An interview with Dr. Alina von Davier
Dr. Alina von Davier graduated from the Otto von Guericke University, Magdeburg with a doctorate in mathematics. She is now Vice President of ACTNext, as well as an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University. Dr. von Davier is a pioneer in the field and has made significant contributions toward the development and application of computational psychometrics, which blends machine learning algorithms with psychometric theory.
Farnaz, Director of Graduate Affairs of AWC, was recently an intern on her team at ACTNext and had a chance to interview her and pose the following questions.
1. What do you like about your job? What is the most difficult part of your job?
The best thing about my job is that it is driven by my creativity. It gives me a chance to dream and then make my dreams happen. I’m now on my way to a pilot site where we will launch our first research prototype! It’s exciting to see things grow out of an idea!
The most difficult part is convincing people that our vision is achievable–with the right people.
2. How do you achieve work-life balance?
My research is a passion of mine. It’s a part of my life. Nevertheless, I plan my time off for relaxation sessions and exercising sessions as seriously as any meetings. I’m an evening person and I build around that. I’m fortunate that my job allows me for the flexibility to work at my pace.
3. As a woman in STEM, have you ever faced any challenges at work related to your gender? If so, how did you overcome these struggles?
Well…yes. Most of them are in the category of micro-aggressions. Fortunately, The most common thing is a cliche: I would say something and nobody listens or nobody gets it. Then a guy picks up on the idea and everyone is impressed. The other experience is another cliche: people explain things to me. It happens very often. How do I overcome it? Like everything else: by persisting.
4. If you could go back in time, is there anything you would tell yourself right when you were starting your career?
I changed countries a few times and that had me on edge. I listened too much to everyone around me. I gave others too much credit just because they were native speakers, often older, mostly male. I wasted a lot of time because of that. So my advice would be to trust my own judgement.
5. Which of your achievements are you most proud of?
My current team, ACTNEXT is the best achievement until now in terms of innovation management. From the research perspective, my most influential work is the introduction of computational psychometrics as a field where machine learning and Psychometrics blend. As a mother I’m very happy and proud of my son.
6. How do you avoid being a Yes-Woman?
I’m naturally disinclined to be a yes-woman. I tend to have the opposite problem: I’m opinionated and I speak up. For those who struggle with this, I would suggest learning a few lines that buy you time in the moment:”interesting. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.” And then answer in writing if possible.
7. What is your advice for young women who have started their career?
Keep learning in your field. Build your expertise; work hard at that. Read books. Read biographies. Be action prone (you have a research idea? Act on it! Now!) Choose your mentors/friends/spouse carefully, listen to the advice but make your own decisions. Don’t give that right to anyone! Trust yourself.