This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. By clicking or navigating the site you agree to allow our collection of information through cookies. More info

2 minutes to read Posted on Friday February 9, 2024

Updated on Friday February 9, 2024

portrait of Georgia Evans

Georgia Evans

Senior Editorial Officer , Europeana Foundation

Eight questions to women working in tech and digital cultural heritage

International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February celebrates the important contributions which women make to science and technology. To mark the day, we are highlighting women across the Europeana Initiative who lead the way in tech, research and development in cultural heritage, asking them, ‘What would you like to be asked about your work - and what is the answer?’

Black and white photograph of women working in a laboratory
Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital, Delhi: women working in a laboratory. Photograph, 1921.
Wellcome Collection
United Kingdom

‘I would like to be asked: what does it mean to publish data on'

'My answer would be that publishing data, digitised cultural heritage online, on may seem to be a fully technical undertaking. And that’s partly true - the task is supported by machines and technologies. But they themselves are created and maintained by people, and at its core, the act of publishing data relies more on people or an organisation’s passion to support the creation of digital collections, willingness to collaborate and openness for new learning experiences. The technology is there to support and facilitate new forms of interaction for the online space, and human qualities continue to play a very important role.’

- Adina Ciocoiu, Metadata Coordinator, Europeana Foundation

‘I would like to be asked: what motivated you to become a software engineer?’

‘The answer is a funny story, because software engineering was not my first choice! Growing up, I had easy access to computers and technology thanks to my dad and brother. They always showed great enthusiasm towards the field of computer science and their excitement was contagious. However, I did find it to be very intimidating. After I didn’t manage to get into my first choice of study, I got a little push from my parents to try studying Computer Science. I was scared at first, but thanks to my parents' support, I went head-on and gave it a try. Little did I know that I would like it this much. Fast forward to today, I am currently working as a software developer, enjoying my work very much and always eager to learn more and more about this field. I’m very happy that I took this risk!’

- Joana Correia Magalhães Sousa, Software Developer, Europeana Foundation

‘I would like to be asked: what is a knowledge graph, and how do you efficiently represent the knowledge of a field in which you’re not specialised, in one?’

‘My answer would be that a knowledge graph is a structure which captures entities and concepts (nodes) associated with a field and the relationships between them (edges). Knowledge graphs contextualise data, helping us to understand the semantics of a domain. As a knowledge graph specialist, I am often asked to develop graphs that represent the knowledge of fields I am not specialised in. Regardless of the specific technology I choose for implementing the graph each time, the key to it stands in gaining a holistic understanding of the field. And how can I do this? By establishing fruitful collaborations and effective communication with the experts of the domain. Interdisciplinary collaborations together with adherence to standards are crucial in efficiently capturing knowledge and encoding it into a knowledge graph. So the key to success lies in people!’

Vicky Dritsou, Scientific Associate, Digital Curation Unit, IMSI / ATHENA R.C.

‘I would like to be asked: what does a test consultant do, and why do you want to work in this role?’

‘My answer to the first question is that as a test consultant, I ensure that our website is working as expected before new developments go live; to do this, I do manual and automatic tests of the code that our developers have written for each requirement in a test environment. I might identify defects or errors, and I test each and every detail. For example, I make sure that when datasets are submitted for aggregation, the data flows correctly through the workflow and are published on with all the correct information.’

‘And the answer to why I am in this role? I have always loved testing - as long as I can remember, I used to assemble toys and electronic goods without looking at the instruction manual. I was eager to try different combinations and see what happened. After completing my studies in Electronics and Communications, I didn’t have any difficulty in choosing testing as my career. I’ve been working in this field for nine years, and it still continues to excite me - I have no second thoughts of changing to a different domain. I am happy and love what I do.’

Deepti Pandit, Software Test Engineer, Europeana Foundation

‘I would like to be asked: how do you contribute to long-term data quality for the Europeana ecosystem - and beyond?’

‘My answer would be that, in my role as a metadata specialist and team member of a Europeana aggregator, I contribute to long-term data quality by overseeing the aggregation and conversion of data partners’ (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) metadata. They mostly own digital objects in various different metadata standards. To incorporate them into Europeana's frameworks, the metadata needs to correspond to the Europeana Data Model (EDM). For OpenUp! and Europeana Local Austria, I initiate the mapping process from any standard to EDM and simultaneously pursue quality control by cleaning up the data, checking the vocabulary references, adding language tags and generally helping data partners with improving their metadata strategies.’

‘That also includes a focus on bringing IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) into the partner's metadata and workflows. IIIF enhances image interoperability and offers big advantages for research and education. It is my job to pursue capacity-building in the fields of metadata quality and implementation of IIIF. In this function, I contribute to data quality in the scope of Europeana, but also for the cultural heritage sector in general.’

Maja Bartl, Metadata Specialist, AIT - Angewandte Informationstechnik Forschungsgesellschaft

‘I would like to be asked: do you work on anything else beyond the Europeana APIs?’

‘And my answer is - yes! One day a week I work with my colleagues Sebastiaan ter Burg (Knowledge Development Specialist) and Jolan Wuyts (Collections Editor) to develop training resources, and I love it! I also work on creative projects - I made a demo for the EuropeanaTech 2023 conference using the Unreal game engine, which showed how a 3D object in our collection can be reused and brought to life.’

I think a natural follow-up question is, if you like this work so much, why haven’t you done it before? And my answer is that while I was trained as a visual artist, life sometimes requires pragmatic choices. I worked as a software developer for years and only recently realised how much of me remained unused. I wanted to use my creative side more at work. The great thing about the Europeana Foundation is that people are open to ideas, even to something as unusual as this. We’re still looking how to proceed from here in a practical sense, and I’ll be happy with any chance I get to further explore the overlap between creativity and technology; that’s where I could thrive.’

Maike Dulk, Software Developer, Europeana Foundation

‘I would like to be asked: what drives you to be a software developer?’

‘My answer would be that I was first introduced to Java at school aged 14. I fell in love with the language and with coding, and wanted to pursue it further, but being in a competitive environment in India, I did not get the opportunity to study computer science or IT in college. I am an Electronics Engineer by degree, but Java and coding was always something I wanted to do. I took extra courses during my holidays to enhance my coding skills and to learn more about languages. Luckily after college, I landed the job in software development and so the journey began!’

‘Looking back now, I can see that I have grown not only technically but also in my soft skills as well. I have come a long way now and there is a long way ahead as well. To me, software development is an ever evolving field, and I find keeping up with new technologies and techniques is a rewarding experience. Here at the Europeana Foundation, I am motivated to take on new challenges and to solve complex problems, and I've been given opportunities to work on projects that require creative thinking and innovative solutions. I get to work within a team and also collaborate with other teams and partners.’

Srishti Singh, Software Developer, Europeana Foundation

‘I would like to be asked: what is it like to work in the library when you have a background in electrical engineering?’

‘My answer would be that in the beginning, I did have some moments where I asked myself, ‘’what am I doing here?’’ But while to start with, I lacked knowledge in the humanities field, I was also aware of the skills I gained through my studies, such as critical thinking and how to optimise things. An education in engineering gives you the capacity to connect theory and practice, as well as to create algorithms for problem solving. These are skills that I would like to believe I have mastered, and now use all the time in my work in the library, particularly in project management.’

‘Working in cultural heritage is a privilege, and as the sector undergoes digital transformation, it is helpful to feel at home with digital, to understand the IT world, and to be ready for the AI tools which are being increasingly used in libraries. I never regret doing this endlessly interesting job, which I find challenges me to this day!’.

Tamara Butigan, Deputy Director, National Library of Serbia