Acknowledging and honoring the exceptional talent and engineering capabilities of women is not only crucial for fostering equality and inclusivity but also serves as a dynamic driver for innovation and advancement in this domain. We are excited to showcase the extraordinary women in our organization, emphasizing that their abilities go beyond traditional limits. Through these interviews, our goal is to magnify their voices, narrate their journeys, and spark inspiration for the upcoming generation of engineers. In the latest installment of this interview series, we proudly introduce Dragana Miladic, a dedicated engineer from Banja Luka, whose kindness and intellectual brilliance have significantly enriched our company.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
As a high school student, I developed an interest in math and initially considered becoming a math teacher. Consequently, I enrolled in the Faculty of Natural Sciences to study Mathematics and Computer Science. After completing several informatics courses, I came to the realization that computer science was my true calling. Don’t get me wrong; I still love math, but solving real-world problems through coding gives me goosebumps.
What exciting projects or technologies are you currently working on in SYRMIA?
In general, I am working on a substantial automotive project where we focus on developing and evaluating the performance of systems for traffic sign recognition. Specifically, my team is responsible for creating a tool used to generate KPI reports for these systems. In simpler terms, we calculate how effectively the system detects traffic signs.
What has been your most rewarding experience as an engineer thus far? Why was it so meaningful to you?
I was thrilled when I saw for the first time that something developed by my team was used in practice by others. Besides gaining acknowledgements for all the effort and hard work, the feeling of creating something was super satisfactory.
What aspects of embedded programming do you find particularly interesting or appealing?
Unfortunately, embedded programming wasn’t a part of my studies; however, I discover its charms now while working in SYRMIA. I would say the best thing about it is the variety of its use, especially in combination with machine learning and various prediction systems.
How do you stay current in your field and continue to learn and grow as an engineer?
I learn a lot in my everyday work, and the knowledge that there’s more to explore and experiment within my current field excites me. Teamwork is crucial, as we complement each other. We also strive to come up with personal development plans. Periodically, we have one-on-one meetings with the team lead to check and evaluate the plans. These meetings lead to great discussions and useful talks, resulting in concrete guidelines and actions that satisfy our individual interests for future careers. Furthermore, SYRMIA provides significant support by organizing excellent courses in specific fields whenever a team or an individual expresses the want or need for one.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges that female engineers face in the industry today? How have you personally navigated these challenges?
Generally speaking, I would say that the biggest challenges for female engineers are simply being a minority in this working field, and it could be more difficult to fit in. Personally, I stumbled upon a great group of people that was very welcoming when I joined as a fresh graduate. Being valued for your work and your effort, and being appreciated should be a mutual experience for all of us, including women in the company. This also applies to male colleagues, and certainly, practicing these principles would put the wind in our sails, consequently pushing away any challenges.
How do your male colleagues in SYRMIA demonstrate their awareness and support of the position of female engineers in the tech labor market? Can you provide some examples of how they have shown their support?
Firstly, I met many kind, nice, and friendly male colleagues in SYRMIA. I was the only girl in my team for a long period of time, but they formed a great “squad” to work and have fun with! The result of their support was evident through daily commitments at work. I was treated as an equal member, having the opportunity to ask questions and be listened to, with my opinions always taken into account. The real beauty of this is that I have never felt different from them or less worthy because I am a woman. Moreover, I feel free to express myself around them, which I find most important. I am happy to say that our team became even more awesome last year when it was upgraded with one more female colleague.
How do you work to balance your career with your personal life?
A key ingredient for that recipe would be ensuring that what I do motivates and inspires me; otherwise, I wouldn’t be fulfilled. At this point in my life, I don’t struggle with finding the balance, but I can see clearly how it could get harder, especially in my field of work, where keeping up with all the new technologies and solutions would require 24/7 commitment. Managing my time, staying present, and being aware of the most important things in this period of my life is a process that I am learning every day, and I would like to master it! What helps a lot is having support from my loved ones, which is crucial. Fortunately, I have my partner and my family on my side.
How do you integrate your personal values and priorities into your career, and how has that influenced your approach to work and life?
I would say that small and simple things, such as respect for others, the appreciation of their time, openness to someone else’s opinion, and patience, are some of the values that I integrate into my work, and they are principles I genuinely believe in. During my time studying and teaching math, I often found myself asking many questions. In the end, they all led me to a solution, usually hidden behind my curiosity. So, the one thing I learned along the way was that when approaching something new and unfamiliar, one should take the time to understand the problem. For as long as it takes, I am sure that the solution exists, and I will find it.
How do you see the role of women in the engineering field evolving in the future?
I've met many great women in my academic and professional life, and I'm proud to call them my colleagues. I collaborate with wonderful ladies every day in SYRMIA. I see us as very dedicated to everything that we do. Therefore, as long as we are not afraid to choose any profession we want and speak our minds loud and clear, I'm sure we can accomplish anything.
What advice do you have for other women who are interested in pursuing a career in engineering?
If you are passionate about it, go for it!