Ofelia Celestial Galvez Szebin a Cyber Security and Risk Consultant who recently moved to the Automotive Industry to be part of those who ensure we can take advantage of new technologies while keeping our road safe and secure for everyone.
How did you become a woman in tech – what is your background?
My journey to the tech world was not a “cinderella story”. I was privileged to qualify for the full scholarship program of MFI Polytechnic Insitute whose mission was to produce a highly skilled workforce imbued with moral values and a positive attitude to work, people, and the environment. Inspired by my Bosconian friend, I chose the Industrial Electronics Technician path. Back then, technical courses were becoming common among females though we were still outnumbered. During my OJT in a semiconductor company, I was among the boys as one of the technicians while the rest of the female workers were line operators. I enjoyed both groups since the girls would tell me not to let myself be bullied by the boys and the boys were very helpful and fun to work with too. Thanks to my former colleagues, I never felt discriminated nor downsided being a female technician.
What obstacles and fears did you have to face on your way of becoming who you are today?
On my first full-time job as a hardware maintenance technician, I was doing preventive maintenance (PM) of huge semiconductor testing machines. That equipment was covered by heavy metal doors, I could barely lift them! I had to call some tall male operators to help me move them to test the components inside. It was a bit frustrating. I told myself, I have to be able to do my work alone just like the rest of our team (all male technicians, of course). It was such a relief being able to lift and move the heavy metal door myself after a couple of weeks of trying.
After a year in semicon I worked as a computer technician. I remember the surprised look of the clients when I would show up with tools and had to crawl under their desks to check and fix something. It was a short career as a computer technician. I went back to MFI to teach. In the beginning, I was teaching basic electronics, tv repair, computer repair and LAN Technology to professionals and career shifters. The majority of them were males. I’m happy that there was just a handful of them who were intimidated that a girl was teaching them TV and computer repair. Most of my students were very respectful and didn’t challenge what I was capable of.
I left teaching to join the United Nations peacekeeping missions. In Afghanistan, I had to deal with local contractors. I was quite anxious in the beginning because of what I heard from the news. Eventually, I learned that the key to working with people from various cultural backgrounds is to understand and respect our differences. We should also not rely completely on what the media presents to us about countries with challenging times. Given the same opportunities, they can excel in any field. In the UN, I met a lot of men who were happy to find women in working environments that used to be exclusive to men. They were generous in sharing their tips and tricks and gladly listened to mine as well.
What was the reaction of your personal environment?
Within my personal environment, I am beyond grateful to be surrounded by extremely supportive and inspiring people. One would only want to pay it forward and inspire more people too. Even those who could barely understand exactly what I do at work were very positive about my chosen path.
What would you do differently the next time (on this path)?
I could hardly think of anything I would do differently. Things have worked well so far. I am happy with what I have achieved and I know there is more to be accomplished. My motivation is to constantly learn and to be part of emerging technologies.
Do you have any recommendations for young women who are interested in a career in tech?
My recommendations, nothing extraordinary but to wake up each morning with a grateful heart and a positive attitude. These help in starting the day right so you can do more without feeling exhausted and tired. Do not develop a feeling of being entitled or expect special treatment. We should also keep in mind that the older generation had different norms and we cannot expect them to simply switch to how women are embedded now in the workforce and leadership.
Careen in Tech? At this point, tech is inevitable! It is part of everybody’s life. To be part of the development of new technologies is just incredible. Unfortunately, just like everything else, technology could be very much misused and worse, abused. We need more people to protect those who are less aware. If you believe you have a heart and mind to change the world, step up and don’t let technologies be dominated by the wrong people.