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Bridge between theory and practice

Dissertation by Claudia Melo, technology director at ThoughtWorks, was designed to make an impact on academia and industry alike

Claudia Melo: time divided between work and research

Personal archiveClaudia Melo: time divided between work and researchPersonal archive

For Claudia de Oliveira Melo, 34, technology director at Thoughtworks (TW) in Brazil, her PhD dissertation was an instrument that brought deep insight into how knowledge is conveyed from theory into practice and vice-versa. “I can build bridges between those two worlds, and that helps me advise people on how to exploit information and generate knowledge, or how to incorporate recent scientific results into the industry’s state-of-the-practice,” says Melo, who is also an associate researcher at the Institute of Mathematics and Statistics of the University of São Paulo (IME-USP), where she obtained her PhD in computer science. Her PhD dissertation, designed to make an impact on academia and industry alike, was chosen as one of the top six dissertations of 2013 in a contest organized by the Brazilian Computer Society. “My research problem emerged during a meeting with a former head of TI of the Brazilian Central Bank, in which he asked whether agile software development methods would give organizations a productivity boost.”

Two and a half years ago, Melo started working at TW, a US-based global consultancy and software design company. “By conciliating the end of my PhD and my first project at TW, I was able not only to apply knowledge from my research to accomplish the project, but also to refine the scientific results of my research through practical validation.” At USP, Melo is part of a research project called “Entrepreneurship in computer science and the software startup ecosystem”, in which she informally co-advises a PhD student. The research is conducted collaboratively by IME-USP, the Israel Institute of Technology, the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), and  the Vale Technological Institute. In her professional career, Melo has worked at companies both big and small, and has also owned her own consultancy startup. In 2001, a year after obtaining her undergraduate degree in computer science at the Federal University of Uberlândia, Melo was working in Rio de Janeiro, but felt the need to go back to school to improve her performance at work. At age 21, she moved to São Paulo and started a master’s program at IME. And then a third career emerged when she enrolled at USP: Melo started working as a computer teacher at universities including Senac (in São Paulo) and the Catholic University of Brasília, where she also coordinated a graduate program. “For almost a decade of my life, I juggled industry, research, and teaching.” In 2009, she left two jobs to return to USP and pursue a PhD.