"I discovered in me an entrepreneurial mindset"

Meet our Alumni: Carlos Callejo

At the EIT Digital Master School, the Spanish Carlos Callejo discovered his entrepreneurial mindset. As a data scientist, working in an international company, he misses now the entrepreneurial part. The EIT Digital Alumni offers him the means to stay connected to this facet. As one of the new board members, he can further develop his soft skills which could come in handy when one day he starts his own international company.

The EIT Digital Alumni Foundation established a new board this summer. That is a reason to talk to the new board members about their motivation, their work and their education. Callejo studied Data Science at Polytech Nice Sophia and Aalto University.

Please, introduce yourself. Who is Carlos?

“I currently work remotely in Berlin. I live in Barcelona, and I am originally from Madrid. Since February, I am travelling around and became a proper digital nomad; I went to the Canary Islands for a few months and I will soon be relocationg to Paris for my job. I did my bachelor in computer science engineering at the Universidad de Politécnico Madrid. Since UPM is a partner university, here is where I first heard about the EIT Digital Master School programme in Data Science. The opportunity of moving abroad and meeting people from other countries appealed to me. I already experienced that in an Erasmus exchange in Sweden during my bachelor’s. Actually, I was about to take a position in that country and already had a generous offer at hand when the EIT Digital Master School accepted my application. Both were good opportunities. I was sleepless and overthinking, until one night, I got out of bed at 4 am for a walk in the Scandinavian winter. It was minus ten degrees outside. It helped to clear my mind and I decided to go for the master’s.”

What were your reasons to choose for the EIT Digital Master School?

“Data science is a fascinating topic nowadays and I thought learning it would grant me great opportunities. Also, I am an avid traveler: studying at two different universities in two countries, and the chance to attend events in other countries, is a dream.

The masters also gave me the opportunity to grow my network. In addition to this, a big part of my study costs were waived. I was not so sure about the Innovation and Entrepreneurship part at first. But I was interested in the business side of technology. I thought I could learn a lot from this and it can be helpful in my future. That is why I chose the EIT Digital Master School over the job. And, I have to say, it was the correct decision and my time at the EIT Digital Master School has been my best two years so far.”

Why was the EIT Digital Master School the best two years of your life?

“It was as expected it to be. I had the opportunity to make friends from all around the world, to have fun and learn a lot. As a bonus, I discovered in me an entrepreneurial mindset that I really liked. I studied at two different universities, in both Nice (Polytech Nice Sophia) and Finland (Aalto University), and I really enjoyed these institutions. The best part was without doubt the people. We all have the same mindset of exploring and creating things, we are open-minded and we really push ourselves to grow in both the hard and the soft skills. The students here want to make an impact in the world. I do agree with that, it is not just about my future, it is about creating impact.”

What impact do you want to make?

“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be an inventor. I wanted to make inventions that could make the life of people easier and happier. It sounds silly, but I was inspired by an animated series that was very popular in Spain back when I was a kid. In this series, the creators introduced multiple futuristic devices that were there to help a really unfortunate character, so his life could be easier. I was amazed by the endless possibilities of such technologies, and I was already thinking about the impact that they could bring into the real world, into our society. Since then, I’ve never changed this way of thinking. I want to make the world a better place, even if it’s just a little bit. That is where I get energy from, what motivates and drives me.”

Can you make an impact in your work as a data scientist at Adevinta

“Yes. At Adevinta, we connect sellers and buyers to give goods a second life.  These are for example laptops, books, clothes, motors, and even properties. We promote the second-hand market and in so doing avoid wasting resources. We reduce the production demands and we help people reuse their belongings. Items can have a second or even third life. The circular economy contributes to the sustainability of our planet.”

How did you get this job?

“I did an internship in Nice at SAP Labs France. I would have wanted to stay there as a data scientist. Out of the blue, I got invited by Adevinata’s human resource manager to work there. At first, the company was unkown to me. It is an umbrella company of many marketplaces companies in the world (like eBay, Marktplaats, Kufar, Agriaffaires, Subito, Kijiji, ed.).  I like this diversity, it offers me the possibility to work on many different projects with teams that are based around the world. Plus, the company is in line with my principles. It is not about just making profit,  I can make an impact too. To me, everything was checked, so I took it. I have been here for two years now and soon will be transferred to Paris.”

How do you see data science evolving?

“Nowadays, we gather data from many sources and have tools to take advantage of these data. Data science technologies like machine learning are very powerful techniques that can improve society. Repetitive or dangerous jobs can be heavily lifted through machine learning automatization.

How data science can bring value to society depends solely on the context. For example, take autonomous cars. Algorithms are based on data. In the future, you can order a self-driving car via your mobile device, that picks you up and takes you to your destination in the most optimal way. Cars would not have to stop unless for picking up people if they are carpooling. Hence, there can be fewer cars, fewer car parks, less contamination and lesser use of resources. That contributes to better livable cities.”

What is your career amibition?

“In less than ten years, I will have built my data science-related startup. I am always exploring ideas with friends and colleagues I met at the EIT Digital Master School. I like to discuss ideas, to see what these could bring to the table, how to kick them off, and think about other use cases. I hope one day, one of these ideas will lead to begin my startup project. As I picture it, it will first be a niche company and if it goes well, I will expand it to other use cases and markets. We could aim as big as it can get. Of course, the bigger you grow, the more impact you can have. Yes, it will be an international company.”

How has the EIT Digital Master School still impact your work?

“The EIT Digital Master School surely has helped me in my career. At first, I was most interested in technology. But during the EIT Digital Master School programme, I discovered my interest to explore. Along the way, I liked the innovation and entrepreneurship part even more than the technical part. I loved every challenge and every competition that we were doing: idea development, pitching and testing. I loved it. In my work, I am doing a very technical job. That gives me a strong technical training for future demands. I fear a disconnection from entrepreneurship if I dive too deep into the technical side of data science; I might end up not funding my startup. I wish to remain connected to the entrepreneurial spirit.“

How do you keep connected with that entrepreneurial part of you?

“I used to attend startup events as much as I could. Simultaneaouly, I am staying in touch with the EIT Digital ecosystem. For example, the meetings of the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation, like the annual event in Trento in 2018, the online version of it during the lockdown, and the Tuesday Afterwork sessions are great ways to stay in touch with other alumni. Before the pandemic, I also worked with EIT Health and EIT Digital to host a cross-KIC event in Barcelona. Adevinta was willing to provide the venue. Unfortunately, the pandemic took away this chance.”

Why do you want to be an EIT Digital Alumni Foundation board member?

“As I said, I want to found a startup in the future. This position can help me further build my network and to keep discovering. This position is mostly about organising and it requires a huge amount of soft skills that I like to improve. In my job, I do tech tech tech. Here, I can find balance. Additionaly, I get to keep in touch with my former university colleagues.  Also, I feel I like to give back. EIT Digital has done so much for: it gave me countless opportunities. I felt like being a board member is one way to contribute and to keep in touch with other alumni. It helps me build a stronger network, with personal growth especially, and have fun. If you don’t enjoy what you do, then you cannot do a good job.”

Why is staying in touch with other alumni important to you?

“Because after we graduate, a lot of people go work in companies or in a startup, build a startup of their own, or move to research. Then you lose touch and so many fertile synergies would not come to life. Through the EIT Digital Alumni Foundation, we keep in touch with each other.”  

What does your function Outreach and Partnership Officer mean?

“It is a fairly new position. We try to work with a lot of partners. I am here to promote these and to reach out to more partners to create win-win scenario’s. These are third parties, like universities, companies, or associations. We could receive, for example, discounts, perks or benefits or services, software, transport, subscriptions for our alumni members.

I also work on sponsorships for our events. If we host, for example, the annual meeting, we need a budget for food, the venue, and other organisational matters. In return for the perks we get, the companies get their brand out to their ideal target, we encourage them to share their job openings in our internal portal, and we are helping them to create useful connections. We are close to 2000 alumni, and growing each year with new cohorts of graduating students. That proves to be a considerable large audience for companies to perceive results.”

What is your ambition in your role as an EIT Digital Alumni Board member?

“We now get a budget from EIT Digital. In the future, we need to become self-sufficient. Apart from the perks and benefits and jobs for the alumni, we need also funding for our events. And we need of course alumni who see enough benefits for their personal growth and career to engage with our community. In two years, I hope to have gained enough perks for our alumni to engage and to have our events fully covered by sponsors.”

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