WoW Woman in STEM | Ghaithaa Manla, Manager of Impactech and Enterprise Research Fellow at the University of Southampton

Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)

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Dr. Ghaithaa Manla, Impactech manager is currently Enterprise Research Fellow for the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering. She strongly believes that having a healthy and strong relationship between these separate worlds will ensure that scientific discoveries and technological developments are accessible to the end users who can then further exploit the technology into new products and services.  

Ghaithaa did her MSc in Microelectronics at the University of Southampton before embarking on a PhD in Renewable Energy. During her PhD, she was interested in applied research and worked closely with industry. She noticed that the core interest of academia and industry differs. While, academic research focus on creating new knowledge and excelling in existing know-how, industry concentrates on mastering the challenges of a competitive environment and are striving for market success. However, when they collaborate mutual advantages are achieved through transferring theoretical ideas into more practical projects and implementing the latest research results in the real world.

In 2012, her consultancy role at Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, offered a great potential to maximize, promote the impact of research across broad range of industries and turn research outputs into products that help the growth of different type of businesses.

What does your current job role entail?

My role as Impactech Manager is to enhance the relationship between industry and academia to maximize the impact of research on our society and thus the economy.

How has your career progressed since your degree? Has it been an easy industry to get into or have you had many challenges?

I have been working with sensors and intelligent systems for many years, having completed a degree in electronics, a masters in microelectronics and a PhD in renewable energy at the University of Southampton.

My first job as an engineer was in industry. I designed smart ultrasonic flow sensors. It was a great job! I think I learned more about myself and what sort of career that I would like to pursue. I have always been interested in entrepreneurship, understanding the market and trying to meet these demands. I left industry to work on an exciting academic project to track the movements of the glacier. The project involved placing a capsule full of different sorts of sensors in the glacier to take measurements over a long period of time. Throughout the project I worked with a wide variety of technology, from sensors that measure pressure and strain, to temperature sensors and even low powered intelligent systems. By the end of the project I was so determined to start my own business, which led to me setting up my own business SmartTechFirst. It was the University of Southampton-based consultancy service providing custom designed and built bespoke intelligent systems for organisations that are looking to add value to their existing services or to create new products.

This has led directly to the establishment of a new hub at the University of Southampton, where we can expand our cross-industry research initiatives throughout the whole university. The new hub “Impactech” is a unique world class research partnership with NMI delivering important collaborative ventures with different types of companies. It aims at developing a connected academic and industrial community that will deliver a portfolio of collaborative research projects aimed and pulling through academic know-how into the industrial market.

How long did it take you to be where you are now? What was the biggest obstacle?

It took hard work and lots of determination. I don’t think I have achieved what I would like to accomplish in life. I am a positive person, who prefer to think about possible solutions for the problems that I am facing rather than concentrating on the obstacles. I always believed in the fact that It is important to analyse problems, but it is better to focus on what can give us meaningful and practical results.    

What are your projects you are currently working on?

Classified! I work across broad range of industries to turn research outputs into products that help the growth of different type of businesses. So mainly i establish collaborative research projects with industry in order to advance existing results towards their ultimate application. This is only achieved by building strong connections with industry and trying to identify their needs and come up with practical solutions to their challenging problems. It is hard work to write proposals to secure projects with industry, but it is really rewarding when you know the impact that the project generated on their business. Business satisfaction is the main thing that keep me going.

What are your biggest achievements to date?

Getting to know myself and what I want in life… I know it is a personal thing, but I think it is important. I have always achieved high marks at maths and physics. I have never explored and examined my personal skills which I believe they are as important as technical skills.    

Can you name any prominent women in this industry that you admire?

Karren Brady, because she is harsh but fair. Each woman that I met in STEM has her own unique quality. In general I usually get inspired by those women with agile mindset!

What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs in STEM out there?

Be yourself… Discover and embrace your strength… Work on your weaknesses if needed and don’t forget that opportunities are there for you to grab them! 

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Website: Impactech

Website: Theano 

LinkedIn:  Ghaithaa Manla

This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.