Ewa relocated from Poland to the UK, in order to be able to provide a better future to her son. As well as her role as a senior structural engineer, Ewa is a single parent to her autistic son. Not allowing anything to hold her back, Ewa was not deterred to pursue her career ambitions even when in her first job interview in Poland, she was told that the role was ‘too difficult for a woman’.
We interviewed Ewa to find out more about how she got to where she is today. Showing us that with the right mindset and determination, you can achieve your goals, we are sure that Ewa’s story will inspire you...
Can you tell us a bit about you and your career?
I am the mother of an autistic boy and a structural engineer. I work in Metsä Wood as a senior engineer. I have experience as an engineer and project manager with a wide knowledge of timber design, structural analysis and software. I have 21 years of experience, including 14 years in the UK.
What is a typical day in your career?
I love my job because every day is different. Every day I support sites and help them to fix problems on-site, but as well I support our sales guys designing span tables, advising engineers and architects and helping our distributors on engineering problems. I am responsible for in-house engineering software development. I answer technical questions on the phone and by email.
‘I never give up, especially if somebody tells me that it is too difficult for me.’
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?
I must say I have a strong character and forceful mind. I never give up, especially if somebody tells me that it is too difficult for me. At my first job, in the interview, my boss told me that this job is too difficult for a woman as there is too much math - that’s why I took the job. I moved to the UK to provide a better future for my son.
If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
I think it helps me a lot that I am mischievous and I have a strange sense of humour. When men treat me in a “girly” way, I always smile and treat them in a similar way. It was really difficult to combine being a mother of an autistic child and a senior engineer, but my company is understanding.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
The best is the surprise in other's eyes when they see that I am very good at what I do.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
Never give up. There is always a way even if the road is not the one you enjoy.
“Work hard, don’t be afraid of change and challenge.”
Do you have a mantra you live your life by?
Don’t look into the future or the past, live now.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
Be patient, never give up and be strong.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
My mother who was a fascinating woman and my hero was my biggest influence. There are a few women have also influenced me and my life, some are historical like Catherine of Aragon or Bess of Hardwick and others like Michelle Obama. It helps that I read a lot. I have female friends and we support each other. I believe strongly that women should support each other!
Do you think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?
I believe that everything is finally going in the right direction and questions are being asked, but there is still a lot of work to be done in the construction industry. I try to change this by promoting women as engineers through LinkedIn, Twitter and as a Vice-Chair in the IStructE Peterborough Committee.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations?
Flexible working, working from home and understanding that childcare is an issue for some women. I think all organisations should have policies that women can’t be stigmatised if they have family responsibilities, and sometimes the family takes priority.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Work hard, don’t be afraid of change and challenge.
Be heard and visible.
Learn to advertise your achievements.
Ewa Ostrowska's story shows us that we should always perverse in the face of adversity. If you feel inspired and want to read more posts on amazing women in the workplace, check out Lisa Ventura's inspirational blog.