Ana Silva

Ana Silva

Profile

Time in tech 16 years
Current role Open Innovation Manager @ SONAE
Place of origin Porto

Tell us more about you:

Early years and where you came from?

Although I have a training background in management, technology was always an important enabler of the work I was doing. My early work was in competitive intelligence (tracking the competitive context – competition and market – of the manufacturing sector I was working on) which meant designing the requirements and structure of knowledge management tools. From there, information management, collaboration and digital technology was always a great part of my work.

How were you introduced to the world of the Portuguese tech industry?

When I was about 9 years old one of my favourite toys was Spelling B from Texas Instruments. It looked like a big orange calculator but it was a sort of mini-computer to help learn English. I sometimes wonder how much that influenced me later, a pivotal moment for me was signing up to a post degree in Information Management & Marketing Intelligence back in 2008: that’s where my need to understand the role of tech in businesses and societies started to get really serious.

Walk me through your work and what you are doing now in the tech industry.

I’m managing the Open Innovation initiatives at Sonae, a retail group based in Portugal. The role implies scouting the best innovation partners in academia & research, the startups ecosystem and others and engaging them to work with us in co-innovation projects. That also means keeping up with technology trends and developments that influence how we address innovation challenges. Digital and other technologies have a great impact in retail innovation!

What part of what you do, you love the most?

My role is essentially about discovering competencies and common interested between different parties and building relationships (I’m sort of an innovation partnerships matchmaker). I LOVE the opportunity to build bridges between different organizations and help coordinate the efforts needed to make our co-innovation projects work. Combining different expertise to address real challenges is the best!

How do you think that your background and knowledge impact the way you approach your work in the Portuguese tech industry?

Hmm, great question! I would highlight a personal characteristic and a professional one. I am very curious and love learning and I see intellectual curiosity as a key skill in tech and innovation. Regarding my professional path, having started my career in competitive intelligence made me appreciate the importance of seeing the big picture before delving into the smaller details. So today I still try to look for the big picture, and the connections and interdependence between different elements, when addressing a challenge.

What advice do you have for young women that want to get into tech and don’t know where to start?

I remember wondering, many years ago, if I was a woman in tech because I don’t have an IT or similar background. But I learned from tech friends, and from the great people at cool meetups that you should look at technology from a broad lens. So my advice would be: get out there – go to conferences, attend meetups, join hackathons, tinker and experiment and listen and learn. Do not let your background or current job limit you. Groups like Geek Girls Portugal (formerly Portugal Girl Geek Dinners) and many others are a good place to start. Meetups like the Porto Startup Coffee are great experiences. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to people in tech (male or female) that inspire you and ask them how they started. And, of course, check Portuguese Women in Tech.

Walk me through a day in your life as a Portuguese women in tech.

It depends if I’m travelling or not. It can either be a regular day at the office (with meetings, coffee and the struggle to focus in an open space) or crazy long days with early flights when travelling abroad to meet our cool innovation partners.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Never stop learning and stimulating your curiosity. Never, Ever! And always try to balance work with other activities: they will make you grow (personally and professionally).

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Favourite tools? Strangely enough… paper notebooks. I may not remember where I saved that file but I always remember something I noted using pen and paper. “Appear.in” has been saving me from skype issues lately so kudos to them for making online conferencing really smooth. And, of course, my favourite serendipity machine: Twitter! It’s where I find the most interesting content and people.

Links that you want to share?

Not some I’ve been working on but something I’ve been thinking about: we need deeper discussions about the impact of AI, robots and the like. I’ve blogged about it here and would love to hear what other people think.

Anything else you want to share?

My motto: your work (job) may not be your life but let your life ignite your work!