Katarzyna Okulska-Gawlik, Project Manager at SENER Aeroespacial in Poland

We talk with Katarzyna Okulska-Gawlik, Project Manager at SENER Aeroespacial in Poland, as part of the #SENEREQUAL talks, in observance of International Women's Day.

After receiving her degree in Aerospace Engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology in 2015, Katarzyna began her professional career as a Project Engineer at SENER Aeroespacial in Poland. During the last six years she has been involved in the design, finite element model analysis and testing of mechanisms under the SAOCOM-CS, PROBA-3, IBDM and ATHENA ISM projects. From November 2019 she took up her duties as Project Manager at ATHENA ISM, and currently she runs two projects related to ATHENA - ISM and MAMD.

katarzyna-okulska-gawlik-sener-aeroespacialKatarzyna, what attracted you to the technology sector?

I'd rather say that I've always wanted to work on something related to the Cosmos. Initially, my dream was to become an astronomer and for many years I thought it would be like that. In high school, my interests shifted slightly towards technical aspects rather than scientific, and I applied for engineering studies at the Polytechnic.

Was there anyone who inspired you?

Certainly, my mother, a Physics teacher. She had a great contribution to the development of my career, thanks to whom I was interested in Astronomy and Astronautics from an early age.

As you look to the future, in what areas would you like to keep making progress, what challenges do you face?

I would certainly like to reach the point where the mechanisms I have worked with, whether as an engineer or as a project manager, will be successfully launched and work properly on the orbit.

I would like to develop further towards People Management. I am only at the beginning of my career and I want to keep on learning and growing professionally.

It has been proven that diverse and inclusive work teams are best at leveraging each individual's personal capabilities within the group. They foster innovation and are beneficial for project development. From your point of view, what role do women play in the field of engineering?

If we were to ask what role men play in engineering, it would sound strange, wouldn't it?

Women in our company are employed in a variety of positions, including engineers, technicians, testers, managers… and in each of these positions they do their job well and achieve success. I don't think we need to be assigned any extra, extraordinary role just because of our gender. Our role is the same as that of men - we work in specific positions. What may differ is the possibly preferred style of performing this work (e.g. a different management style).

Do you think that structural changes are needed in how work is organized to make sure that everyone, regardless of age or gender, can contribute and collaborate in a team?

In this case, the COVID-19 pandemic came to our aid, as it forced the implementation of certain changes that would have been introduced much later or never without a pandemic stimulus. Certainly, a flexible work schedule and much wider than before possibilities and acceptance of remote work are changes that help relieve employees for childcare and care for dependent persons.

Women in our company are employed in a variety of positions (...) in each of these positions they do their job well and achieve success. I don't think we need to be assigned any extra, extraordinary role just because of our gender. Katarzyna Okulska-Gawlik

Education is essential to advance personally, professionally and socially. As a professional, what advice would you give an 18-year-old girl who is about to start college and doesn't know what field to go into?

There are three important things to consider when choosing your studies: your predispositions, your interests and the demand on the labor market. The best option is choosing a field of study that correlates at least somewhat with all three. If not possible, at least two of them!

Consider each option without being conditioned by stereotypes. And, above all, make your choice in harmony with yourself.

We're speaking on the occasion of International Working Women's Day. What would you share with other women to help them advance professionally and to strike a work-life balance?

The challenge of balancing a professional career with personal and family life is not just a task for women, but for both sexes.

Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, I would convey to you that it pays to be assertive and work under clear rules regarding overtime.

Having time for your own hobbies, to de-stress and rest is important and worthwhile!

To what extent do you think the digital transformation can help us move forward in striking a work-life balance?

Thanks to remote access to the working platform, working in the cloud, the rapid development of communicators and collaborative work platforms, nowadays remote work can be more efficient, and we can afford it without losing the quality of work.

Working from home has many advantages, especially for those who live far away from the workplace: the time saved on commuting can be really significant and can be used for other purposes. However, it is worth mentioning that flexible schedules and telecommuting can also be a threat, as the boundaries between work time and leisure time are blurred. Therefore, it is important to set a framework for your day and stick to it.

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