Campus and Community

“I learnt that perseverance and determination can be key to success”

Sofia Vaz Pires is a natural born leader who believes that the success of organisations lies in the balance between business priorities and the human side of the organisations. The Técnico alumna (Electrical and Computer Engineering) had an outstanding international career and now she is returning to Portugal, with the aim of contributing to the the development of the Portuguese technological sector. In 2017, her name was included in the “Top 40 Under 40 Future Business Leaders in Portugal” list. Two years later, she holds two leadership positions at Ricoh.

The Técnico alumna realised that she had a special talent for everything related to science, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology at a very early age. Instead of playing with toys, “I collected science books and documentaries and I dreamt of exploring the world”, she says. Anyone who knows her well also knows she always had an “incessant curiosity” in understanding the logic behind everything. This is why she decided to enter Técnico, “the best engineering school in Portugal and one of the best abroad”.

Sofia Vaz Pires recalls her first years at Técnico as being very demanding, and also the words of some Técnico alumni. “Everybody talked about the quality of Técnico’s teaching, and how that has been a rewarding experience for the success of their lives”, she shares. Nowadays she feels the same way: “Técnico taught me to develop self-discipline, to set priorities, to focus and, above all, to analyse complex problems. I learnt that perseverance and determination can be key to success”.

The Técnico alumna finished her course in 5 years. “I had the privilege of having two different and prestigious job offers”, she recalls. One of the options would be to pursue my PhD, in partnership with Nokia Siemens – currently Nokia – with whom she developed her engineering final project thesis; the other would allow her to join Ericsson and be part of the sales team. The alumna chose the most challenging one, the one that would allow her “to experience a professional career with the opportunity to build a business from scratch, in a leading multinational company such as Ericsson”, she explains.

Sofia Vaz Pires couldn’t have made a better decision. Her first professional experience was inspiring, intense, challenging and very fruitful. “It was a fabulous experience, a great opportunity for learning and a chance to growth professionally and personally. I learnt the importance of a corporate culture with truly unique and exceptional human, ethical and professional values, and the true meaning of ‘walk an extra mile’ with clients”, says the Técnico alumna. It was very demanding, namely the ability to interact with clients and “to translate the technical complexity of a wide portfolio of solutions into strategic benefits that better meet the requirements of a wide range of clients”.

More than fifteen years later and after holding several leadership positions in four top tech companies worlwide, Sofia Vaz Pires recalls the beginning of her journey: “Técnico and Ericsson were always my references”. “The skills that I learnt at Técnico allow me to understand any complexity from a technical point of view of customer requirements, which has always been a clear advantage in business. It allows me to adapt the content in the most appropriate way”.

“During my professional career, I have hold several positions with responsibility at national, regional and global level”, she shares. She currently holds an executive position at Ricoh, “with responsibility for the entire international sales department of EMEA and, at the same time, with global responsibility for generating business growth with new IT products and services into Global Accounts”.

About holding leadership positions, Sofia Vaz Pires highlights “we should try to keep a balance between the different business priorities and the human side of organisations”. “As leader of the so-called ‘Millennials’ generation, I have the duty to act with authenticity and confidence. I try to reconcile the human side with business management”. It is not always an easy task, but according to the alumna “this dichotomous approach between business management and people is essential to guarantee short-term business performance”.

The perseverance, exceptional performance and success earned Sofia Vaz Pires several merit awards. However, the thing she is most proud of is to have been included in the “Top 40 Under 40 Future Business Leaders in Portugal”, in 2017.

Sofia Vaz Pires never intended to stay away from Portugal forever. “I believe that now is the right time to return and contribute to the development of the Portuguese technological sector”, she says.

“These times of great change require an adequate response from tech companies, because they will define the new work standards after COVID-19”, she adds.

If she could go back in time and give advice to the young woman full of dreams who entered Técnico in 1999, Sofia Vaz Pires would tell her “to take advantage of any experience, academic, professional or personal, as an opportunity for growth”. “We have many obstacles in our life. Overcoming these obstacles make us stronger”.