Product Manager L4 Autonomous Delivery
From building dollhouses in her childhood, to now building the vehicles of the future, Marina followed her dreams of pursuing a career in STEM and didn’t let anything stand in her way.
Read more about Marina’s journey into the world of engineering below.
Did you always want to be an engineer? If not, what other career paths did you want to explore?
I think I’ve always known that I wanted to be an engineer. The concept was introduced to me as a little girl through watching my parents work. My father was in DIY and my mother worked in fashion textiles. They taught me so much about making and creating your own things from scratch, so naturally I think I was very influenced by it all.
At a young age I built my own designer dollhouse with custom-made lights, and this interest in bringing my own creations to life only intensified as I got older. I was soon making my own clothes with the help of my mother’s sewing machine – which I was apparently ‘too young for’.
My early interests in design and innovation continued throughout my adolescence. I grew up in Italy and with the support from both my parents and my teachers, I went on to choose a school where I could specialise in computer science.
Where were you working before you joined Oxbotica and what attracted you to the company?
I first moved to the UK in 2009 to work on a research project in Robotics at Cranfield University. Upon graduating, my first insight into the world of engineering was at Ocado Technology, where I worked in the Automation Control team for over a year. Following this, I then moved to a company called Guidance Automation. It was whilst working here that I was introduced to the world of autonomous vehicles (AVs) and robotics, and in particular the application of AVs for hospitals and warehouses – I was immediately hooked.
It was during my time at Guidance Automation that I first met Graeme Smith – CEO of Oxbotica at the time – who were the licensors of some of our tech. Not long after, I was appointed as their new Project Engineer, and after almost five years and a few promotions along the way, I haven’t looked back.
''At a young age I built my own designer dollhouse with custom-made lights, and this interest in bringing my own creations to life only intensified as I got older.''
How do you find being a woman in a predominantly male industry, like technology?
If I’m honest, working and studying in a male dominated industry is all I’ve ever known. I chose a high school which specialised in science and I therefore learnt to adapt from an early age.
I don’t necessarily portray it as a negative though, and in fact, I think that it can be a healthy environment for young females. Although, there are certainly times when I feel the pressure of being in the minority, I always try to remind myself that this is my passion.
''There are certainly times when I feel the pressure of being in the minority, I always try to remind myself that this is my passion.''
What more do you think could be done to recruit females into STEM roles?
A lot of girls grow up thinking that there are a limited number of jobs that they can do and are often guided by teachers and/or parents into certain sectors of work.
In my experience, subjects like engineering tend to be introduced to girls too late in the school curriculum, and I think it needs to come at an earlier stage in their development. This work sector divide will only begin to improve if we start showing young girls that there are lots of different skill sets that they are capable of, as well as showing them the variety of different pathways that are available. There are obviously a range of factors that will then impact how interests develop, but we need to ensure that we are providing girls with equal career opportunities from the start, and make this a priority.
I have also found that mentorship has been a useful tool for me throughout my career. I have benefited greatly from having the support of a few female colleagues along the way, with whom I can go to when I have needed advice. Interestingly, I have often found that these women have experienced the same hurdles as I have, which is why it’s important that we all go through it, learn from it, and address it in order to ultimately help the future generations to come.
Have you ever been inspired by a female leader, if so, who and why?
I have found that I tend to be more inspired by people I know rather than people in the spotlight with whom I have no connection. Seeing strong female leaders in my day-to-day work is what continues to inspire me and drive my passion.
What advice would you give to young women looking to start a career in STEM?
I would say bring your passion. It is your strongest suit, and it will take you through the tough times both academically and professionally. Remember if you can be yourself and not change who you are at all, then people are going to respect you for it. Remind yourself that no matter what, things will be brighter, so use this passion and let that be what builds you.
''We need to ensure that we are providing girls with equal career opportunities from the start, and make this a priority.''
What do you like most about working at Oxbotica?
What I love about working at Oxbotica, is that I get to fulfil the passion that I have had since being a young girl. To me, life is all about solving problems and fixing things. I love the idea of making something and then seeing it come to life, and that’s exactly what I get to experience at Oxbotica.
Finally, what excites you most about the future of mobility?
I can see that what we are doing is going to really improve quality of life for many people across lots of different industries throughout the world. Solving the autonomy puzzle is going to bring us one step closer to a safer, smarter and greener future for tomorrow, and I will be proud to have been a part of that journey.
''I love the idea of making something and then seeing it come to life, and that’s exactly what I get to experience at Oxbotica.''