Women in GovTech: Despina Mitropoulou

The DUET project recognises its responsibility in raising awareness of women working in govtech and wishes to help encourage young women into rewarding ICT-related careers. As part of its commitment DUET wishes to share the experiences of the women involved in our project.

We continue our series of mini-interviews with Despina Mitropoulou, Director,

GFOSS – Open Technologies Alliance

Job Title Director

I received my BSc (Hons) in Digital Media from the University of Portsmouth and my MSc in Child-Computer Interaction from the University of Central Lancashire. I started working for GFOSS – Open Technologies Alliance in 2010 as a project coordinator and am currently the Director of the organization. As the director of GFOSS I have participated as an invited speaker in multiple events/conference to discuss and promote Open Source Policies and Initiatives. I have also been responsible for the organization of several workshops/conferences about Open Source and I actively participate in the design and implementation of GFOSS’ initiatives and projects.

Overview of the job

Being the director of a non-profit organization, there is always a challenge to balance the management of projects and also actively participate in creative and innovative initiatives. I am lucky enough to be involved in an organization with a wide range of activities on Open Source Software, Open Data, Open Educational Resources etc, so a lot of the initiatives and projects we implement involve STEM education. GFOSS is the national contact point for Scientix in Greece, therefore we organise and participate in many initiatives that promote STEM education. Some of the most recent projects we designed and implement that relate to STEM are the annual competition of Open Technologies in Education and the Code+Create project.

What inspired you?

I cannot say that there has been someone or something specific that initially inspired me to start this job. Although there was a series of (mostly unplanned) events that led me to the position I am today, once I started getting involved in the field of Open Source and Openness in general, I was every day inspired by the people of the community and my colleagues to actively participate and contribute as much as possible.

Typical working day

Apart from the daily communication via emails and teleconferences (that have been increased in the Covid era) we have daily and weekly short sprints with my team to check in and plan the tasks of the day/week.

Apart from that, there is no typical working day, and this is the aspect that I love about my current job, since because of the diversity of the projects that we implement and participate in, one day I might be talking to a conference about Open Education and its principles and the next I might be working on a deliverable of a project about Digital Twins! My job also involved a lot of travelling (in the pro-Covid era) that has now been replaced with teleconferences.

 

Study & career path

After I finished school, I was not yet sure about my field of studies and the career path I wanted to follow.

Therefore, I decided to take a 2 years course in a Vocational Training Institute in ICT and realised that I liked the field, but I enjoyed mostly the creative aspect than the technical aspect and this is why I decided to get a degree in Digital Media next. I was always fond of children and educational activities and this is what led me to then do a Masters in Child Computer Interaction and try to combine ICT and education. Although at the time of my studies I did not have a clear career path in mind, I realize now that my studies and skills acquired through them, have prepared me for the career path I followed. If I started all over again I believe I would make the same choices since I have gained experiences and knowledge in different fields that when combined have helped me throughout my career.

 

Key skills

  • Critical thinking and Problem-solving are necessary skills especially when you manage a team and challenges raise on a daily basis, that you usually need to resolve in a short amount of time.

  • Research is necessary for proposals and projects especially in the field of ICT where things change constantly.

  • Administrative Skills are very important when you need to manage projects and activities.

  • Collaboration Skills, since you are required to work as part of a team, within the organization but also with other stakeholders in projects.

  • Presentation and Social Skills are needed as very often I have to participate in events and present and advocate for the principles and benefits of Open Technologies.

  • Editing, Writing and Translation, are skills that are needed for creating or reviewing reports, policy papers, studies etc.

  • IT Skills, are also important. Although for my job I will not be directly involved in the development of technical parts of a project, however in order to manage a team of software engineers and developers and monitor tech projects, technology literacy and understanding terminology and design principles are required.

  • It goes without saying, that managing skills are essential for my job and are used every day within the organization but also with external stakeholders and collaborators.

  • Last but not least, personal skills such as Adaptability, Commitment, Creativity, Motivation, Personal responsibility, Self-reflection, Time Management, etc are needed in order to perform my job successfully.

 

Career prospect

Having acquired multidisciplinary skills both through my studies and my work experience there are different sectors that I could work and utilise my skills. I could work in the ICT sector with expertise in Open Source Software, in Project Management, in Research, in Education, etc. ICT is used horizontally in so many different fields, therefore I could also easily move to another sector.

 

Challenges

So much to do and so little time! The main challenge is usually time management and monitoring of tasks.

Since we have a wide range of activities there are always more that we want to do and accomplish but usually, we do not have enough resources and time to implement everything! This is why time management, prioritization, and delegation are essential skills.

 

Your advice to students

I remember when I was finishing school there was a lot of pressure for students to figure out early on exactly what they will study and what career path they want to follow. In my case I had no idea what I wanted to do so I decided to experiment and try different things. From my side, I would say that it is ok if you do not always have a clear plan! The world evolves every day, and from what we learned this past year is that circumstances can change, so there might be a career path that you will end up following that has nothing to do with what you initially planned or studied. My advice to students would be to follow their interests and ambitions and try to gain knowledge and skills from every experience and opportunity you get!

 

Your advice to teachers and parents

I would suggest to teachers and parents to inspire and support children’s ambitions as much as possible. Expose them to many and diverse opportunities and let them try different things and experiment until they find their inclination and realize their talents. Respect and accept their differences but do not limit children because of them. Give attention to social and personal skills such as self-confidence, adaptability, curiosity, motivation, and empathy since they are of the same importance as the skills you teach them around specific topics.

 

What does a Digital Twin mean to you in one sentence? 

A Digital Twin can be a powerful tool for decision and policymakers since it can provide the opportunity of testing and getting predictions and estimations of policy plans prior to their implementation with the use of real data.

Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert? 

Although my colleagues and friends believe I am an extrovert since I am a very social person, I feel more comfortable and relax when alone, so I would describe myself as an introvert.

 

How do you cope with stress?

I cannot say I always cope!

I try to spend more quality time with my family, especially time with my daughter usually relaxes and recharges me (seeing the world from the perspective of a 7 years old usually helps!)

What's the last book/tv-series you have read/watched?

I am a mum, so the latest book I read was Tad by Benji Davies to my daughter last night! The story of a small female frog that even though is smaller than her siblings and is growing at her own pace learns how to overcome her biggest fears.

This interview was also presented as a career sheet on the STEAMIT project website.

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DUET has received funding from the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870697. 

 

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