Special contribution by Girls in Tech Paris member,
Elizabeth Ifaturoti .

An innovator is someone who sees a problem, commits to solving it and dedicates time and resources to it until he/she arrives at a practical solution. This is basically what each individual at the recently concluded “MIT under 35 innovators awards” has done. Once I heard about the event from the ‘Girls in tech’ grapevine, I started counting down to the day, being offered free tickets was the cherry on the cake. I believe that technological innovation is the future and the seeds of research and discovery being sown today by these young innovators will be tomorrow’s life changing gifts to humanity.

The range of subjects was as varied as it was mind boggling; ranging from breakthroughs in sleep apnea, preterm baby survival, cardiac health, skin healing, antimicrobial products, farming, sustainable transportation and quantum computing to mention but a few. The event itself was tastefully organised with well moderated presentations and tasteful refreshments. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention how helpful Daniella Perdomo Martinez was, a fellow ‘Girls in Tech’ member and part of the events organising team. She went the extra mile to ensure I had all the information I needed and my experience was a smooth one, even though we had never met before! This friendly gesture made me even more proud to be part of such an amazing network.

A word about the venue; Station F is a relatively new technology hub and according to its official website “the biggest start up campus in the world”. It was befitting for the event and the space itself with its avant-garde design was simply breath taking, a must-see if ever you are in the city of Light.

(P.S the food court round the back has desserts that are to die for 🙂 🙂 but I digress as this blog post is not about the place but about the event and more specifically the outstanding individuals I was lucky to meet.

‘You are a big Catastrophe ‘

No worries, dear reader, I don’t mean you, these exact words were constantly directed at Franscesca Santoro while she was studying as an engineer in Germany but here she is today, an award winning researcher.

Beyond her achievements, she believes in paying it forward.

Francesca mentors young females interested in carving out a career in the technology world, helping them overcome doubts and believe more in themselves. ‘ I want to show young women that the face of engineering and technology has shifted, if I could do it then so can you, find a mentor, become interested and part of a grassroots group if you can, if I could do it, being homesick and surrounded by mostly male colleagues, so can you’.

So can you! Dear”Girls in Tech” blog reader. The Girls in Tech movement exists to help girls get more interested in the vast and exciting world of technology. We aim to break silos and reach out to more girls at even younger ages and get them interested in STEM subjects.

So many amazing women I didn’t have the chance to speak to where honoured that day and if I learnt one thing from the event: women are breaking the mold and setting the pace in innovation so go for it girl and if you happen to be at any of these events, charge your phone 🙂

Following are excerpts from the mini interviews conducted. Thanks to Shachi Prasad for being an awesome plus one at the event and taking notes when my phone ran out of steam and to Camilla Della Bono for the warm welcome.

Chat with Francesca Santoro, honoured for her work with Photovoltaic band aids which accelerate the process of wound healing.

E.I: In a nutshell, describe your career trajectory and tell us why you decided to go into this field?

F.S: I have a background in electrical engineering and have always been fascinated in the cyber space. I have soft spot for children and have wanted to make a significant contribution that would assist in improving the quality of their lives.

E.I: Any major naysayers or challenges along the way?

F.S: It was definitely challenging working in a male dominated field especially as I was terribly home sick and had to deal with the initial language barrier while in Germany.

E.I: What would you say to those naysayers?

F.S: Nothing. I have proved them wrong. I happen to mentor a small group of girls interested in technology and I never tire of letting them know that if I could make it, so can they. Unfortunately, some have less self- belief than others but we are working on it.

E.I: A word of advice for up and coming ladies interested in forging a tech related career?

F.S: Seek mentors and established female professionals, it might sound daunting but most would be willing to help and advice. Personally, I believe in a more grassroots approach, I would like to see more career and guidance events aimed at females in high schools.

E.I: Have you thought about research into reducing keloid formations, basically helping the skin reverse the healing process?

F.S: It is a very interesting line of thought which I have pondered often myself. If we go by principle, since there is a pattern of electrical signals that are able to enhance the healing process as seen in the photovoltaic band aids, there must be a pattern of electrical signals that act in the reverse manner.