Cécile Robin writes: I am research associate at the Insight SFI Research Centre at University of Galway, working as part of the Unit for Natural Language Processing (UNLP) under the lead of Dr. Paul Buitelaar. My background and main expertise are in Natural Language Processing, more specifically information extraction, semantic web, relation extraction and knowledge graphs. I have been involved in many industry and EU research projects over the years, and more recently as project manager. I used to work in industry, before I move to Galway and joined Insight seven years ago.
Did/do you face any challenges as a woman in your field and how did you overcome them?
The main challenge I faced as a women in the field came from myself. Lack of confidence, imposter syndrome, thinking my ideas were not good or pertinent. I had trouble adapting to the shift between industry and research, two very different ways of working! I participated in the Aurora programme (the Advance HE’s leadership development initiative for women), and it helped me a lot. I met many women who felt exactly the same and had the same issue, whatever their position. We were encouraged to raise our voices, being heard, through concrete exercises. I realised during meetings that I had ideas that I did not say out loud (thinking they were not good enough), however someone else made the same comment. That really made me realise that the issue was not my ideas, but my fear of sharing them. I also came to the realisation that you do not need to wait until you have a perfectly formed idea to share it. Meetings are about having conversations, sharing ideas (not necessarily fully developed) in between people, not about having the perfect answer ready. Even just rephrasing a problem is a great help to find a solution (and is a base principle of problem solving!).