Women in ICT - Sofia Nunes
URBANAGE project recognises its responsibility in raising awareness of women working in ICT and wishes to help encourage young women into rewarding ICT-related careers. As part of its commitment URBANAGE wishes to share the experiences of the women involved in our project.
Job title: Project Officer
I am Sofia Santos Nunes, project officer at AGE Platform Europe – a European Network with more than 100 members that promote the rights of older people. I am responsible for implementing research projects on smart and active ageing, digitalisation, age-friendly environments and value-based care, making sure the voice of older people is heard. My background is in Clinical and Community Psychology with a postgraduation in Neuropsychology and Social Psychology. I have been working on European and community-based projects since 2018 in Portugal, Spain, Colombia, UK, and Belgium.
Overview of the job:
Europe has conquered longevity with 20% of its population aged 65. In 2050, almost 30% of Europeans will be aged 65% with some member-states having almost 40% of people aged 55. At AGE, we celebrate longevity as one of the greatest achievements of humanity. We raise the aspirations and needs of older people bridging the gap between them, researchers, professionals and policymakers. I support to transform our members’ experiences and ideas into policy proposals, advocacy, campaigning, dissemination actions and projects. The support provided by STEM professionals and research is integral to my job to understand, address, and improve the experiences of older individuals and to create a society for all ages through scientific research, technological innovations, and evidence-based policy recommendations.
What inspired you:
For me it was clear from the beginning of my career that I wanted to dedicate my life to create a society for all ages and promote the rights of older people. I had the luck to be raised by my incredible grandmother who inspired me to believe in the power of a caring community and the gift of ageing. She never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write, lived all her life in a small rural village, and yet she was a native storyteller with a deep knowledge of life, a connection with nature, and wisdom to share. So, I want to contribute to a world where all generations have the opportunity to enjoy their rights and explore the grace of aging in a caring community.
Typical working day:
My typical working day passes by creating bridges between different stakeholders and translating older peoples’ aspirations and needs to different audiences and research to the general public and our members. The content depends on the project and the kind of tasks are various. It could be from working with project partners on how to codesign and involve older people in research, consulting our members on their perspectives regarding a specific topic (for example, care), writing policy recommendations based on the evidence from our projects or even organising events and communication activities to raise awareness for the need to combat ageism, promote human rights throughout the life course, reduce inequalities and enable everyone to live a full and dignified life!
Study and career path:
I started my journey in Portugal as an enthusiastic student of Psychology in the University of Lisbon. I was fascinated by the brain and neurosciences! Currently, the knowledge we have regarding how the brain works is similar to the knowledge we have of the universe. So, imagine, how much there is to explore! I went to Psychology to understand the human experience and learn evidence-based tools to contribute to a healthier, more connected, and caring world.
During my university studies, I gave a lot of importance to volunteering in the community. I was part of a Youth NGO called GASNova that believed in the power of youth to change the world. With them, I received social activism training and was involved in several awareness campaigns and community projects in Portugal and Sao Tome and Prince. That gave me my first global vision of the challenges and opportunities of current society and how to start from local to work on the world we want to live in.
Another high point of my academic pathway was two ERASMUS+ opportunities: passing one year studying in France and having an internship in the UK in a progressive residential home for older people in London.
All of these international experiences put me ahead when I reached the labour market. By the time of my first official job in an NGO that did European-funded community projects, I already had different experiences of social activism and community-based projects. Volunteering for different causes and having contact with different populations, cultures and contexts, gave me important skills in adaptability and intercultural dialogue. By the time I finished my master’s degree, I had clear what I wanted to do in my professional life.
For my job, I make use a lot of:
Analytical skills – I have an evidence-based approach to all the tasks I have to do within the projects from policy recommendations to writing articles for our newsletter.
Communication skills – To create bridges between older people and the different society stakeholders is essential to have high-level communication skills.
IT skills – Given that a lot of projects involve digitalisation, it is important to have an overview of how technology works and is developed.
Management skills – to assess that the projects deliver the expected outcomes.
Personal and Social skills – working in the advocacy field, these skills are the most important to fight for social change!
Psychology allows you to work in all the fields where there are people involved! So, it is quite broad. The same for project management skills. Both fields require continuous lifelong learning and skills updating to keep up with the latest scientific discoveries and their societal implications.
From policy to local or organisational level, psychologists have always something to contribute to increasing the quality of the human experience. As I got specialised in fighting for older people’s rights, my future will always be in this area either working from a bottom-up perspective (individual-local community) or with a top-down eye (policy-society) and always creating the bridge between these two perspectives with an evidence-based approach!
My main challenge in my job is to translate and communicate science to different audiences. Sometimes, translating research into policy or to the general public requires a great effort to simplify language and to give concrete action points and the contrary is also true! In research we get so specialized and closed in our bubble that for someone coming from the outside (and most of the time, they are the ones we work for) is hard to understand the context, its impacts and the benefits from applying the findings of our work.
Your advice to students:
Volunteer and put yourself in contexts outside your comfort zone. Take advantage of global and European funding opportunities for volunteering as ERASMUS+, European Solidarity Corps, etc. Volunteering gives you important skills that will facilitate a lot the labour market, independent of the area. Being able to communicate, creating bridges and putting ourselves into others’ shoes are the key skills that will define the future of humanity. Humans are social animals, and no field is an island, especially when it comes to science! So, invest in transversal skills and in developing work-life balance. Only if we have a balanced life, we can have the energy to go far! There is a common African expression that says “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, let’s go together” and it is true.
Your advice to teachers and parents:
Creating caring communities and healthy environments where students can express their full potential and try different approaches without the fear of being judged is crucial. We should invest more in the ‘soft skills’ and cultivate the wonder for/of life and science in academia! We need to motivate students to find their purpose in what they study, present the “why” and “what for”, the societal benefit and the bigger purpose that their professional lives can have.
This interview was also published on the Scientix portal.