We recently met Alicia Asin, the co-founder and CEO of Spanish wireless sensor company, Libelium. Every company founder needs a healthy amount of bravery and entrepreneurial spirit, but setting out on such a journey aged just 24, and as a woman in a male-dominated sector takes even more drive and determination. Brought to you by LenovoInspireMe.com, here's what inspired Alicia and her work in technology to date.
You were only 24 when you started Libelium. Was it a particular thought or inspiration that brought the company to life?
My co-founder and I worked on low power processors and advanced network technology in graduate school at the University of Zaragoza. Wireless sensor networks are a field of innovation, with so many different kinds of connections and possibilities. Also, we looked for a way to create the kind of company we would like to work in, one with a strong culture of innovation tempered by a practical sense of getting things done.
You company’s name, ‘Libelium’ seems to derive from Libellula - or Dragonfly in English. How did you end up choosing this name for the company?
We were thinking about the way that the Zigbee protocol behaves, transmitting very small packets of information to the closest mote for retransmission and we thought that we should name our company and line after a swarming insect. Dragonflies communicate “wirelessly.” Not to mention how beautiful a logo would be with a dragonfly inside!
In the UK and US there is a lot of discussion around the lack of women at high-level executive roles within technology companies. Do you feel this is beginning to change? Has being a woman ever brought any difficulties in your career?
We are seeing gradual changes. The fact that it was very big news when Marissa Mayer was appointed as CEO of Yahoo while pregnant last year just means that women in high positions are "not normal."
In my case I have had to work very hard to get respect from Libelium's stakeholders not only because of being a woman but a young one (I started Libelium at 24), until I finally learned to just live with that. I try to be better in general every day, not better than my male colleagues - that is a useless stone in your backpack. Those who are not comfortable when working with women are not ready for the modern world: it is their problem.
One of Libelium's latest achievements was adding sensors to the world's first open source satellite. Can you tell us more about that venture?
We heard about the project and wanted to get involved immediately. Launching an open source satellite is so exciting because it means that high technology is getting democratised, and with the idea of opening space exploration to everyone ArduSat has made history to a certain extent. When we researched the Ardusat project we realised they would need a way of measuring radiation levels in space so we offered them to use the Geiger counters we designed for the population of Fukushima after the nuclear accident in 2011. They accepted our contribution and we worked with them to downsize, or miniaturise the design to fit inside the satellite. After all this hard work it has been thrilling to see Libelium's technology launched into space on 4 August and we appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the ArduSat project.
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