Published 2016-01-08

Women in Tech: Meet Sandra Garcia

Childhood puzzles gave Data Scientist Sandra Garcia a taste for tech.


See all articles on Schibsted Women in Tech here

What sort of tech-projects have you been working on?

I have mostly been working with the personalization team building global recommender systems and supporting systems such as experimentation tools for Schibsted’s sites. As a data scientist my focus is on implementing and evaluating algorithms that help users discover interesting content based on their past activities on a site. Our recommendation engine is currently serving recommendations of classified ads to Blocket users and news articles to Aftenposten users. The plan is to integrate the engine with more sites next year.

What made you choose a career in the tech field?

Since I was a kid I always enjoyed games that involved problem solving such as puzzles or jigsaws. In school I was attracted to courses that told me the “why” of things, which were usually science related. When I was 10 years old my dad started bringing home computers from a friend who was a programmer so I had the chance to start using them from “an early age”. With the years I became more curious about how these machines worked and how to “talk” to them by building programs, so I decided to take a degree in computer science, which I really enjoyed. A cool thing about technology is that it is constantly evolving so you are always working on new and interesting challenges, which means you never get bored!

Why did you decide to work in Schibsted Media Group?

It was a fantastic opportunity to put in practice what I had researched during my PhD in recommender systems. Doing research is fun but solving real problems is even better, especially when there are so many! Trying to understand our users needs and problems and building systems to address them was something I found very exciting, especially as Schibsted’s end users are spread all over the globe, making this problem a lot more challenging and interesting!  

What are the advantages of working in Schibsted?

The great thing about working in Schibsted is the opportunity to work on very interesting technical projects with people from different backgrounds. In the last couple of years Schibsted has been transforming itself into a technology company attracting a lot of great talent that is helping build very cool systems using cutting-edge technology. You get to learn a lot while you work with really competent and smart people.

I also like the level of ambition in the company. There is a general feeling of excitement about what we are building and people are really willing to help and share ideas. And having beer Friday in the office is also a plus!

What could Schibsted do to attract more women in tech positions?

That is a hard question! To start with; it is important that Schibsted is actively trying to recruit a diverse workforce and encourage teams to be more gender balanced.

Initiatives such as women in tech are a step in the right direction. However we are still in a situation where we have engineering teams with very few women or none at all. I think Schibsted needs to better support these teams with low number of women and identify and recruite female talent.

Finding women with a technical background is hard but not impossible. Conferences or local meetups are great places to find talent, and Schibsted should continue participating and sponsoring these. Encouraging women to speak at events is also important in order to show that we have talented women in our organization which in turn can attract more women.

Finally, a common problem in many companies is the difference in women’s and men’s salaries and the low number of women in leadership positions. Showing that Schibsted is different in the sense that the company offers equal opportunities to men and women is something that will attract more women.

We are currently building a new tech organization so now is the perfect time to do something about the issue. Women are more attracted to companies with other women so if we start to attract women sooner, it will be a lot easier in the future.

What does the future look like for women in the tech field?

It’s hard to say but I want to think that they will be more present in the following years. I believe technology is becoming less male-dominated and women are becoming more interested in the field. There are many examples of great women who have succeeded in tech like Grace Hopper, Shafi Goldwasser, Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer to name a few. And of course there is also Ada Lovelace, the first programmer in history! These amazing women are and will continue to be of great inspiration for current and future girls interested in technology.

Additionally, kids today are exposed to technology from an early age. For example, many schools already have programming or robotics as a compulsory subject. It is important however that educators make sure that boys and girls are equally motivated by these courses, which unfortunately doesn’t happen often.

Technology has become a discipline that is present in so many fields, and that provides plenty of chances for people with a non-technical background to learn more about it. For example, I have met women in Schibsted that have started taking programming courses on their spare time. Seeing people develop this interest is very cool and something Schibsted should encourage more of!