Speaking of a once in a lifetime opportunity: Kristina Dolovac, employeneur at TMC, was in Qatar during the World Cup. Not just that – she played an essential role in getting everyone from A to B. As system validation engineer for Thales, she’s responsible for the metro ticketing system in Qatar. In practice, this means she ensures that the automatic fare collection system (AFC) performs well at all stations. Whenever a problem occurs, she goes to the station to resolve the issue. How did Kristina end up in this dynamic environment?
Sealing the deal
It all started when Kristina, born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia, was scrolling through LinkedIn and saw a job offer from TMC Italy. She’d just graduated as an electrical and electronics engineer. “What caught my eye was that they were looking for someone with knowledge of universal verification methodology”, Kristina says. “That’s very specific, and I’d studied that in college. I applied and they said: ‘We need you and we’ll help you come to Italy for this.’ That sealed the deal for me. Italy has always been one of my favorite countries. I like the food, culture, and nature. TMC took care of the accommodation and got me a work permit. I’m currently three years in.”
Kristina joined TMC right before the COVID pandemic hit. Aside from cultural and language barriers, this made it even more difficult for her to navigate life in Italy. “It was a scary time. We didn’t know much about the virus yet and the country was going into a full lockdown. Fortunately, I could just go home to my family in Belgrade and work remotely for a while.”
Solving space mysteries
Zaid Al-Khatib knew from a very young age that he wanted to work with computers. Both his parents are civil engineers, so Zaid was almost inevitably being pulled into engineering as well. When he was only 11 years old, he learned how to build computers and program them. Since then a lot has happened. Zaid moved from Saudi Arabia to Canada to study computer engineering, got into the aerospace-industry and was involved in some high-profile aerospace software-projects.
Once everything was slowly going back to normal, Kristina returned to Italy and started working for Thales: a French company that works with international clients, like Qatar Rail. They’d begun building a metro ticketing system in 2016, especially for the World Cup. “Together with our team in France, we developed and tested the AFC system, and then we went to Qatar multiple times to support the deployment. That’s also why I’m here today. Even if everything runs nice and smoothly in the lab, you can’t be prepared for all issues that occur in real life. Especially with such a complex system as AFC, which is used by millions of people every day. Whenever there’s a problem, it’s reported to us, we fix it and then we release a new system version. It’s a very versatile and fun job.”
Women in tech
Working on such a large project also means working with people from all sorts of cultural backgrounds and expertise. From Arabs to Filipinos and from software developers to system engineering managers. In terms of gender however, there isn’t as much diversity, Kristina has noticed. “Engineering is perceived as a male job. In Italy and Qatar, I’m always the only woman in the room. It makes it harder to make my voice heard. I’ve improved myself and got self-confident over the past few years, but in the beginning, I had thoughts like: is this a good question? Should I propose this idea or keep quiet? Wouldn’t they think I’m bossy if I speak up? That insecurity is instilled in us women. But in a professional environment, you have to be your own advocate. You have to speak up, ask questions, be vulnerable and get out of your comfort zone. I think that’s so important.”
By blogging about these topics, Kristina hopes to inspire other women in similar positions. In fact, one of her blogs got her a ticket to the Women in Tech event at Web Summit– the largest tech conference in the world. “You could win tickets by answering a question: ‘How can you convince us to win a ticket?’ I simply sent a link to my blog about the ambition gap and work-life balance. It was amazing to attend the conference. I learned about new trends in technology, was able to network, and got to connect with peers and share ideas.”
At the time of writing, Kristina is completely immersed in the World Cup craze. In her free time, when she’s not monitoring the system performance or resolving issues, she attends soccer matches and other events in Qatar. “It feels surreal being here”, she says. “Like I’m in a movie. I can’t imagine what going back to my normal routine will be like.” Still, Kristina has a lot of exciting things ahead of her, even back in her ‘normal life.’ She’ll be taking up a position at TMC’s project management office in January, for instance. “One of my TMC colleagues came up with the idea of creating a PMO for TMC. I applied because I found it both interesting and challenging. I love that we get to build this office from scratch. Besides, it’s a nice opportunity to get together with people from TMC more often and to improve my managerial skills.”
The latter is particularly relevant to Kristina since she dreams of having a management function one day. Perhaps even in her own start-up. “I have an entrepreneurial spirit and founding my own company has always been a dream of mine. But to do so, I need experience and a solid network. TMC is the perfect place for me to work on that. Combine that with the room for personal development and soft skills that I get here, and I’m confident that I’m well-equipped to do great things in the future.”
Want to know more? Please reach out:
Tél. : +39 (0)02 805 363 8