|10 Mar 2023|
“Hi Sophia, this is Clare from Communications at AES, so excited to have this time with you…I wanted to ask for patience as I see you’re in a tech-related field but I’m just trying to figure out how to record this conversation.”
And we were off—talking, me still taking notes, as I wasn’t sure I’d even pushed the proper buttons to launch the recording.
Sophia, a 2013 AES graduate, works in Slovakia for a global pharmaceutical company, Takeda, in their technology department. She’s in a position whereby she assesses employee and departmental needs for new and applied technologies. While she credits her soft skills with her five-year success there, she also impressed me with a technical language that likely represents more knowledge than she might give herself credit for.
Indeed, Sophia presents as a humble person who has leveraged her soft skills and natural inclination toward empathy to find success within a large, powerful multinational company. She and some of her classmates will be meeting up in New York City this summer, and I am guessing that many will be impressed and curious about her career path.
Thirteen years at AES is the most time Sophia—born in the UK to Greek parents—has spent anywhere. Boston was a close second, having attended Boston University earning a Bachelor of Business in Science and Science Administration, and then working there for five years—before recently moving to Bratislava, Slovakia to help Takeda open a new office. Sophia’s parents came to the US as young immigrants—each as children of parents perhaps seeking the “American dream.” With family roots in coal mining and the shoe manufacturing industry, her father worked extra hard to become an engineer and her mother a teacher, both eventually traveling the world for work and ultimately landing in India for thirteen years. Sophia tells the story of her family with love, admiration, and gratitude— gratitude, perhaps the most relevant here, as her parents’ careers led them to New Delhi affording Sophia and her sister the chance to attend AES. The chance to become part of our global, service-oriented school that inspired her to seek work within healthcare and within a company that would enable her to also live in different parts of the world.
Sophia embodies the spirit of AES not just through working in a field that aims to do good for the world but also because she balances embracing her roots and wings. She demonstrated a loyalty and sense of rootedness in her tenure at AES and now through the longevity of her work within one company—not something a lot of young people do today. In both cases, Sophia felt she was able to stay for a long period of time because there was so much energy and change around her. In this sense, she felt her wings—at AES, as students and teachers from so many different places came and went, Sophia got to feel as though she was moving about herself, learning about many different cultures. At Takeda, she first found her wings through participating in a rotation program that afforded her the opportunity to move around into different parts of the technology department from business partnering for Research and Development to supporting a Cloud migration program to building and rolling out enterprise digital capabilities in-house like DocuSign and Robotic Process Automation. And while she has been at the company for five years, she has held a variety of positions in a variety of departments, landing this most recent one in a new country and with her main responsibilities being tied to innovation—looking at how she can help her company assess technological needs in order to launch co-creative in-house technological innovations and build development teams out of the new Innovation Capability Center in Bratislava.
Sophia credits AES for valuing and further helping her develop her soft skills—to lean in with curiosity as opposed to judgment, to really listen beyond assumption, to be empathetic, to communicate with cultural sensitivity, and ultimately to be a connector of people and ideas. Developing these skills was an integral part of being a student at AES where today there are more than 70 nationalities represented. Sophia has applied them not only in her personal life but in her professional pursuit. She works “as a client lead, a sort of internal relationship manager, identifying different ways digital capabilities can be built out for our varying business units.” Each department within each country where Takada operates can be characterized by different cultural norms; whether more nuanced or more overt, like how much people like to speak up about their opinions, Sophia is able to sensitively and effectively work to understand what the technological needs are to help them be more successful.
Moving to Slovakia has been both an opportunity and a challenge—in fact the exact opportunity that Sophia was holding on her horizon for the previous five years—the idea that one day she would be able to leverage her skills and experience to live in a new place. This represents opportunity for Sophia, because like many people at AES, she finds joy and inspiration in the stretching and growing that comes with living outside of her comfort zone. In terms of challenges, while Sophia seems quite adept at developing the technological language of her field, learning Slovak has not been easy. Nevertheless, she chuckles at the challenge of navigating getting stitches at the hospital, effectively using the sign language that many of us who live internationally have proudly developed. Sophia seems up for any communication challenge for the sake of making friends, taking care of herself and others, or helping foster the connection between people and technologies. Sophia is humble and caring, rooted and adventurous, characteristics that have and will always serve her well whether at AES, visiting family in Greece, in Boston, on a term abroad in Dublin, visiting her parents in Bahrain, or working in Slovakia!
Pictured right—Sophia with her family in Bahrain
July is around the corner and Sophia is excited to venture to New York City to reunite with her 2013 AES classmates. While she has not been back to AES campus since just after graduating, she hopes to return soon. Maybe a trip will be hatched at the coming reunion. She has managed to keep in touch with a lot of her friends from AES and had little reunions, including one in the UK with Alice Turowicz and Katie Boon. And this one resulted in a follow-up 30-day cross-country road trip of the United States with the same friends—during which they managed to meet up with other alums including Manaav Nerula, Saswat Nanda, Mahera Walia, Sonam Penzo, Sean Titus, Grace Parks Hall, and Maddie Lattimore!
Pictured right—Memphis w Alice, Katie, Sonam, and Maddie on an AES road trip