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WOMEN IN HIGH-TECH

Interview With

Elsa Sklavounou

21.9.2022

 

Smart, witty, and full of life are only a few words to describe the vibrant woman I was lucky enough to speak to. In this first interview of the Women in High-Tech series, I talk to Elsa Sklavounou. 

Elsa works for RWS in the role of Senior Director of International Partnerships and is responsible for building and maintaining global alliances. One such alliance is with Semantic Web Company, where she helps to push forward the PoolParty OEM integration with RWS’ Tridion.

In this interview she discusses how technology and creativity can and must coexist, what it’s like to be a passionate mother and female leader in a male-dominated workplace, and how the global pandemic has actually improved our relationships.

COVID made the world fall in love with technology. It improved every aspect of our lives and influenced our communication culture. We use technology to accelerate digital interaction so that we can live our lives to the fullest.

Elsa Sklavounou

Elsa Sklavounou

VP of Global Partnerships

Elsa is RWS’s Senior Director of International Partnerships, and is responsible for building and maintaining global alliances. She graduated from the French Philology School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and then specialized in Linguistics and Translation Technology at the University of Paris.

Interview Questions & Answers

Can you tell me a little bit about your professional background?

I have a diverse background in mathematical linguistics and began my career in an academic setting, which served as the foundation of my career. Machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and content technologies were integral parts of my academic work field, which led me to pursue a career in high-tech.

What is the driving element of your job ?

My role as VP of AI Alliances and Global Partnerships is primarily about people who create and deliver innovative services, rather than just technology.

I am constantly on the lookout for details because I see them as vectors of innovation. Something that can help us predict what will happen in the future and model our choices accordingly. 

What is technology to you ?

For me, technology is an artifact. Meaning a tool of cultural interest that was created by humans. In order to manufacture an artifact, you need one driving element- passion.

Passion is what always initiates this first step of creation. If your work is driven by passion, you naturally believe in its cause. This is why technology and creativity are two coexisting forces that complement each other.

How can technology develop into a creative process?

When you view technology as an artifact created from a pool of creative ideas, you can align its development with pragmatism and create a workflow that leads to success. It’s similar to using a paintbrush in certain ways. You can create and channel your creativity in ways you never thought possible by using different colors, materials, and canvases. Innovation is something that takes you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to new possibilities.

How do you nurture passion ?

By observing what is happening in the world. Not just when it comes to technology, but in general. Passion should represent what is happening in the world and illustrate social evolution. It is the way to transform and create something that is going to be useful. This became especially apparent during the global pandemic!

What impact do you think the global pandemic had on the technology industry?

COVID made the world fall in love with technology. It improved every aspect of our lives and influenced our communication culture. We use technology to accelerate digital interaction so that we can live our lives to the fullest. We can use technology to pay our bills, order groceries, schedule doctor’s appointments, and attend yoga classes. It is an element of reality that many of us are still unaware of.

 We understood the significance of rehumanizing our daily interactions the moment we were confined to our homes. We started to miss people.

Do you believe that the tech industry is still male dominated?

I don’t believe it’s male-dominated. At the end of the day, it boils down to who makes an impact and who decides to stay in his/her comfort zone. Men and women are driven by the desire to want to create something new or improve something that already exists. In order for creation to take place, you need to leave your comfort zone and observe. Creativity and innovation are not contradictory. People who work in tech need to ask themselves the question of how to connect creativity with pragmatism and usability.

Do you think it is possible connect creativity with pragmatism and usability ?

Absolutely. In some industries, you see the bottlenecks in making your dreams come true. I am a firm believer that dreams do not have boundaries at first, which is why I regard regulations in my job as guidelines rather than boundaries. The creative approach of creating artifacts and experimenting with ideas; is what technology can provide me with.

What is a driving force in professional and personal life ?

I want to be useful. I want to apply my ideas and transfer them into the greater realm of technology. Because technology represents products and services that are meant to be of use to everybody. It allows you to take time for yourself and your life. Life should not be a task but a journey of self-discovery. 

What advice would you give a woman wanting to work in high tech ?

I think all women feel comfortable in high-tech. I agree. There are some difficult moments where we have to persevere, insist and voice our own point of view. Personally, I embrace the power of being and thinking differently. It is not easy in the beginning, but challenges mostly lead to growth.

A challenge women in tech often face is a conflict of different points of view. As professionals, we have to learn to communicate effectively and stand our ground. This can be achieved by careful observation, a fact-based approach, and the willingness to disagree. This lays the foundation for a respectful flow of communication and the quest for innovation.

What do you still want to accomplish in your career ?

A lot of things. I see my career as a major part of my life. For me, it’s all about expressing what I think and making a difference.

What is something that you want your daughter to know ?

I want her to see me as a strong woman in technology. It’s all about observation here. When you make a decision to raise a child, you want your kid to carefully observe you and nurture your inherited passion. I’m proud that my daughter is now an independent young woman, and we both continue to grow through mutual observation.

Who do you consider your role models ?

I don’t really have a role model, but freedom drives me. That is to say, complete freedom. Law, regulations, and unwritten laws are the means by which freedom can be attained. Examine how you fall in love, raise your children, and live your life as a citizen and a global citizen.

What motivates you ?

Life. I love the evolution of things by disagreeing. Creativity flows once we are not afraid to disagree and embrace different points of view and discourse. By disagreeing and looking for a common ground of understanding, you are building a deeper human connection.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words ?

Free, passionate and responsible. 

What are you currently reading ?

It’s all about semantics! ( laughs :D) I am quite active on social media because I want to know what is going on in the world. I consider myself a social digital reader and this is why I primarily use Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for this interview, Elsa !

It was a pleasure! It’s been great talking to you, and I think this project is off to a good start because people told me that I am a lucky charm. ( laughs).

Keen to learn more about our exciting partnerships ? Read about the use cases we’re addressing with our partner RWS.

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