Women in Tech: Interview with Zsófia Sarkadi, Winner of the HPC Scholarship 2022

Zsófia Sarkadi, Winner of the HPC Scholarship 2022

Zsófia Sarkadi is a PhD student coming from Budapest, Hungary. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Institute of Physical Chemistry, University of Pannonia, Hungary. Her research topic is ion transport through nanopores.

Zsófia also has a Master in Materials Engineering from University of Pannonia where the major topic covered was Experimental and theoretical analysis of kaolinite-organosilane complex.

Apart from her exceptional educational career, she has also excelled in publishing various peer reviewed articles of which some are “Scaling for selectivity in finite nanopores for 1:1 electrolytes: the dependence of predictability of device behavior on system parameters”, “Characterisation of kaolinite-3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane intercalation complexes”.

Zsófia, you are a person with in-depth knowledge in the field of Computer Science and Materials Engineering. You are a shining example of the limitless opportunities open to women in today’s world: to pursue self-development, to build a career, to be involved in research and educational projects. Tell us when you realised that you wanted to build a technical career in Engineering?

Thank you for your kind words and the opportunity to discuss my career journey in the fields of Computer Science and Materials Engineering. My realisation of wanting to pursue a technical career in engineering stemmed from a confluence of experiences and interests. Since I was young, I’ve been really interested in the complex workings of technology and how it affects our daily lives. This curiosity motivated me to study different areas of science.

During my early years in school, I got interested in solving problems in computer science classes, which made me like finding solutions through logical thinking. At the same time, I became fascinated by materials science and chemistry because I saw how materials could change different industries like electronics and sustainable energy.

As I continued my studies, I noticed that there aren’t many women in technical fields. This motivated me to chase my own goals and work to bring more gender diversity to STEM fields. My interest in pursuing a career in Engineering came from my curiosity about how technology works and my love for solving problems. I also realised that women have many opportunities today, which strengthened my determination to succeed in these fields and promote diversity and inclusion. I’m committed to always learning and coming up with new ideas.

Did you have any fears or limiting beliefs at the start? How did you overcome them?

Like many people starting something new, I had my doubts and worries. One of my main fears was that I might not be naturally good at technical subjects because I didn’t have much experience. To overcome this fear, I decided to have a growth mindset. I knew that getting good at technical stuff takes time and effort, so I worked hard and took every chance to learn more.

Dealing with the gender imbalance in STEM fields was another big challenge. Knowing that some fields were mostly for men could make me doubt myself and wonder if I’d be accepted. To tackle this, I looked for communities, mentors, and friends who were also into STEM and believed in breaking those barriers. Being around people who thought like me gave me confidence, strength, and the feeling that what I did mattered.

The fear of not being ‘good enough’ or meeting high expectations can be really scary. To deal with it, I kept reminding myself of what I’d achieved, tracked how I was getting better, and understood that it’s okay to face challenges when you’re learning. By celebrating small wins and asking for helpful feedback, I grew more confident over time. In the end, I had to look within, stay focused on improving, and lean on my supportive network to overcome these fears and doubts.

What is it like to be a woman scientist in a technical field?

Being a woman scientist in a technical field comes with both great achievements and tough challenges. It’s a unique role that involves dealing with various experiences, opportunities, and obstacles that shape your personal and professional journey.

One of the most important things women scientists bring to technical fields is their different perspectives and problem-solving approaches. This diversity makes scientific discussions richer and sparks new ideas by introducing different ways of thinking. Additionally, women scientists are strong role models who inspire future generations to follow their dreams, regardless of gender-based obstacles. Their own journeys show that with dedication and perseverance, you can overcome hurdles and make your dreams come true. Despite the many advantages, being a woman scientist in a technical field also comes with its own difficulties. There are still biases and stereotypes about gender in the science world, which can affect how people see and judge a woman scientist’s work. To overcome these biases, it takes a lot of strength and determination to consistently show how competent and skilled you are. Balancing work and personal life can be especially tricky for women scientists, as they juggle their technical careers with family responsibilities.

One of the main goals of the EUMaster4HPC is to encourage young women to choose technical careers especially in HPC. Do you think it is important to attract more women to HPC? If so, why?

Encouraging young women to pursue technical careers, especially in High-Performance Computing (HPC), is extremely important. Initiatives like EUMaster4HPC aim to achieve this goal. The focus on attracting women to HPC comes from recognising the many benefits that gender diversity brings not only to this specialised field but also to all STEM disciplines. Diversity and innovation go hand in hand. When women are included in HPC, it brings different perspectives and approaches that boost innovation. Having diverse teams means having a variety of viewpoints, which helps find creative solutions to complex problems.

Expanding the talent pool is another big advantage. Encouraging women to get into HPC brings in a wider range of skills and experiences, which speeds up research, improves collaboration between different fields, and helps us push the boundaries of what we know. Trying to get more women into HPC also promotes equal opportunity. Encouraging women to take on technical careers breaks down gender barriers, making it so that success is determined by abilities and skills, not gender. When women are seen excelling in HPC, it shows the potential that the field has for everyone.

What inspiring advice would you give young women interested in a technical career?

First and foremost, follow your passions and curiosity. The world of technology is vast, offering room for every interest, whether it’s coding, engineering, data analysis, or any other tech field. Understand that failure is not the end but a stepping stone. It’s a part of every journey, offering valuable lessons that contribute to your growth. Each setback is an opportunity to refine your approach, learn something new, and ultimately move forward with greater wisdom. Recognise the power of collaboration and diverse perspectives. Technology thrives on innovation, often arising from the merging of different ideas and experiences. Embrace working with people from various backgrounds to foster creativity and solve complex problems. Don’t hesitate to share your ideas; your voice is valuable and can lead to innovative solutions.