Every day is a great day

I took the pledge initiated by Suw Charman-Anderson to write a blog post about a woman in technology on Ada Lovelace’s day a few months ago. The following day I started thinking about who would be that woman. I know a lot of remarkable women among bloggers, researchers, software engineers, entrepreneurs, freelancers – I could probably fill a good few pages with names only! And then the choice came naturally: I will honour someone who is an authority in my field of research, and at the same time a fellow country woman.

Daniela Damian In June 2005, I had just started my work on a Global Software Development project at the University of Limerick when I heard her name mentioned: Dr. Daniela Damian, at the time Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria, Canada was the organiser of an International Workshop on Distributed Software Development collocated with the IEEE Requirements Engineering conference – to take place in Paris in August. Some names have such a specific Romanian resonance that you know with certainty when you hear them… I was so glad to find out that a Romanian, and especially a woman  was working in my new field of research!

A few months after, I wrote to her about the idea of creating a collaboration platform for the Global Software Engineering community.  She accepted my suggestions, but  was already a few steps ahead, and the platform became reality soon after that. We stayed in touch, my group invited her to Limerick, but unfortunately she couldn’t make it- her second baby was on the way. The first time we met face to face was at the second international conference on Global Software Engineering – ICGSE’07 in Munich – but it felt like we knew each other for a long, long time.

The ICGSE series of conferences are the continuation of a series of workshops organised or co-organised by Daniela since 2002 that had the role of bringing together a pretty diverse community of academics, researchers and practitioners interested in the field. We have the honour of hosting it here in Limerick this year, and I’m involved in the organisation.

Daniela studied Computer Science in Romania, where she graduated in 1995. She went on to do a masters, and then a PhD in Computer Science/Software Engineering at the University of Calgary in Canada. She finished both her MSc and PhD in 5 years in total, a very short time (5 years is the usual time for a PhD only). Daniela got her PhD in 2001. After one year spent as an NSERC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia and working with Unisys,  she returned to Canada and joined the University of Victoria as an Assistant Professor. In 2007, she became an Associate Professor. She is the initiator and the head of the Software Engineering Global interAction Lab – SEGAL at UVic.

This academic year, Daniela is on sabbatical. She spent the first half in Europe and now she’s in Australia. Her husband and two kids are accompanying her. With all her hectic schedule, she was kind enough to answer to a few questions I asked in preparation for this blog post.

I wanted to know what made her choose Computer Science/Software Engineering in the first place, and what attracted her to academia. Here is her answer:

I was very good in math. I was one of the very few young girls competing in national math competitions along with my good male colleagues in middle and high school. A turning point happened in my life when I was discussing with my mom about university… it became clear that I was made to pursue impact in my life, and chose Informatics as a university major because i could apply my strong math skills in the domain of computer science. The specialization in Software Engineering was the result of further inclination for practical application — learning about software development and the challenge of translating customers’ needs into a workable product was just the right for me.Academia also came as a natural choice given my enthusiasm in teaching young minds to be good software engineers themselves. A post-doc in an industrial environment (Unisys) made me be sure that I wished to pursue an academic environment in which to teach students about and how to address the real world software problems, as well as to mentor students become researchers in Software Engineering themselves.

Next thing I wanted to know was if the fact of being a woman working in a technological domain has made any difference:

I think so. Having trained and competed with my boy classmates in math competitions, I always had to convince myself that I could do as well as anybody else. Perhaps that gave me the extra energy to do well. Later on, as a teacher, researcher, supervisor AND a mother in recent years has really been a great challenge but also an opportunity to realize how much women raise to the expectations around them, how well they figure out how to prioritize things in their lives, and how great they are BECAUSE they have this opportunity and experience.

My final question was about something that intrigued me ever since I heard about Daniela:

What is the secret of your fantastic energy? You’re involved in so many things, you have a family and kids at the same time, and you’re following your students very closely. How in the world can one cover all this?

And here is her answer:

I just love what I do :). Or perhaps I just do what I love. I have great mentors, and I listen to them. I surround myself with people that enjoy life and what they do. I take energy from positive people, and I try to empower and inspire others with same positive energy. I have become more humble every year recently, and I try to learn as much as I can from others everyday. As such, every day is a great day because the world around me is what and how I decide to see it. The students I collaborate with are a great source of energy for me themselves, teaching me how to stay sharp so I can help them become who they want to be.

Daniela was very generous sharing “her secret” with every one. We all have our ups and downs. If every one of us could remember that “every day is a great day” and it all depends on what we decide to make of it, this would be a better world!

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March 24 2009 11:52 pm | people and Research and Software engineering and Uncategorized

2 Responses to “Every day is a great day”

  1. 2D Goggles » Ada Lovelace Day- Are you READY?? on 17 Mar 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    […] that you think deserves a little heroine-worship.  It could be a person from history, or someone you worked with, or someone who’s just plain cool. Whatever!  The point is to have a day where no one is […]

  2. Coniecto » Women in technology I admire… on 24 Mar 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    […] year on Ada Lovelace’s day, I wrote a post about someone I admire. I prepared a lot for that post, but I got very sick on that very day, so I […]

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