21st century Women Technologists: Nora M. Villanueva


In a new edition of interviews with women technologists on our team, we introduce you to Nora. Our colleague was born in Mexico D.F. but has lived in Vigo since she was a child. She is now a PhD student of Department of Statistics and I.O. in University of Vigo and a researcher in Gradiant’s Intelligent Systems area. In her free time, Nora enjoys music -if it is live, that’ s better-, travel and gastronomy. These two hobbies are the ones she likes to combine: every time she visits a country, she doesn’t go without tasting typical local food.

What did you want to do when you were younger?

I think I wanted to be an astronaut. I’ve always been curious to see what’s in our galaxy, what it feels like to fly on a rocket or feel like “floating”. Through the years I learned that this is called weightlessness (laughs). Later I focused on becoming a scientist and researcher. I liked to have questions and experiment until I got answers. Anyway, I’m still thinking about taking a trip out of Earth’s orbit… and now Elon Musk is taking you! (laughs).

Why did you choose technology for your future?

The truth is technology came into my life a few years ago, but it wasn’t my first choice. It was always clear to me that I wanted to study something about science and finally I opted for Biology because I was interested in the idea to work in a laboratory. Later, after a few years of ” bathrobe scientist” I became a data scientist.

Where did you plan to do your career? Why?

It was clear to me that I wanted to study out of home, in a university town. I think the university stage is a period to learn, but also to develop our personally. Studying abroad allows you to live in situations that would be approached differently at home. I loved enjoying those years in Santiago de Compostela.

What are you currently working on?

I am part of Gradiant’s Intelligent Systems area and, specifically, I am working in the eLearning line. My work focuses on the research and implementation of new algorithms and the application of Machine Learning statistical techniques to improve the learning experience. The goal is to build intelligent solutions that support individualized and adaptive learning, both in corporate and educational environments, contributing to implement a model of “Smart Lifelong Learning” for the training of workers in Industry 4.0.

What do you like most about your job?

What I like most is that I work in a very dynamic and non-routine sector, which allows me to continue learning. On the other hand, this learning can be generalized to other fields besides the one you are specialized in because the environment in Gradiant is more multidisciplinary every day.

Who is your feminine reference in tech world?

I’d like to mention Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli. She was one of six women who programmed ENIAC, one of the first computers in history. It seems that at that time all the credit went to those who built the machine, but what about women who programmed it?

What would you say to the technologist of the future?

I would say to them that technology is now part of our daily lives, so they can go deeper into it and discover that there is a wide range of opportunities and application sectors.