What did you want to be when you were a teenager?
When I was 14 I decided I wanted to build airplanes.
Originally I wanted to fly airplanes, the big Jumbo jets, that is; but I had been informed that with my level of eyesight – imagine seeing the world as a permanent Monet painting – would mean I would not be considered for that type of job. So I went for the closest thing I could think of: building them.
Living in Vienna in the 80s and 90s, where aircraft manufacturing was not a particularly en vogue or local topic, I suppose I could understand my Mom’s inquiry of ‘Will you be able to get a job doing that?’.
So off I went to research the options and, after some time in the British library, returned with a satisfactorily large number of options.
I didn’t study aerospace engineering because I loved maths and physics. For me, they were just kind of there, as a vehicle to get to aircraft.
I can, to this day, remember their effect on me when standing at the edge of an airport in the USA, with only a wire-mesh fence stopping seven-year-old me from being nose-to-nose with a Boeing 747 (as close as a seven-year-old can get to the nose of a jumbo, that is). For the longest time, the best part of a holiday for me was to start it off in an aircraft.
At one point, when I was already studying, I was on a flight to Los Angeles, and intently staring out the window at the air current – visible due to cloudy conditions I guess – zooming around the wing, so intently that the guy sitting next to me, who had been talking to me during most of the flight until that point, commented in a rather irritated manner: ‘You’re more interested in the plane than in me.’ Not sure I would have gone that far, but my flirting skills were in keeping with some of the clichés on engineering students, I guess.
So I learned how to design and build aircraft, I spent almost three years doing material research for my PhD, which to me felt more like a luxury all-expenses-paid opportunity to mess in the labs and extend my study time, and was really lucky to have a PhD supervisor who understood that while I was super happy doing this for three years, after that I didn’t want to go into academia.
I wanted to take the next step and work with people who built aircraft, and after seven years of full-on focus on aircraft, combine my love for that with my interest in people.
Maybe I was born with that interest, maybe if you’re born and grow up in the city of Sigmund Freud, some interest in people is instilled in you…. I don’t know. What I do know is that my husband has the hardest time getting one of the ‘good’ seats when we go out, i.e. the ones where you can watch people, as those are the ones I intuitively make a beeline for.
The more I worked with my teams, in projects, departments and business units, the more I got to follow my passion for empowering people.
And while it is cool to test fire containers out of an A400M cargo loading bay at 80 km/h or simulate cabin procedures in the A350 XWB, I got my biggest thrills when leading people, helping them to fulfil their potential: seeing the smiles on my team members‘ faces when we had achieved a project goal, smiling to myself after being told I was the first person in 15 years to ask whether someone enjoyed their job, encouraging someone to take that next step….
The longer I was in leadership, the more my focus was on my people and making sure they could do their best.
While I was busy doing that, people kept coming to me with questions on career development, handling difficult situations, taking the next step and achieving their best work balance. At the time I figured this was because I had had a certain career path and had been in the same corporation for a decade. After that decade, installing cabins in the first A380s and leading large projects, I wanted to see something else. I switched from a corporation to a smaller firm, to gain some experience leading in a different context. I figured, if nothing else, this would halt the line of people coming to me looking for my point of view.
Within three weeks of starting the new job, one of my team was sitting across from me asking me how to navigate his career from pure engineering to engineering project management. Maybe something else was going on here….
At the same time, the pull to focus on my passion of enabling people was there. If anything it got stronger, and slowly, I started to realise that maybe, just maybe, I could be doing this full-time.
So I went for it. If my colleagues hadn’t thought I was being a risk-taker for leaving the safety of the corporation, they definitely thought I was now.
I did my certificates as a business coach and business trainer, I started my degree in applied psychology, and I got my first customers.
So that is what led me here, being a full-time business coach, trainer and facilitator. I love my job. I love supporting people fulfilling their potential, achieving their best work balance, growing their teams, developing their leadership. If you want to know any more about me, get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you!