Sofia Costa D’Aguiar has been appointed EELISA Executive Director. She was the Head of Innovation & Digital Transformation at SNCF (France’s national railway company) where she worked for over 10 years managing teams in innovative transversal projects and piloting the digital transformation process of the company. Sofia holds a PhD in Geotech and Environmental Engineering and was nominated ¨Women of the Industry, Research and Development¨ by the prestigious business and technology magazine L’Usine Nouvelle. She is a Portuguese native speaker, fluent in Spanish, English and French, and a professional with a multicultural experience deeply committed to make an impact through the opportunities offered by global scientific and technological contexts. She has answered some questions to help us learn more about her and her background:
1. After working in a Portuguese engineering company and developing a PhD, you have been part of SNCF first as research engineer, then as an innovation officer, and finally as Innovation & Digital Manager of the Industrial and Engineering DG, and always linked to the internal network of scientific and technical experts. How this multiple-role career has influenced your approach to managing teams?
My path in SNCF was always linked to research and innovation, which are tasks intrinsically calling for team work. I have learned the essential role of team work through the whole cycle of research and innovation projects, from concept to implementation. During my career I have assumed the roles of team coach, supervisor, skills enabler, project manager and strategic vision developer, through PhD supervisions, research partnerships, innovation projects and digital transformation programs I highlight two main points : alignment between vision, mission and actions, and the awareness that impacting transformation needs more than an a good idea. It needs a shared vision, personal mastery, team learning, mental models, systemic approach. All these lines of thoughts feed my teams management.
2. As an expert in the innovation and digital transformation field, how do you see the role of Higher Education in the next years?
Crucial… Education is at the foundation and should be a key lever to all systemic transformations. I deeply believe in the fact that education is the starting engine for a population that is more open, more aware and responsible vis-à-vis its potential and its impact to develop a fairer, more inclusive, more sustainable and humanly more resilient world. It is my conviction that through education we can act both on each individual and on collective awareness.
3. You were born and raised in Portugal, then studied and developed your professional career in France, wrote your PhD dissertation in English, and now you live in Spain. How do you think this multicultural-multilingual background will enrich your role as Executive Director of EELISA?
I truly feel as a European. Portuguese national, mother of Portuguese-Spanish children, having worked in France, and now in Spain, which is literally, and achievement made possible due to mi European belonging and to the fact having benefited myself of mobility programs and cooperation between European countries. Thus, I welcome EELISA Executive Director position as an incredible opportunity to provide a retribution to the European educational system by putting my value, network and motivation at the service of this alliance.
4. In your opinion, what are the key ingredients of your mission in EELISA?
Shared vision, convictions, cooperation, co-creation, innovation, catalyzer for collective intelligence.