I could — and I did!

How were you introduced to the world of the Portuguese tech industry?

Back in college, I was a member of jeKnowledge, a junior enterprise (this means it is composed entirely of students). We had regular events such as tech talks and hackathons and it was from that moment on that I started having contact with people who worked in many tech companies, mainly start-ups. My first contact with Bosch was at a roadshow at my university and that is actually how I started there.

Walk me through your work and what you are doing now in the tech industry.

I work with information systems, in particular those used in industrial settings. These are the invisible digital entities that make our factories run in sync and cover many functionalities that are too complex for humans to handle. I work mostly with MES (Manufacturing Execution System), which is a system that controls production lines in real-time among many other tasks. Currently, I create the specifications, do the installation, configuration and support. Lately, I have been more active in interfacing MES with other systems. This is quite a demanding task because it requires you not only to know all the technical details but also to have a very good overview of both the physical and the digital processes

I have also recently started my Ph.D. in the Doctorate in Business Innovation program at the University of Aveiro. It is directed at working professionals and the thesis project is meant to run in the company. My project is the development of a framework that uses a holistic approach to data in an organization. Here we face many challenges such as the lack of integration between processes and this is one of the things I am trying to change.

What part of what you do, you love the most?

I love the challenges. This is an area where you will face many of them. My favorite ones are the technical ones and how it enables me to use my skillset and creativity.

How do you think that your background and knowledge impact the way you approach your work in the Portuguese tech industry?

I am really proud of the fact that my background is in Physics Engineering. It is a very demanding degree and it has taught me how to approach problems from a unique perspective. Not only that, you really get used to the fact that you are being constantly thrown out of your comfort zone and that really empowers you to acquire a unique skill set. Being versatile is really what it is all about.

What advice do you have for young women that want to get into tech and don’t know where to start?

I would recommend looking for a degree that provides you with a strong background in the core subjects like Math and Computer Science. Above all, choose something that really appeals to you. You can and should take some advice from other people but remember that the final decision should always be yours. Only you know what is the best fit for you.
Look also for events at your university (e.g. alumni events) where you can have contact with former students and get to know them. I attend these often and the interaction with students is always interesting!

Walk me through a day in your life as a Portuguese women in tech.

During the morning, I usually take part in meetings mostly related with projects and punctual support requests. This is mostly because of time zone differences as we work with plants from all over the world. In the afternoon, I usually take the time to do more focused work such as development, specifications, tests, or technical documentation. Now that I am also doing my Ph.D., I also integrate my doctorate work with my other job responsibilities.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t give up right at the beginning! If something looks really challenging, do not be discouraged just because it looks unachievable. Take a step back and look at it from a logical point of view. There are good chances that things are actually easier than what you had originally thought.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Docker, Jira, Git, Confluence, Visual Studio, MS Teams, Spotify

👉Find Maria João on LinkedIn

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