21st century Women Technologists: Marta Sestelo


A new episode of this popular series of interviews with women technologists today we introduce you our colleague Marta. Native Gondomar woman Marta has a PhD in Statistics and Operational Research and now is currently working as a developer in the area of Intelligent Network Systems (INetS) at Gradiant, an occupation she combines with teaching in he Department of Statistics and I.O. at the University of Vigo. In addition to statistics, our colleague is a cinema lover -passion that runs in her family since her grandfather owned one which still conserves some of the seats of the times-, design and contemporary art. Marta confesses that she also loves to travel and learn traveling, more so if it is with a backpack.

What did you want to do when you were younger?

To be honest, I wasn’t sure. I remember a time when I wanted to be a doctor and be able to help people, save lives, contribute to society… but there were also days when I wanted to be a teacher, I suppose influenced by the image of my father preparing his classes. I also remember that at one time, it came to me to be like Jacques Cousteau – apparently I watched many of his documentaries – so I wanted to be a scientist and an educator. I imagined myself travelling the world’ s seas and discovering new places and cultures.

Why did you choose technology for your future?

For me, technology was not the first choice. Due to the influence of “Jacques”, I finally decided to study Marine Biology. When I finished my degree, I was awarded a research scholarship and began to work on topics related to marine resources. At that time I realized that mathematics – and in particular statistics – were very necessary to carry out any research or new development. I remember that I had to work with an enormous amount of data and I had no clear idea what to do with it. This led me to consider a change, why not reinvent myself? In the end, with effort and tenacity, we can achieve everything we set out to achieve. Today I am a Doctor in Statistics and I work totally immersed in the world of technology.

Where did you plan to do your career? Why?

It was always clear to me that I wanted to study far from Gondomar (and I love my village). I wanted to know what it felt like to be away from home, I wanted to try to manage on my own. The idea was not only to study, but also to meet people, to live in new situations… In the end, I didn’t go that far (laughs), Santiago de Compostela was the destination but it also served to achieve my objective.

What are you currently working on?

I work mainly in the field of cybersecurity and, in particular, I dedicate myself to the research, development and application of statistical methods or machine learning that help to detect and prevent possible attacks or network threats. In addition, as statistics is a transversal area, I also have the opportunity to work on other areas, such as the development of algorithms to improve the management of marine crops or to detect the “viralization” of contents within social media.

What do you like most about your job?

What I like the most is to be able to apply scientific knowledge and mathematics in such diverse fields. it is a pleasure to be able to continue learning in each new project and from the people who work in it. In this sense Gradiant is a perfect place, the work environment is incredible, there are always new proposals to participate in and trained people available to help.

Who is your feminine reference in tech world?

Unfortunately, it is still not easy to find female technological references. From my point of view, this means that something is not working well and that it is very difficult for us to have visibility in this world with a predominantly male presence. In any case, if I had to cite a woman as a current reference, this would be Fei-Fei Li for her professional career marked by a multidisciplinary character and also for her ability to combine the academic world with business.

What would you say to the technologist of the future?

I would encourage them to continue along this way. A technological revolution is real and promises to have an impact on various sectors, which will allow you to specialize according to your preferences. For this reason, I would tell you not to lose your motivation to continue learning and, from your own experience, I would encourage you not to be afraid to change course when you see it appropriate.