Women in GovTech: Lea Hemetsberger
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.
of mini-interviews. Lea reveals her journey to her ground-breaking work at a global
Smart Cities network and the importance of a very particular acronym.
Job Title: Communications & Project Director
What do you do?
At Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC), I’m managing the network’s communications and coordinate our
projects, such as the DUET Digital Twin Project.
My role is two-fold: On the one hand, I’m doing my best to explain the work and benefits of OASC to a diverse audience (Policymakers, project and IT managers as well as developers) and I work on a strategy to grow and nurture our community. For this, I need to understand the technical implications of our work and translate it into digestible pieces for both the tech-savvy stakeholders (as in really deep into the technical nitty-gritty of ICT standards, Urban Data Platforms, etc) as well as the more policy-oriented stakeholders.
On the other hand, I work in-depth with colleagues from all around Europe and beyond on the deployment of open city technology that adheres to the OASC principles for an open and fair digital urban transformation.
What did you study?
I started off studying Journalism in Germany, where I learned the in’s and out’s of the craft - from writing stories, to producing radio and TV shows. After interning for one of Germany’s major car manufacturers, I followed up with a Master’s degree in ‘New Media and Society’ at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). At was at VUB, where I first got in touch with smart cities, open data and OASC as part of my master’s thesis.
Have you followed a planned career path?
If someone had told me at the age of 18 that I would end up working for an international smart city network, supporting and coordinating cutting-edge ICT projects in Europe as part of my job, I would have laughed straight into this person’s face. Me? In ICT? No way. But here I am and it’s quite a fun job including the sometimes astonished faces when I put my tech knowledge on the table. That being said, I’m of course lightyears away from being a CTO, but it usually surprises people that I know what a context broker is.
What barriers have you encountered during your career?
Not one - apart from the usual disappointments after failed interviews. On the job, I have always been blessed with a supportive environment.
Who has supported your development?
As mentioned, I always had great environments to work in. At OASC, I’ve been working closely with our CEO, Davor Meersman, who’s been incredibly supportive from the start, but also entrusting me with responsibility from very early on. The same goes for the chair of our Board of Directors, Martin Brynskov.
What are you most proud of?
That I know what “ETSI NGSI-LD” stands for, what it is, and why cities should know that, too.
What would you change?
Nothing. Following Edith Piaf’s advice to not regret anything.
What advice would you give to women wanting to enter the tech field?
Don’t be afraid of a room full of tech-savvy guys. They don’t bite, on the contrary, they are rather really cool to work with (at least from my experience). My general advice is: Do what you think you are best in and what you like, don’t let anyone tell you that just because whoever you are, you can’t do it, stand by your decisions and don’t be afraid to acknowledge that sometimes a decision was not the best (in hindsight).
What does a Digital Twin mean to you in one sentence?
At the moment, it means quite a lot of work. Not only within DUET. Digital Twins are the hype of this decade in the smart cities domain. And now we have to get it right so that the concept delivers on the promise. (Sorry, more than one sentence, but they are short though!)
Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?
Introvert. As much as I like to meet new people over a beer (blessed are the times when this will be possible again), I do need the calm space of the home to recharge.
How do you cope with stress?
Yoga. No joke.
What's the last book/tv-series you have read/watched?
Due to COVID, that list is quite long. I pretty much watched all of what Netflix has to offer (at least it feels like that). What I’m currently reading is Jane Jacob’s ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. Even though this book was written over 50 years ago, it still holds so many valuable observations for everyone working with cities. On the fictional side of books, I’ve just finished reading Bulgakov’s ‘The Master & Margarita’. What a book. You have to read this masterpiece for yourself.