Interview with Dr Cristina Blanco-Andujar, Chief Technology Officer at MediSieve
Cristina and I met back in 2019 when I facilitated a leadership programme at the Royal College on Engineering, designed for Founders and director-level leaders at some of the UK’s most exciting tech and engineering start-ups.
As Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at MediSieve, Cristina has been establishing the technological vision for the company and leading the internal research development since 2017.
Did you know?
Less than a quarter of director-level roles in tech are held by women, although when we consider that only 19% of those working in tech are women, the gender balance at a leadership level is far better in tech than in other industries! So what does it really take to be a CTO?
What did your journey look like before becoming CTO at MediSieve?
I am a Chemist by background. I started my studies in Spain and later moved to the UK to complete an MChem. I continued my postgraduate studies with a PhD in magnetic materials for healthcare applications at University College London and a follow-up postdoc in the same field at CNRS in Strasbourg.
After that, I joined MediSieve as a Product Development Manager. Since I joined the company, I have carried out multiple management and Business development training courses, which have contributed to my development and growth within the company leading to multiple promotions. Additionally, I was fortunate to be selected for the SME Leaders programme at the Royal Academy of Engineering, which provided incredible support and help me define the leader that I am today as a CTO.
Have you always wanted to work in biotechnology?
Growing up, I always had a passion for Science. When I was 17 I wanted to study Biotechnology, as I was captivated by the idea of studying a subject that combined Biology and Engineering. In the end, I chose Chemistry as a degree, but I didn’t know that my career path would be such that I would end up, regardless of my initial choice, having a job that combined Biology and Engineering.
During my PhD, my research was focused on the use of magnetic nanomaterials for healthcare. I continued working in the same field with a post-doc, which only made me realise even more the inherent potential of these new technologies. The subject was fascinating, but I wanted to use my skills and knowledge to bring these solutions to the market and ultimately, help people. The opportunity came to join an exciting start-up company that was developing magnetic blood filtration, a new technology that aimed to revolutionise the treatment of blood-borne diseases. I joined the company nearly 4 and a half years ago, where I found my passion.
If you were to think back, who would you say has been your greatest role model? What did they teach you?
At a young age, I looked for career guidance from my family and friends. My sister was definitely a point of reference to me as she studied Biochemistry and was very passionate about her career.
What’s been your experience of being a women in a STEM-related field?
When I was in academia, I never felt underrepresented as a woman in the field. However, when I moved to the private sector, I realised that the proportion of women in the field drastically changed. I have been in numerous meeting where I was the only woman in the room and that, needs to change.
My experience, in general, has been positive. However, I have had the unpleasant experience of my voice being ignored in a meeting while my male colleague was being asked to answer the questions I had just covered. Not only it was my role to speak up and make my voice be heard, but so was the support of my colleague making it clear that he would not answer the question again. Only by working together we will make a difference.
What advice would you give to other women working in STEM?
It’s paramount to get out of your comfort zone and let yourself be seen. Network, interact and feel empowered by your position and the sense of responsibility towards those that will come after you. You will show the way for them. It is only by taking these steps that one day you will find yourself in a truly diverse room.
If I were to give my younger self advice I’d tell myself not rush things, do not stress out about every decision as many paths will take you to the same place, so enjoy the journey!
And what about employers, what can they do to encourage more gender diversity?
We need to break stereotypes and be open to new faces, new ideas and new approaches at all levels, all the way to the top. It is key that inclusivity and diversity stop being taken as a “ticking” exercise and start being part of every company’s values and objectives.
Finally, when you’re not busy leading the technical development at MediSieve, how do you like to spend your time?
I am really active, I run and go to the gym on my spare time. But what I enjoy the most is being outdoors. I love going hiking and I go as often as I can.
For International Women’s Day 2021, we’re celebrating those in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. You can read our other interviews here.