Our graduate Margareta Ciglič discovered her passion for Computer Science while studying Applied Business Administration and decided to study both in parallel. We chatted with her about how all this came about, what her subsequent path at the university and at Kelag Energie has been like, and what is drawing her back to the lecture halls of the University of Klagenfurt in the upcoming summer semester.
What drew you to the University of Klagenfurt initially?
By pure coincidence, I left the grammar school in Kranj and my home country of Slovenia and completed my school-leaving examination at the grammar school for Slovenes in Klagenfurt. The original plan was to move back to Slovenia and pursue a medical degree in Ljubljana. In the end, I didn’t want to part with my boyfriend at the time and the band in which I played bass guitar. So I stayed in Klagenfurt and looked for a degree programme that would allow me to build on my rather basic knowledge of German. Because of the many presentations, seminar papers and group work assignments combined with relatively simple terminology, Applied Business Administration was a perfect fit.
Tell us about a memorable experience during your time as a student.
There were so many of them that we don’t have enough space here – they ranged from legendary classroom sessions to coffee breaks with friends during which we were in tears of laughter.
But there were also less pleasant experiences – especially due to my poor German language skills at the start of my studies. It was usually quite a challenge to follow lectures with the help of a dictionary (still in book form at that time), to take exams and to muster up the necessary courage for presentations in a new language in front of complete strangers. Having said that, these challenges and setbacks have made me stronger and this give me incredible fortitude and self-confidence in difficult situations.
If you were to study again, you would … once again choose a technical or science degree.
Were there moments or people during your time as a student that had a lasting impact on you?
Professor Mayr sparked my enthusiasm for computer science in his lecture “Computer Science for Business Economists”, and I discovered it as my great passion right away. Unfortunately, Computer Science is still taught in a completely misguided way in far too many schools and consequently it is not seen as a potential course of study. Computer Science is not about mastering MS Office programmes. It’s about solving problems. It’s about shaping the world of tomorrow. Computer scientists are incredibly creative people. They look beyond the boundaries of what is known and create new things. Computer scientists have completely changed the world and our day-to-day lives over the past decades and today – in the midst of the 4<sup>th</sup> industrial revolution – they are in greater demand than ever before.
And that’s how I was gripped by the computer science fever and I enrolled in the Informatics degree. I completed my studies in Applied Business Administration simultaneously.
During my studies I started to work for Professor Eder at the Department of Informatics Systems. I found the work and especially the thesis I wrote under his supervision extremely interesting. I was very pleased to be able to continue my research at the department after graduation and to be able to take up a position as a research assistant at the university. Professor Eder and the research work have greatly influenced my way of thinking, my way of dealing with the unknown and with setbacks, as well as my perseverance and tenacious pursuit of goals. In addition, speaking at international conferences, teaching and the multicultural environment at the department had a lasting impact on my personality and my love of communication.
Others who also had a profound influence on who I am today include Professor Neck and Professor Kropfberger, who provided me with a great deal of inspiration in their fascinating lectures.
Did you spend time abroad during your studies? What experiences were you able to bring back with you?
In my case, studying at the University of Klagenfurt was, strictly speaking, like studying abroad. Of course, additional time abroad would have broadened my horizons even more, but my time at university was already stretched by completing two degrees and I didn’t want to extend it even further by spending a semester abroad. Nevertheless, I indulge my interest in foreign cultures by taking private (long-distance) trips.
How did your journey at Kelag Energie evolve?
I worked for the Kelag Group on a part-time basis during my studies and I had very good impressions of the company. Later, by chance, an interesting opportunity presented itself and I joined the company a second time.
Why did you decide to pursue a doctorate? Was it instrumental to your professional development?
Even as a small child I used to question many things and wanted to analyse and understand everything down to the last detail. The doctoral programme allowed me to explore this curiosity fully.
During my doctoral studies I addressed two entirely different topics – first with data anonymisation and then with time management in business processes. My in-depth knowledge of business processes was and is definitely an advantage when it comes to my professional development. But much more than the expertise itself, I believe that the mindset and various personal qualities that one acquires in a respective doctoral programme constitute a great advantage.
What are your responsibilities in the area of customer service IT processes?
At Kelag, we want to provide our customers with a truly great customer experience from the very beginning. Our customers and their wishes and needs are at the centre of our attention. All internal processes and IT systems have to be adapted to meet such needs and wishes. This work requires a high level of analytical skills combined with strong communication skills and an understanding of the customer.
What do you find most fascinating about your job?
No two days are the same. In my roles, I work with different people from different areas on diverse projects. I learn something new from every person and in every project. The Kelag Group (and the energy industry in general) is incredibly exciting because a great many topics converge here.
What still connects you to the university today?
It gives me great pleasure to be able to continue teaching at the University of Klagenfurt. Teaching is another passion of mine. There is almost nothing that makes me happier than seeing the enthusiasm in the students’ eyes. I am really looking forward to accompanying two groups of students in the summer semester in the courses “UE Datenbanken” and “KS Informatik für Wirtschaftswissenschaften” and giving them an understanding of the wonderful world of computer science.
What advice would you give to students today?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Set goals in life and plan your path to reach them, but also have the courage to stray from the plan when new opportunities open up. Keep your eyes open – there are so many opportunities everywhere. Work hard, but don’t forget to celebrate occasionally. And most importantly: find your passion and invest energy there – this can turn into something great.