Maria Miguel

Maria Miguel


Time in tech 5 years
Current role Special Advisor @ Secretary of State of Industry
Place of origin Leiria

Tell us more about you:

Early years and where you came from?

I was born in a beautiful city called Leiria, 100km north of Lisbon. As a kid I was mostly into arts, doing theatre, writing, drawing and studying to become a musician. When I turned 17 I moved to Lisbon, still not sure if I wanted to be a full time piano player or something else. I enrolled in 2 higher education schools: Music and Economics, two very different fields but both very interesting to me. Very soon I realized that the discipline it took to play piano for 7 hours a day, if I was to be any good, was too heavy for me. I made a choice and 4 years later I majored in Economics and became a business journalist. I’m still passionate about music, though.

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

I currently work at the Ministry of Economy as an advisor to the Secretary of State of Industry, João Vasconcelos. I followed João here because I believe he is the most qualified person in the country to design a public policy to support entrepreneurs. Most of my job is to help him implement a national strategy for entrepreneurship, called Startup Portugal. I have always been passionate about this. Working as a journalist 15 years ago, I was very much interested in telling the stories of people who did it their way. Then after working as a journalist for 6 years, I spent 7 years working for consulting businesses in large multinationals, until eventually the corporate culture drove me away. I learned a lot there, but it just wasn’t me. So 5 years ago I quit my very well-paid job and decided to start my own consultancy boutique, called Too Small To Fail, which specialized in supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs that were starting to change my country. That’s when I came across João Vasconcelos. João was just launching a place called Startup Lisboa, which became the most relevant business incubator in the country. That’s where my firm was headquartered. Watching him build that place was enough to see him for the leader he is.

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

I have this romantic idea that the public policies that are being implemented right now under João’s mandate are changing the life of several people for the better. Being a part of that makes me feel very honoured and privileged… and surprised too. I always believed that you changed the world in the private sector. This newfound love for the public service is something very humbling and thrilling at the same time, for me.

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

I was trained as an economist, which helps if you’re working in the Ministry of Economy. But I believe that 75% of your performance depends not so much on technical skills but on behavioural skills. If I had to choose one thing that I believe has more impact on my performance today, I would say that having worked on so many different jobs, corporate cultures and under such different leaderships allowed me to develop an adaptability that is crucial to relating to so many different stakeholders nowadays. Entrepreneurs and engineers are a demanding crowd and being able to communicate with them is challenging in many ways.

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

As in any other field, creating a network is key. Visit the communities (incubators, accelerators, etc.), talk to the people, ask for advice, read about who’s who. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

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

I spend about 50% of my time writing and communicating what the Portuguese Government is doing with programs such as Startup Portugal and Industry 4.0, so that people learn about the opportunities that are being created to support their businesses. The rest of my time I manage projects and I assist the Secretary of State of Industry in his very dynamic agenda. Never a dull moment!

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

When I started my career as a journalist, my editor advised to always sleep on difficult resolutions. Having a very impatient and impulsive personality, this proved to be some of the best advice I could have received. Nowadays I’m trying to incorporate another great piece of advice: done it’s better than perfect.

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

I’m an all-apple lover. I have 4 apple devices in my life. I’m also highly addicted to Spotify and Songkick.

Links that you want to share?