Now in its ninth year, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) International Women in Engineering Day acknowledges outstanding achievements women have made in the industry over the years.
According to recent figures, only 16.5% of engineers are women, even though this an increase of the 2010 figure of 10%. As a result, it is vital that the industry continues to encourage more women to take up engineering education and careers.
To mark the occasion, Sfera Labs interviewed their COO and qualified engineer, Maria Chizzali about her experience in engineering, her hopes for the future and advice she would give women and girls who are interested in a career in the industry…
In 2007, Maria was one of the two founders of HSYCO (www.hsyco.com), a company that developed one of the first truly hardware-independent supervision systems for building and industrial automation. HSYCO is now an established company, with over 10k installations in Italy, Europe, and internationally.
In 2016, Maria was a part of the founding team of Sfera Labs (www.sferalabs.cc), initially a technology start-up company whose mission was “bringing open technology to the industrial world.” Sfera Labs designs, manufactures, and sells servers, I/O modules, and sensors for industrial automation based on open platforms, mainly Raspberry PI, Arduino, and Pycom. Over the years, Sfera Labs has grown to become a global company, with sales in 64 countries.
Prior to this, Maria has worked for many prestigious companies including Buongiorno, Dell, Xerox, and Andersen Consulting (now Accenture www.accenture.com). Maria holds a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Padua, Italy.
What intrigued you to choose a career in the world of engineering?
“I’ve always been fascinated by discovering how things work. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut or an astrophysicist. Growing up, I decided on a more ‘practical’ course of studies. In the first stages, I started a career that enabled me to be part of a global think tank, experiencing a large number of diverse companies in many countries. Later, I applied my experience to various multinational companies, each of them a leader in their technology sector.”
What inspires you about working for Sfera Labs?
“We have an exceptionally motivated and passionate team. Everyone works hard, each in their capacity, to improve current operations and facilitate growth. New ideas flow continuously, and the discussion is incredibly stimulating. We have excellent partners and fantastic customers. Working with people from around the world is fun and brightens every day.”
Any milestones or achievements you are proud of?
“Sfera Labs started as a small, one-in-a-million start-up company. We are 100% self-funded and we are now a recognized leader in our niche sector. We have built a great team that keeps growing and an excellent network of partners. We have brought to life an impressive number of projects, achieving a remarkable speed of delivery and, especially in the last two years, a tremendous amount of flexibility. Most importantly, we spend a lot of our time working with our customers, helping them implement their most innovative projects, either with our standard products or custom developments. We have built an efficient, competitive, cost-effective production process in Italy, leveraging an extensive network of local know-how, while at the same time being a truly global company. Finally, 50% of our employees are female!”
What are your hopes for the future of Sfera Labs?
“We dream of offering new, innovative, state-of-the-art solutions that our customers can use to create new projects to become leaders. We hope to keep the spirit of our present team, where people, most of all, find personal fulfilment in their job.”
Do you have advice for women who are considering a career in the world of engineering?
“Women can bring a considerable contribution to engineering, bringing in a new perspective, ingenuity, precision, strong passion, and dedication. Engineering is a challenging, creative field that opens a wide array of career opportunities in innovative companies that can offer flexibility, clever work contracts, and international opportunities.”
What are your current thoughts on the technology industry?
“The technology industry is going through a challenging and exciting phase of its history. On one side, the current electronic components market crisis is challenging companies to evolve into financially sound entities with long-term planning and strategic approaches while at the same time being incredibly adaptive, creative, and flexible to adjust to the current market conditions.”