Interview with Dordaneh Arangeh, Head of IT Procurement and Portfolio

“Moving ahead with full innovative power!” Title story of the magazine “Die Wirtschaftsfrau” / | from 22/01/2019

Dordaneh Arangeh, Head of IT Procurement & Portfolio (ITS PPF) discussed and provided answers in an interview with the magazine “Die Wirtschaftsfrau” [“The Businesswoman”]. Quote from the editors: “Her career path reflects her unique personality. She made her way to the very top with a large helping of endurance”.

"Die Wirtschaftsfrau" issue No. 7 / 2019
“Die Wirtschaftsfrau” issue No. 7 / 2019

IT Women Wanted

Information technology is a field dominated by men. Unfortunately, that is still the case today. Women hold only around 13% of all ICT positions: Out of approximately 300 people working in IT Services (ITS), around 40 of them are IT women. ITS would like to see more women in its team. That is why Yvonne Zilio, who is responsible for HR at IT Services, started initiatives to increase the number of women at IT Services of ETH Zurich in 2018. During her research, she encountered the job platform “”, which has advertised amongst others the ITS vacancies since early summer 2018. Now some of the ITS vacancies are also advertised in the magazine “Die Wirtschaftsfrau”, which is published on a quarterly basis. This connection gave ITS a chance to illustrate the career path of one woman at ETH in a personal interview.

“ETH Zurich does a lot to promote women”

Dordaneh Arangeh, Head of IT Procurement & Portfolio Management at ETH Zurich. (Photo: Daniel Winkler)
Dordaneh Arangeh, Head of IT Procurement & Portfolio Management at ETH Zurich. (Photo: Daniel Winkler)

Dordaneh Arangeh, Head of IT-Procurement & Portfolio Management at ETH Zurich. (Photo: Daniel Winkler)

Ahead with full innovative power!

Hello, Ms Arangeh. You have been working at ETH Zurich since 2000 and have been Head of IT Procurement & Portfolio Management since 2012. What exactly does that involve?

The tasks we perform in this division and the services we offer are quite diverse. We are responsible for all IT procurement at ETH worth 10,000 Swiss francs and above. That includes not only software and hardware but also services. We are also in charge of IT Portfolio Management. We are responsible for the IT service catalogue, reporting and the Service Management Office.

In senior project management, we take care of complicated, cross-department IT projects.

We are also responsible for quality assurance for all of the IT services, as well as financial controlling. In addition, we offer IT training at ETH. Almost 3,000 people participated in offered courses at ETH. Another important activity is the IT vocational training lab. Every year, we train seven or eight trainees in IT, and they spend the entire first year of their education in this lab. The section has 38 employees, including the trainees. As you can see, our area of activity is large and diverse.

And how did you come to occupy this position?

I studied electrical engineering at ETH Zurich and completed my studies in 1998. After that, I started working at ABB Schweiz AG, where I completed my master thesis. I worked in various business units there. At the end of 2000, I returned to the ETH as a network engineer. Later on and after completing my master of economics and management at ETH, I changed my field to the business administration. At the end of 2008, the executive board at ETH was restructured, and I applied to work as the staff of Vice President of Personnel and Resources. Once again, this was a completely different task area at the strategic level. We implemented several changes in the overall IT organisation in this area, one of which was introducing IT Portfolio Management.

Back then, ETH Zurich was the first university in Europe to introduce something like that.

I played an important role in structuring this division, and when the strategic position as Head of Portfolio Management was created in 2012, I it was interests to occupy the position and lead  IT Portfolio Management into an operational level by merging it with IT Procurement. I was involved in setting up this division from the very beginning.

IT is a field that is still often dominated by men. Is that also the case at ETH Zurich?

Yes, it is also the case here. However, things have changed in the last 20 years quite remarkably.

ETH Zurich has done a lot to catalyse this change and motivate young women to study and work at ETH Zurich.

The situation has already improved considerably, but we are still in a field dominated by men. My division has the most number of females: They account for 8 out of 38 employees.

What is the situation with students? Have you noticed an increase in the number of female students in programmes relating to information technology?

Compared to when I was studying, there are definitely more women in the lecture halls. There were four women at the beginning of my programme, and in the end, there were only two of us. The number in electrical engineering has quintupled. In information technology, women account for around 12.3% of bachelor students and 18.8% of master students. That is certainly not a lot, but the trend is heading in the right direction.

Which measures is ETH Zurich taking to promote the gender balance in areas where the number of women still falls short of the target figure?

We were one of the first universities to become involved in “Future Day / Nationaler Zukunftstag”. ETH Zurich has initiated many programmes for young girls to familiarise them with studies at ETH and information technology in particular.

In addition, an Equal Opportunities Office has existed at ETH Zurich for a long time. It is responsible for promoting young female researchers. And there is also a women’s community in information technology. You can also see the results in the number of female professors. It has increased considerably compared to the situation ten years ago. There is still potential for more, but at least we are on the right track.

We should bear in mind that ETH Zurich is an institute of technology, an area which was anchored in the male world for a long time. That is why it is difficult to compete with universities focusing on the social sciences.

Is that also why you decided to work for ETH Zurich?

Yes, that is one of the reasons, but not the only one. At ETH we are daily in touch with wonderful young people. This is a unique environment, which I personally value a lot.Because we serve a very discerning clientele, we have to stay fit technically; this makes our profession quite attractive. Moreover, I see a good purpose in what I do. We all contribute to shape the future of many young people here. Although my contribution might be a small one,  yet it is an important contribution.

Young people study here and build their futures.

Helping these people with my work means a lot to me.

Let’s turn to the issue of the economy: What role do universities play in the Swiss economy?

ETH Zurich is a very valuable part of our society. Its employees are proud of that. As a small country with few natural resources, Switzerland depends on innovation to make headway for a long time, and ETH Zurich is one of the top players when it comes to the innovation. In short, its significance for the success of the Swiss economy is critical.

The three main tasks of ETH Zurich are teaching, researching and technology transfer. All of them are equally important.

Approximately 25 spin-off companies are founded at ETH Zürich every year, and there are already more than 330 of them in total. Even if people say that only three or four of these companies are at the forefront, they are still at the forefront and making a valuable contribution. Usually, they involve what are referred to as “bleeding edge” technologies, which we introduce to the economy and society.

ETH Zurich ranked 11th in the World University Rankings 2019, making it the only Swiss university in the top 20. Which factors do you hold responsible for this good result?

ETH Zurich has upheld academic freedom since it was founded. This freedom is vital to allow researchers to unfold maximum innovation in t heir research. Another important factor for our success is the basic funding provided by the federal government. It provides ETH  more independence from private sponsors in compare to other top universities. In addition, thanks to its attractive location in Zurich, ETH Zurich has managed to acquire the best people from around the globe. And they make the difference in the end.

Today, more and more young people are studying instead of doing apprenticeships. Economically speaking, do you believe this development entails any negative aspects?

Switzerland offers young people many different opportunities to use their talent for the benefit of society. That is a good thing. However, it is also important for the economy to be flexible. It needs to stop earmarking certain jobs for people who have certain educations.. Academics can also perform technical or manual tasks and are not predestined for only theoretical, conceptional work.

A change in perspective for our conclusion: Do you think your career path would have been easier if you had been a man?

I cannot say; I never asked myself that question during my career. Of course, I had setbacks, but when I think about the matter in a fair and open manner, I have to admit that my male colleagues also experienced such setbacks. Would things have been different if I had been a man? Who can say? Anyone who tries hard enough will move forward. Personally, I have never seen the difference between men and women in my surroundings.

Source article online: (German)

IT Services at ETH Zurich

The IT Services department (ITS) supports teaching, research, and administration by providing services in the field of information and communication technologies. It operates the necessary comprehensive infrastructures, information systems and applications to this end.

ITS is divided into nine sections: ITS ICT Networks (ITS NET), ITS System Services (SD), ITS User Services (BD), ITS Software Services (SWS), ITS Multimedia Services (MMS), ITS Service Delivery (SDL), ITS Services for Departments (S4D), ITS IT Procurement & Portfolio (PPF) and ITS Scientific IT Services (SIS).

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