Maria Oliva - 2022 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Director Global Product Management, SBU Semiconductor and Advanced Manufacturing
Light and Optics, Jenoptik, Germany
Born in Italy
As a small child I was always curious and seeking to understand the why and how. Thanks to an inspiring professor of physics, I started to develop a deep love of physics as a teenager. Instead of Take That or Brad Pitt posters hanging in my room, there were two posters of Einstein. My friends did make fun of me, but ‘Albert’ was my inspiration.
Now I am responsible for the development and strategy of our products throughout their lifecycle as well as ensuring business growth. We develop innovative high-end technology products, so I always have the opportunity to learn something new as well as improve my management skills.
When I completed my master's, I wanted to pursue a PhD at the same university, but I wasn't accepted. At first, I was disappointed, angry, and doubted myself, thinking I wasn’t good enough to get the PhD position. But I did not give up! I continued to work in research and after few years I started my PhD in physics. Looking back, the fact that I was not admitted to a PhD Program immediately after my master's, was a positive. It gave me the chance to earn my PhD in a topic I loved in a really exciting scientific environment.
For years, I was not sure if should stay in academia or move to industry. It took time to find the right place for me. But looking back, it was clear that I am a better fit for industry than academia. It would have been useful if someone had guided me through this earlier in my career.
I give the same advice to every young person, despite gender: do in life what you love, and if, despite the passion you put into it, the results are not good enough, do not give up. Give yourself the chance and time to find what you are meant to do.