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Sonia GonCalves

ASIC Digital Design Manager, based in Portugal

Mari Puhakka

Software Engineering Manager, based in Finland

Exciting initiatives have been rolled out to promote women in engineering.


Diversity and inclusion is one of the most crucial aspects in STEM.

Sonia GonCalves, ASIC Digital Design Manager, has been curious about ‘how to make things’ since she was a child. She works at Synopsys in Portugal.

After graduating from the University of Algarve in Portugal with a degree in engineering – just one of two girls – she went to work in electronics.

“I started as a digital designer in 2008,” she says, “and I was happy to be in a big team. It was tough at the beginning as I was a girl in a man’s world. You had to be extra willing to show you could do it.

“It is very exciting to be always on the edge of technology and innovation”

Sonia is now involved in building a new product involving connecting neurons in the brains of robots which is very challenging but exciting. “At Synopsys, I progressed to manager in 2016, and have had the opportunity to invest and grow my team.”

“I work with people from diverse cultures – Egypt, India, Canada etc. You respect each other’s culture and adapt,” she says.

Training and learning throughout your career is important, but we should look into building the diversity already among young people and in schools.

Sonia has been involved in the company’s Women in Leadership programme. “We gathered a lot of women, brainstormed ideas, attended conferences and ran peer coaching meetings.”

“We closely collaborate with universities, creating internships, summer jobs, master projects and a special contest for girls – ‘Girls Go Engineering’. I also visit universities in Lisbon and speak about what I do,” she says.

Learning to code

Mari Puhakka is a Software Engineering Manager at the Software Integrity Group. “Ten years ago, I was working for a research group at university,” she says.

“It was then that I learned to code. There was a job opening that matched my skills at that time. I had recently graduated and chose the path of going with the industry instead of an academic career.”

In the last decade, Mari has grown from a hands-on software developer to becoming part of the management team, which has quite different requirements.

Importance of training and development

“I have been offered training and other development opportunities for that path,” she says. “The ‘Ignite Your Impact’ programme I participate in brings together women in leadership roles from the whole company across the globe to exchange ideas, offer support and do training together in a safe environment. It has been valuable considering we are in a highly male-dominated business and it is not guaranteed you meet women on daily basis.”

“Training and learning throughout your career is important, but we should look into building the diversity already among young people and in schools,” says Mari. “Technology is so broad that there are considerably more touch points today for girls to get interested in. We must do better at explaining the connection between basic mathematics, English and physics skills, to the possible application areas.”

“Quite often, software industry teams are organised into smaller responsibility areas,” she says. “My team, on the other hand, works on the full stack, so to speak. We have a team of diverse gender and nationalities.”

“I believe that kind of diversity helps to keep up conversation and forces us to consider and brainstorm before reaching a solid decision.”

“When recruiting, I try to build on the diversity already in the job description and we strive to have a diverse shortlist of candidates for every job we are recruiting for. It is very easy to stay in a bubble with people with same education, gender and similar career paths, but it’s far more rewarding to build an inclusive culture for diverse perspectives.”

Key facts about Synopsys

We value diversity, different perspectives, and new ideas and embrace everyone from enthusiastic learners to seasoned innovators who share our vision for the world of Smart Everything. We work to strengthen communities, encourage employee engagement and inspire a new generation of technology leaders. We are committed to making technology smarter and safer, from silicon to software.

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