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Eleonora Papini: from Finance to Project Manager & DEI Facilitator

Social media handle(s): LinkedIn

A few words about me:

Hi! I'm Eleonora, an Italian living in Greece with my three dogs.

After studying Finance for five years, I discovered I wanted to work in something other than that field because money is not everything.

I am passionate about sustainability, DEI, international cooperation, and travel. I fly drones, edit videos, and share fun global facts on IG in my spare time.

Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?

I'm proud to have been a Waitress for years, including 4 in the same restaurant during my university studies.

I also worked as a Cashier in a supermarket, Secretary and Hostess.

These jobs are not related on paper to what I do now, but they are related to what I do now in terms of skills learned. For example, being a Waitress allows you to understand the difference between what is urgent and important, a skill I use daily in Project Management. I discovered later that it is called the Eisenhower Matrix.

Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?

My background is in Finance. So non-STEM related, but close.

Where did your professional journey start?

It isn't easy to establish one moment in which my career began. Life is a set of situations, decisions, and emotions that intertwine and unite.

After finishing high school, I was perplexed about what I wanted to be "when I grew up". I was never a genius in school and never liked the idea of ​​9 to 5 jobs. So I didn't fit in anything I knew. After finishing high school, I took a year to reflect (a year in which I always worked anyway), and from there, I decided that I wanted to aspire to something better for my life.

My mother is a Secretary, and my father is an Entrepreneur. Looking at my parents, I didn't want to be either of the two but rather something in between.

Looking at my mother, I didn't like her frustration with being a fixed-time employee who always worked for bosses who didn't treat her well. But I liked her freedom after working hours. In my father's career, I liked his independence in making professional decisions, but I wouldn't say I liked the fact that he was working for himself. He was working 24/7.

That's why I decided to go to University (which for me was way easier than high school) and aim for a better education that would allow me to have more career choices.

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

To work in tech, you don't necessarily have to be an Engineer or a Programmer.

At least 42% of the hi-tech industry positions are business positions, not tech ones.

So when I finished university, I knew that I had a Finance background, but I started realising that I was passionate about sustainability. That's why I decided to do a second Masters's degree in Economic Development and International Cooperation.

After finishing this Master, I started looking for a job that aimed to improve at least one of the 17 SGDs.

I found a way to fulfil my dream as a Consultant for the municipality of Trikala, acting as a Project Manager for an international cooperation project involving six countries in the Mediterranean area. And in addition, I started collaborating with the LMF network as Data Analyst, Programme Manager and DEI Facilitator.

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

I was a fresh female graduate that started as a Consultant in two different countries (neither of which I am a native speaker in), so there were many challenges and stereotypes to face.

But to be 100% honest, I faced many challenges and stereotypes also as a Waitress in my native country. I remember that a restaurant didn't hire females because they thought that females wouldn't be strong enough to do that job.

The challenges and stereotypes I've faced in my tech career aren't all that different from the challenges and biases you may encounter in any other type of job or situation in life.

You could always not be competent enough, strong enough, or articulate enough.

And if I understand it, on the other hand, I realise that every company is different and every job (even those with the same job title) is different. So yes, even if I'm not "what you like" enough, you can always become one once you start working in that particular company.

"To work in tech, you don't necessarily have to be an Engineer or a Programmer"

What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...

What I'd like to tell my younger self is that, on the one hand, working in tech isn't as complicated as it seems. On the other hand, it is more complicated than it looks. So the bottom line is that if we take a path we like (it can be anything for me, for example, sustainability, travel and diversity and inclusion), it'll more manageable for us to learn complex things. If we take the path we like, everything will be relatively more accessible.

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?

The biggest 'wow' moment is related to the fact that I can work remotely from everywhere I want, as long as I have a good internet connection and my laptop. In the last two years, especially after the pandemic, I have travelled a lot because of work and pleasure, and I'm always amazed by my lifestyle.

I remember that as a young girl, I disliked both my parents' careers (for the reasons I explained above). And now that I've finally launched mine, it's like it all comes together. I don't have to submit to the usual 9 to 5 working hours, but I manage my working time as I see fit, plus I also have enough decision-making autonomy. The perfect hybrid I've always aspired to.

What do you like / not like about working in tech?

I enjoy working in tech because we have multiple solutions to a problem. If you need to create software, there is not a single way to do it, but billions of ways. Same thing if you need to create anything else. There are infinite ways to do everything. So working in tech allows us to let our imagination run wild and express ourselves in infinite ways.

I don't particularly like, or in any case not always, the fact of always having to update constantly. Every day there is new software or a new tool, and you must keep up with this technological advance if you don't want to be left behind. Continuous technological advancement is certainly a beautiful thing that allows us to do more and more things more efficiently and quickly. But it can be frustrating and challenging to always have to keep up to date on so many technologies all the time.

"The challenges and stereotypes I've faced in my tech career aren't all that different from the challenges and biases you may encounter in any other type of job or situation in life."

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

There were so many memorable or funny moments. Especially working in contact with people from different cultures and languages, ​​many crazy anecdotes arise.

One of the most memorable, and not because it is funny and not even tech related, but because it made me reflect that we are all different and shouldn't take anything for granted, happened to work with my Arabic team members. Working with partners from Egypt, Jordan and Palestine, I realised that their weekend is Friday and Saturday (and not Saturday and Sunday like I am used to). I am not saying anything new for many of you. And thinking backwards, I knew that too.

But this is information that I only genuinely memorised while working with them. And besides having learned this information, now I always wonder what holidays the people I work with celebrate, and I try to show that I'm a good ally, even if only by wishing them a happy holiday.

And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?

The most valuable advice I want to give is to follow your passions.

We are all different, and each of us likes different things. One can love design, fashion, cooking, photos, organising, programming, watching movies, reading books, animals, etc.

Understand your passions and how you can do a job out of them. In this regard, I recorded a 30-minute Masterclass for the LMF network called "Where to start Looking for a job", giving many exciting ideas for those starting or changing their career in tech. I strongly suggest everyone see it.

Through the LMF network website you can request a trial period on the platform and see the content of this and other equally interesting masterclasses.


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