At fifteen years old Cláudia Soares had her professional life all planned out. She knew she wanted to dedicate her time to two very different fields. Her first big disappointment came when she realized that in school she was required to reduce her preferences and pick a field of studies. But instead of giving up her plan she decided to study one area first, and later the other.
At thirty years old Cláudia had finished a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and a Masters in Linguistics as well as studied to the Master level in Electrotechnical Engineering. Right after that Cláudia went on to work with companies, both spin-offs from IST. And even at that time, she kept a foot in different areas of knowledge, like software engineering, and her mind on the original plan she had when she was younger.
When asked about why she chose two so seemingly different fields Cláudia answers that they are, in fact, very connected. “They are both sciences of the invisible. Conceptually I knew at fifteen that these two invisible fields – literature and electrotechnical engineering – were connected in some way. As time passes I realize that for me, one part doesn’t work without the other. And the more I specialize in data science the more sense it makes since it’s a field that elicits this kind of flexible thought. You need to go from sociological processes and understanding concepts like “safety perception “. Things that you try to quantify but there comes a time when you have to live with the fact that it’s diffuse. My training in the humanities allows me to deal calmly with that reality while also being able to go forward with the “hard” techniques.”
For Cláudia this integrated view of society helps her a lot, as well as an ability to express the results in writing. “I think that it’s a great problem that people very invested in technical fields normally have difficulty expressing themselves. And it’s a problem that seems to be starting to be addressed because people are realizing that science doesn’t stop when you find new things but when you show others what you did, so that we may collectively grow on top of that.”
This diversity of interests allows for Cláudia to have internal moments of serendipity when different sets of information collide into conclusions. For her, information needs to be integrated when experiencing the world. “Only with this global view of knowledge do I feel complete. If I’m using a computer to write a document, I can’t just use the computer, I need to know how it works and why it allows me to do this task. I wish I was able to learn everything!”
After her time in the private sector, it was time to go back to the original plan, so she went back to Técnico for a PhD, particularly at ISR. At the Institute Cláudia found two things that she values: one is the discovery of new themes, particularly through crossover work with companies; and another is working in very differentiated teams. “Companies tend to specialize more and I find that very valuable but I tend to be more stimulated by work that permits a wider range of tasks and growing. Nowadays Portugal is much more open to that. Even in some companies, you can be allowed to develop personal projects and to communicate with colleagues from other branches.”
And where will the rest of her plan take her? “At fifteen I remember wanting to create my own company to do something applying to people. I really appreciate the ability to give back and at the same time teaching is something I very much enjoy doing. Data science happens to be a universe where I see the positive impact of a variety of interests and learning, so who knows where that will take me…”