Gradient

Our Models and Their Brilliant Minds

Regardless of your gender, racial, ethnic identity, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs, you deserve to be represented in our magazine. Our current roster of models hail from Kazakhstan, India, Greece, and Hong Kong. If you'd like to model for us, head over to our submissions page for application details. Our new column, 'Meet Our Models,' will explore the varied backgrounds and feminist opinions of the people you see on our pages. 

Today we sit in her bedroom-turned-office talking computer science (CS), tomorrow we'll be on location shooting her Mona Lisa smile. I say 'talking' computer science, but really it's her detailing the ins and outs of CS to me as I sit there, trying to take it all in, playing it cool as if I'm not shaking in my boots in the face of her intellect. I have no doubt a significant portion of our readership would enjoy a discussion of the complexities of Marian Bitsikas' Computer and Management Science degree. However, for my own sake I'll encourage those so inclined to attend one of Edinburgh's next Women in Business events, where you're sure to find Miss Bitsikas more than happy to answer any "data science, cybersecurity, and software engineering" questions. She's served on the panels at such events, advising those interested in STEM on everything from classes to resume building. Her own love of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) realm began before she even knew the acronym, in a classroom in Athens, Greece. 

Bitsikas: My school got a grant to have 20 refugees in our school. I would talk to them, I tutored them. I was interested in how the 2015 humanitarian crisis and Greece’s declining birth rate would affect Greece, so I applied mathematical models. 

seventills15.JPG

Marian Bitsikas:
A self-made woman in STEM

I got data from the red cross and the Greek statistical society and I coded it, presented it, and I proved it with math. I love that.

 

Jump forward a few years and we find her closing in on a degree in Computer and Management Sciences, having completed a successful stint working for Rolls Royce and named one of the top 10 female undergraduates in the UK. 

Se7en: What type of work are you thinking of pursuing after your degree?

Bitsikas: The beauty of my degree is that I can choose whatever I want.  I see myself going into business and data analytics - data analytics for financial institutions. Last year I went to BP [British Petroleum], the oil company to do tech. I worked with Amazon, I did pure banking to see if I wanted just that banking side of the degree and I hated it. I didn’t like the lifestyle of 7:00 in the morning to 1:00 in

the morning the next day; that just wasn’t for me. Then I tried tech at a bank...at Deutsche bank. I’m sticking with that for now.

Se7en: After your degree, what are the ways in which you can see yourself helping other women? Not necessarily women in STEM, but helping women in general via your degree in STEM.

Bitsikas: I'm not sure what I'm going to do when I finish my degree. Right now I’m in the training and investment society; I’m teaching finance, I’m the head of the financial sector, I’m the head of their tech team. I think it’s important to have 

seventills16.JPG

women as heads of tech teams. I had my first meeting on Wednesday; in one day we had 70 sign ups and a lot of girls came up and approached me. I don’t know what I’ll do in the future, but right now if I can give back to those people in the room on Wednesday and just say that you’re not by yourself. There are so many people around you that can help too.

Se7en: Do you feel like you’re by yourself as a woman in STEM?

Bitsikas: A little bit, but I’ve gotten used to it. if there’s a girl in my tutorial I’ll go up and talk to her, sit next to her the entire time. So I’ll make the effort to try and create a bond. For a woman in STEM, I’d say don’t be shy. There are more women than you think there are. They make it sound horrible; they make it sound like there’s no one. When you’re put all together, you’re like, “There’s a lot more than I thought there were.”

Se7en: Even in that loneliness, how has the knowledge that you’ve gained doing computer and management sciences helped you feel more empowered?

Bitsikas: I think everyone should know basic finances and economics. 

Se7en: Do you think it's particularly important for women to know them?

seventills38.JPG

Bitsikas: Yes, because often it’s the man who makes the decisions. If you don’t know how to control your money or what’s going on, it’s very easy to rely on someone else. Because of societal structures, it’s been normalised for women to rely on men. Just by understanding what’s going on you can gain greater financial independence so you don’t have to rely on someone. It makes me more confident. 

Se7en: How else do you think doing computer and management sciences has changed your outlook on life as a woman? 

Bitsikas: It's made me take every opportunity. I’ve done business competitions, I’ve done data science competitions, I’ve done software engineering competitions, and I try to look for opportunities. I’ve done so many different types of things to try to figure out what fits me best. I’m taking every opportunity my degree has to offer, from extreme finance to extreme CS and everything that falls in the middle to try and see where I fit in best.  It’s better to pursue your passion and to go for it than to limit yourself to one thing and then realize it’s not what you wanted in the end. Try everything, and something will stick. Something will create a passion that you will want to work for.

Se7en: In terms of a gender-aware outlook, how do you think being in the sciences increases a person's open-mindedness? 

Bitsikas: I’d say with the sciences, everything is clear cut - that’s the point of the sciences. In other fields there’s a billion ways to do something, which makes life difficult, but with math and science there’s only one answer. It puts you in this mindset of, 'there’s one thing or one set of rules,' and that can make it hard to be open. I’d say talking individually to people though, people in STEM are very progressive. There’s a lot of people trying to break through the barrier and decide I can be this, this and this, but I can still apply this rigid mindset to my work. It doesn’t have to apply to who I am.