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  • Giulia Traverso

Getting More Women in Tech: why mentorship is key

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

Giulia and her mentor, Sabine

Giulia and her mentor, Sabine

After completing my PhD in cryptography last spring, I decided that I was done with academia. Instead, I wanted to have insight on how security solutions are established and brought into the market. That’s why I recently joined CYSEC, a Swiss cyber security start-up based in Lausanne. CYSEC develops and manufactures a secure platform where businesses can host their applications, allowing them to protect their assets. This provides a competitive advantage in this new and unpredictable data-driven marketplace. I began working at the company as their Principal Cryptographer. I’m responsible for writing research projects as well as for carrying them out.

At this point, you might be picturing a "girl boss" who has everything figured out, is on top of her game and always knows what she wants. However, your image of me would be incorrect. If you had met me not long ago, you would have seen a woman in the middle of her PhD, with no idea about what to do next, who was unclear about what she was interested in and unaware of her skill set. Only recently have I developed the clarity and the self-awareness to recognize my interests and worth, and to be in control of my career path.

How did I do that? The answer is simple: mentorship!

My mentor is Sabine Scheunert, Vice President of Digital and IT Sales and Marketing at Mercedes-Benz Cars. I met Sabine in the fall of 2018 in Berlin at the Ada Lovelace Festival, a conference for women in tech. At the event, Sabine gave a presentation and announced a mentorship programme. I applied and, well, the rest is history.

I shadowed Sabine for a few days every two months at the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart. I attended meetings with her, which gave me the opportunity to witness first-hand what it means to lead a team, be a decision maker in a large company and take responsibility for the consequences of those decisions; all in the realm of IT.

This experience positively affected my career path. It was key for me to have an aspirational model in an industry where there are not many women in leadership positions, making it difficult for women new to the industry to imagine ourselves in such positions. Without a clear vision of how the end goal, it is difficult to get there. That’s why, despite knowing a year ago that I was tired of academia, I was also unable to picture myself in the industry. I had simply never seen or spoken to a woman working in IT.

My advice to all women and girls who are interested in having a career in tech but are unsure on how to get there is this: find a mentor who has achieved what you envision achieving.

The clarity and momentum you will gain from it will be transformational for your career. It was for me.

About the author

Giulia Traverso is Principal Cryptographer at Cysec SA in Lausanne, Switzerland. She holds a PhD in cryptography and computer security from the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany. Giulia’s dissertation focused on long-term storage of sensitive data in distributed systems and in the cloud. She also has a Master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Trento, Italy. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, doing Pilates and reading (cook books included). She also pens Breaking Thirty, a blog for young and ambitious women who are sometimes overloaded by the expectations they set for themselves.

Photo credit: Giulia Traverso

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