“When I doubt myself, I listen to those who don’t”
Dr Aldeida Aleti was born in communist Albania and during the time its leader isolated the country from the rest of the world. Despite the tough economic times the country was going through, mainly due to policies stressing self-reliance, Aldeida’s childhood was a happy one.
Aldeida attended high school in Tirana in the midst of the transition to democracy. As new opportunities opened up to study abroad, in 2001, she was offered a scholarship to study computer engineering in the enigmatic city of Istanbul. After graduating summa cum laude, Aldeida’s next adventure took her to Ilmenau in Germany, where she worked as a research assistant in a novel communication model for the development of distributed streaming platforms.
In the beginning of the European winter of 2008, Aldeida accepted a PhD scholarship offer to study in ‘the lucky country’ – Australia. Despite knowing very little about it, she was lucky enough to choose Melbourne as her next home, where she met her husband, Torgeir; another fortunate occurrence. Together they enjoy the outdoors, with a particular passion for cycling, running, and hiking, especially when mountain summits are involved.
Upon finishing her PhD in 2012, Aldeida was employed as Lecturer at the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University. While her work on using adaptive optimisation has had an impact on the research community and industry, it is her recent ideas about understanding what makes problems hard to optimise that seem poised to have the most enduring impact for their opportunity to change research practice. To further develop these ideas Aldeida was the recipient of a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award in 2013.
Having received excellent mentorship over the years from senior colleagues at Monash, she gives back by mentoring PhD students and Early Career Researchers (ECRs) at her Faculty and research community more broadly.
What support structures did/do you have in place that have facilitated your success?
I owe my success mainly to the people who have guided and mentored me in my journey. I am not sure if they realise how much their mentoring has impacted my career in a positive way. I consider myself very lucky to have started my career at Monash’s Faculty of IT, which has outstanding initiatives in place for the advancement of early career researchers. Examples of support are; seed grants for research projects, waived tuition fees for PhD students supervised by ECRs, grant writing workshops designed specifically for ECRs, and other workshops tailored for ECRs related to leadership, supervision and building a successful academic career. Senior researchers are also encouraged to co-supervise and co-write grant applications with ECRs. Another important support structure has been my colleagues, who are amazing. I truly believe that my Faculty is the most collegial, friendly and inspiring place to work.
Hiking, running, tennis, cycling … basically any physical activity where I feel like I am using other parts of the brain from what I use at work. I am not sure if this always works. 🙂
What has been the biggest barrier you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
Doing research and teaching in a foreign language. English is not my first language, so I sometimes find myself constructing weird sentences that are translated word-for-word from Albanian. Especially when I teach, I am conscious of this, and I find myself repeating sentences in my head before I articulate them. I have come to realise, however, that Australian people, and especially my students and colleagues, are very sympathetic and understanding of my different accent and sometimes funny sentences. I now think that it can be an advantage to have an exotic accent.
What is the biggest challenge to all women pursuing a career in science?
Stereotypes, i.e. the inaccurate belief and untrue image, that women don’t find STEM as attractive as other fields. Sometimes, it is hard to recognise when life choices are influenced by society’s restricted ideas of what women should like and what they are good at. The danger is when messages and influences are so subtle that they are easy to dismiss, and this untrue image feels real.
How do you cope with self-doubt? How do you cope with imposter syndrome?
When I doubt myself, I listen to those who don’t.