Imagine starting a new job in an unknown city that is going into intelligent lockdown to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This happened to Sofia Perez-Simbor. Sofia flew from Spain to the Netherlands to work at Evalan as a Development Engineer, not knowing that at that time corona measures would be instituted and social contact should be avoided. In this interview Sofia shares her experiences during this period of time, what she did before she came to Amsterdam and what she thinks about her new position at Evalan.
As a Development Engineer, Sofia guides projects at the intersection of technology, health and well-being. Before joining Evalan, she obtained her doctorate from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. She obtained this within the project Wireless In-Body Environment (WIBEC). The WIBEC project focuses on the development of wireless medical technologies involving partners from academia, hospitals and industrial companies. For her PhD, entitled “Ultra Wide-band in-body channel characterization for the human gastrointestinal area”, Sofia investigated how the human body can serve as a transmission medium for the next generation of wireless devices. During this research she traveled to both the Technical University of Dresden and the University Hospital of Oslo to do further research.
From academic research to practice
When asked why Sofia decided to move to Amsterdam, she explains that there is both a professional and a personal reason for this: “Although PhD students focus on scientific research, in the case of technical courses such as engineering, it is not necessary to aspire a career in research. With my career I wanted to take a different path than the academic path I already knew and gain more practical experience.” Amsterdam attracted Sofia because it is known as a tech city, but it is also multicultural and accessible to expat professionals. In addition, she has experience in moving to an unknown city: “In the past I have often left my comfort zone and moved to a city where I had never been before. This has helped me grow and become a better version of myself.”
The search for a permanent residence in Amsterdam
Sofia’s first day at Evalan began on March 16. But this went differently than expected. In the Netherlands, an intelligent lockdown had just been actuated to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The office was virtually empty because all employees had to work from home. In addition, Sofia had not yet found a permanent residence and this is a difficult task in Amsterdam: “Housing is a big problem here, so I decided that I would book a hostel for the first week and find an apartment from there. Of course my plans immediately turned upside down when I arrived here. Under normal circumstances I would survive in a hostel without any problems. But when the hostel closed its doors, I had to find a new accommodation quickly – that caused a lot of stress. In addition, obtaining the BSN number and opening a bank account was also quite a challenge.” Fortunately, Sofia had registered in advance on a housing platform and found an apartment where she could stay after a few days.
Working from home
Sofia did not find it difficult to work remotely at the start of her new job. She is used to working remotely and when you end your working day with a walk or other activity, it is easy to keep going. The only challenge was that Sofia didn’t know anyone within Evalan yet: “The tricky thing about this situation is that I don’t know who to ask what, what role each person plays in the company and what the dynamics are. But because of the digital introductory meetings with different people on the team, I got an overview of the different projects and who is in charge of each project.” The fact that Evalan is not a multinational but an SME is also a reason for Sofia to feel comfortable more quickly: “You get the idea that your ideas and opinions count. In addition, my interview was with Henk, CEO of Evalan. This made me feel respected right away. Now that I’m part of the company, I realize that it was a good decision to take this opportunity. Not only is the work challenging and interesting, but my colleagues were very understanding and helped me as much as possible.”
Making her mark on IoT innovations
When asked how Sofia would describe herself, she says that she likes challenges and is someone who does not easily let difficult situations get the best of her: “I believe in myself and that gives me the ability to overcome hard times. I am a social and outgoing person, so I quickly make new contacts and feel comfortable.” Sofia’s biggest hobby is fencing. Since the age of 12 she has been active in the sport and participated in national competitions in different countries, including even some world cups. In addition, Sofia’s ambition is to gain even more knowledge of smart technology to improve people’s lives through new devices, innovations and technologies: “I want to learn a lot in this area, grow, improve and leave my mark on the next generation of IoT technologies.”