You can find her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paolafatas/
- University of Zaragoza, Master Degree in Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, 2007 (First in my class Award)
- Univeristy of Zaragoza, University of Padova, PhD Degree in Organic Chemistry, 2012
Current Job Title: Corporate innovation Project Manager
My job consists of developing the Corporate Innovation Program in the Company (innCub3). Our objective is generating “Innovative DNA”, in other words, we train and help people to be more innovative and creative through methodologies like “Design Thinking” or “Lean Startup” to develop ideas and projects in high uncertainty contexts.
All these methodologies have been developed in “Startup Companies” and my work is to develop programs and activities to make it possible to follow these methodologies in a big company.
What experience first got you interested in science and is that field the same one you went on to pursue?
When I was a teenager, I really enjoyed Biology as a subject. I liked biochemistry because I could understand how life works, through chemical reactions, and enzymes. My choice to study chemistry was motivated by this.
Tell me about some people who helped or inspired you along the way, in your early training and later in your career.
My family was very important because they always were exigent about my abilities, teaching me values like commitment and constancy, and trusted me to choose my way.
Later, in my career, I have met many people who have inspired me: all my bosses have been inspiring, some of my colleagues, friends… I think the most important point for me has been to have a lot of different experiences and models to learn about possibilities and choose my own options in each moment.
Can you tell me about any moments of doubt you had as a student or early in your career and how you dealt with it?
The first one was the moment I decided to start my Ph.D. I was a brilliant student, therefore I had many options, but finally, I wanted to apply my learnings and abilities in research, and I chose this option.
The second moment was when I discovered my professional passion. It was in my third Ph.D. year. I realized research was not enough for me. I needed to make an impact in society, people, … and I felt research and papers were too far from real applications. I wanted to make science real and generate value! So I started to think about how to do it when I finished my Phd… and I decided to start up a new company to develop an idea!
Can you share two or three surprising twists or turns in your early scientific training and your later career path.
During my Ph.D., I worked in organic synthesis of amino acids. Some of these amino acids have photoswitchable molecules, to induce conformational changes by a light application. However, the most important results I found were about gel formation and destruction induced by light and stereochemical changes induced by light. I had the chance of finding unexpected results, but also the ability to realize the importance of these observations. Serendipity is so nice!
After, when I started my entrepreneurship path, I was impressed by the “Lean Startup” methodologies. One of the coaches said “a company must solve a problem” and also they talked about the scientific method and agile methodologies where you have to apply empirical methods to improve. I thought this is the science objective: to solve problems by using the scientific method!!
Now, I am working in a software multinational, in the Corporate Innovation area, helping employees to apply Lean Startup methodologies and the scientific method to develop innovative projects. This is a job that didn’t exist 10 years ago, and I love it! But I have arrived here step by step. When I started my PhD I couldn’t imagine my current job 😉
Can you give some examples of how you have incorporated your non scientific interests into your work.
Actually, my case is the contrary: I have incorporated all my scientific background in my current job!
Our initiative consists of a team that works like a startup Company. When we started, we didn’t know what kind of activities would have success, so we had to test and apply the scientific method to define our value offer (plan – do – check).
Usually, when we have an hypothesis about needs of the employees, for example, we try to launch a call with a training or other activity that solves this need. If nobody signs up, we know it was not a good idea! So we test the interest of people by launching “experiments” (calls) and we “measure” interest with the number of people signed in the workshop. After, we ask for feedback to improve.
As you can imagine, I am very good by formulating hypotheses!!
Is there some advice you could share from your own experience to help someone with a science degree who is just starting off on their own career path.
In my case, it was not easy to discover my vocation. It arose while I was doing other things. Therefore my advice would be:
- Look for your vocation and purpose in life. If you know it, go for it and connect your learnings and abilities to make your best. And, from my experience, searching never ends.
- It is never too late to be happy. Success is knowing what you want, and align objectives and actions to get your purpose. The only thing you have is your present!
- You can always “re-start” and change your career, and it doesn’t mean a fail. All your learnings can be incorporated to your new job.