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Advice from an Industry Professional: OSA Ambassador Interview Series

Jelena Pesic, OSA Ambassador, NOKIA Bell Labs, France

​​Jelena Pesic, 2018 OSA Ambassador, conducts interviews with researchers in the field of industry. She asks a wide-range of questions regarding their inital interest in science, why they chose optics, to why industry is important. The fourth interview is with Annachiara Pagano, member of the technical staff/Senior Technology Expert at TIM in Italy.

  1. What is your education background?
  • I completed Scientific Liceum High School in Turin, Italy and Master Degree in Physics at the Turin University with Honours (cum laude).
  1. What got you interested in science?
  • When I was a child, I used to play with Lego bricks and to build and rebuild fantastic objects; I also spent a lot of time outside, running and discovering the nature in the countryside and in public parks. My father was an architect and encouraged my curiosity towards new ways of thinking the reality. My mother was a housewife and introduced me to all the practical aspects of life and the wonder of the nature. I believe that my interest in science came out from their moods in observing the world.
  1. Why did you choose optics?
  • Almost by chance. I chose to get my final thesis at University as an experimental activity in a company, to approach how and if the life of a full time employee in a research center could be different from the freedom of an university student; I liked the place and started. There they proposed me different topics and fibers optic was the most attractive one. It has a lot of physics inside and it brings to practical applications in many fields, telecommunications, medicine, manufacturing.
  1. Is there any person, from the world of optics/science, you admire?
  • I admire many. Most of them are in scientific area quite different from telco and optics, like medicine and elementary particle physics, and they are enthusiastic and resilient women.
  1. What motivates you in the morning to go to work every day and to push the limits?
  • My family first, with my two teenagers that are very good at school and my husband who shares with me the passion for problem solving and fixing bugs and is my best supporter in any challenge that I undertake. However everything runs always too fast and I really don’t have so much time to understand who I am in the morning.
  1. What makes you feel you accomplished something at the end of the day?
  • What I learned from anyone I met. The silence in the room, the thought of the things waiting for me tomorrow. The feeling of being loved and having a purpose for the future.
  1. What is your dream job?
  • It must be motivating, not far from home, without too much bureaucracy and in contact with pleasant people. It must have a valid meritocratic policy and a good rewarding system, together with some flexibility in working place and hours, holidays and permissions. To be honest, it is not much far from the one that I have.
  1. How did you figure out what your dream job is?
  • Doing it. Putting the economic situation, the evolution of the technologies, my cultural and personal background and my future aspirations altogether.
  1. If you could use a time machine to get back in time, what advice would you follow to get yourself through your studies?
  • To spend a period abroad, to study more than one foreign language and to include public law and economics as subjects of study.
  1. Why is industry an important sector for students to look into?
  • Because it is in the industry that solutions come to reality and students look for solutions. Their complete personal development passes through a structured relationship, assisted by an assumption of responsibility and a proper salary, with technical leaders, managers and experienced people outside school and family. On the other hand, industry needs young open minded people to innovate and scramble styles and habits.
  1. When we were students, we all had moments when we thought, ‘why do I need to learn this’, ‘when will I ever use this in life?’ Did you experience moments like these? How did you overcome them?
  • Yes, a lot. These are very important questions that can help a student in finding  the right path. Along a career, being a student or an employee, it is important to ask yourself why you’re doing something. And if it is not clear or not motivating or difficult to do, my idea is to work hard in order to understand it, to better focus the activities or in reverse to change path toward a new destination. What is supposed to be used in the future is usually not written in capital letters but it has to be found mostly hidden in a puzzling rebus.
  1. From your point of view, what is the difference between research in university/institute and research in industry?
  • Research in industry is usually more related to products and requires more attention to intellectual property management, application scenarios and proper time to market. Research in university/institute is more open-minded and free, with a higher degree of potential of innovation inside. Both are attractive and motivating, considering that the proper mood should be activated in each case.
  1. How do you like to spend your free time?
  • Essentially I spent it with my family, trying to find the right compromise between my and my husband’s passions (having fun with friends, skiing, travelling, volunteering, attending cultural events) and my teens’ passions (studying, playing piano, playing volleyball, having fun with friends, being late at night). I like cooking, running, reading, shopping.
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