TU Wien Informatics


#5QW: Sanja Pavlovic

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At the 27th Epilog, Sanja received a Siemens Award for Excellence. We talked with her about her motivation and the kick she gets out of informatics.

Sanja at the 28th Epilog with Kurt Hofstädter (Siemens Austria) and Michael Heiss (Siemens Austria). © Amélie Chapalain/TU Wien

In 2018, Sanja Pavlovic received her Master’s degree in Logic and Computation for her excellent results. She is now enrolled at our FWF-funded Doctoral College for Logical Methods in Computer Science and works on her thesis in the field of Knowledge Based Systems.

How did you get in touch with informatics?

When I was four years old, my father opened a company which was dealing with hardware and in computer repair. I spent a lot of time there, also in the service section. That was the initial moment I guess. At the age of ten, I started competing in mathematics, which is also a very relevant discipline for computer science. In the last years of high school we had computer science courses and learned basic programming and its theory, the logic behind it—I think at this point I was sure I wanted to go into computer science and study it.

What makes informatics so fascinating for you?

That's a tough question, there are so many aspects! The first thing is the "explosion" in the field: in a few decades computer science went from barely anything to encompassing all spheres of our lives. The impact it has had—and still has—on society is immense. And the second thing is, even though the field has developed into so much, there is still even more we don't know and a lot of unsolved problems. The theoretical issues and questions are really relevant and fascinating for me.

Which talents should people bring along for a career in informatics?

Just two words: problem solving. Everything else, like coding and mathematics, you can learn. You should be talented in mathematics in some way, but there is nothing you cannot achieve with hard work. What you actually need is the ability to think about problems and to think about the solutions that those problems require.

Why do you think there are still so few women in computer science?

I remember that even though I had some sort of background in computer science, I was a little terrified when I started my Bachelor’s. They said it were beginners’ courses, but they weren’t. I saw many young men coming from HTLs (schools for higher technical education) with a lot of practical experience. Suddenly I thought: I am never going to catch up, I might as well give up on it right now. There is an unfair starting point concerning the treatment of children at an early age. Little boys get Lego and robots to play with, while little girls don’t. When it comes to technical toys, there is a difference in how girls and boys are being treated. Boys have the chance to start playing with technical toys and they grow a natural interest in technology. It is also the other way round: few boys are yet to be found in traditional women fields. Gender roles and stereotypes prevent pupils and even students from wanting to step out of these roles. I was lucky: I grew up in a family that was science-oriented, could provide some basic knowledge and nurtured my interests.

What makes you happy in your work?

The morning coffee, number one! (laughs) Seriously: It’s the problem solving. It might be frustrating even or a longer period, but when I finally solved a problem, I’m really satisfied and happy—no matter how miniscule the problem might be. And of course the colleagues. I have the privilege to work with amazing people. To work with other people and learn from them is very important to me.

Interview: Claudia Vitt, 2019