For our new blog series, we will be introducing you to the Immense team. Our first interview is with Immense Applications Technologist Vittoria Parisi.
Tell us a bit about Immense and what you do?
I am an Applications Technologist here at Immense, which means I am the first user of the simulation software we are developing. My background is in Civil Engineering, with a focus on Transport Planning and Modelling. I have explored transport related topics in various European Countries, including Spain and Slovenia, thanks to Erasmus Scholarships I was awarded while studying in Italy. My transport modelling skills were then primarily enhanced while studying at Newcastle University in the UK and working with the current DfT Chief Scientific Advisor on the European Project Compass4D.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My usual day consists of setting up simulations (create supply and demand files with the semi-automated tools built in house), running them, and analysing their results, either for specific projects or to test whether what has been developed so far is fit for purpose. Also, as a member of the Applications Team, I look after the Software User Guide and work closely with clients to ensure we are delivering high quality outputs.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is seeing a simulation running from our platform that delivers expected results. When building a new platform, lots of software development is involved and therefore things can transform rapidly from one day to another. You might fix something and break something else… so when everything goes smoothly it really makes your day! Also, seeing our clients happy and excited about what we have been developing is really rewarding.
How did you come to work at Immense?
After leaving Newcastle University, I started working at the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), where I joined the Modelling and Visualisation Team with the Immense co-founders, Robin, Carl and Didac. As they were founding Immense, there was an opportunity for a transport modeller to join the team, so applied!
What made you want to work for Immense?
I liked the challenge of what we are trying to solve at Immense. The idea of using large-scale simulations as decision support tools for non-modelling experts remains new to the industry, which is very exciting. Moreover, I really liked working with Carl, Didac and Robin - so that was one of the main points that made me move!
What’s it been like working for immense from its inception to now?
It’s very exciting and like watching a baby grow! I remember the first days working on the TALON project back in June 2016 in one of the Intelligent Mobility Labs at TSC. There was two or three of us working with a bowl of nuts as snacks, which we used to call the Immense nuts… and now we are here with an office full of people!
What did you want to career wise when you were younger?
I had very different views when I was younger: I wanted to be an astronaut. I actually wanted to study Aerospatiale Engineering in order to become one. I also wanted to be a doctor because my mum is a doctor, but then I went for engineering. My dad used to be a train driver and would bring me with him on the trains, hence how I became passionate about transportation. So, I got into engineering with a transportation background - although I did not at all think I would be a transport modeller when I was younger!
What’s been your biggest career achievement so far?
In the three years I have been working here, becoming a core member of the Applications Team and Lead Project Manager for the EEH Project have been really enjoyable achievments. (More details of which can be found here.)Also, presenting one of the projects I worked on during time at the TSC at one of the top global transport conferences, the Transportation Infrastructure System (TIS) in 2017, was quite an achievement too.
The women in engineering movement has gained a lot of press recently, how do you think we can encourage young girls and teenagers to move into engineering?
When I was at University studying Civil Engineering, my Geology teacher said: "Before I start, the girls might want to leave the room, as they won’t be interested in this career, where being on site might mess up their hair or get their nails dirty!" As a first step, we really need to change that type of thinking! Beautiful brains capable of doing great stuff are everywhere, but in most cases, like the Women in Engineering one, are discouraged. I also think that here in the UK there is a misconception with the word engineering. The other day, in the gym, there was a broken hairdryer and a note said 'sorry for the inconvenience, an engineer is on their way.' I felt the word was misused. Whenever you think of an engineer here in the UK you might think of a technician, which is not what it is. Girls might think they are going to be repairing dishwashers or washing machines, but actually they can do much more that that! Engaging early on with schools where successful female engineers come in and show girls all the job opportunities that out there come from engineering, would be a step forward to get young girls engaged and passionate about an engineering career!
What advice would you give to women thinking about moving into an engineering career?
I would say it is not easy, therefore to not get discouraged at the first obstacles. Study hard and be the best you can be! I found studying engineering both in Italy and Newcastle was quite tough, but effort always pay off!
What do you think the future of mobility looks like?
I think autonomous vehicles, and I would be a fool if I didn't think that! There has been lots of research, trials, and investment applied to this field, and I cannot wait to see the vehicles properly in action!
When you're not working what are your hobbies and interests?
I usually go to the gym and practice rock climbing. I am afraid of heights or, well, I used to be and started rock climbing to face my fear, which I’m not completely over with but it is much better than when I started! I also enjoy going to the cinema and reading books when I get the time.
If you were stuck on desert island, water and food is provided and could take three things with you what would they be?
I would take my favourite book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; a weapon, probably a knife to defend myself from whatever I might meet, and in case I need to build myself a house (can you cut bamboo with a knife?); and a satellite phone, so I could call someone to rescue me… but only after a couple of days though as I would like to enjoy the peace and quiet first!
You can find out more about Immense and our exciting new beta launch here.