Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Digitisation is one of the driving forces behind the rapid changes in the mobility sector. One thing, however, that is not changing just as fast is the number of women working in mobility. Martyna Abendrot is the Managing Director of PTV Group’s office in Poland and is responsible for the Polish market and the Baltic countries. She joined PTV in August in 2017 as the Country Director Traffic Software and has a background in infrastructure and transport engineering. In the first part of our interview, we talked to her about diversity, leadership and her career path.
Compass: You go to conferences regularly and recently participated as a panellist in the Women’s Forum of Infrastructure & Transport in Warsaw. Do you think we need more events like this to connect women working in mobility?
Martyna Abendrot: Yes, I think so. The Forum was a great event and I really enjoyed exchanging ideas and experiences with so many other women who all have different backgrounds. It was interesting to learn more about their career paths because infrastructure and transport is such a wide area. My background is that I have a Master of engineering in traffic control systems and I still remember that when telling my mom about this university programme, she was a little surprised that I was so interested in traffic lights because it used to be such a male-dominated area. I also told this story at the Forum, and I also enjoyed listening to the other participants’ insights and how they, step by step, took on upper management positions in their companies.
It was amazing that all women were very open and willing to share their experiences and also some more personal stories. For example, they shared one piece of advice that I couldn’t agree more: Women need to overcome self-doubt and should trust in what they are capable of. We also agreed that if our male colleagues are asked to do something they have never done before, they are more likely to accept the challenge. Women, on the other hand, are often more reluctant. That’s something we have to change. Women should believe in themselves and this is why we need to encourage and support each other more.
I’m not saying that women are better than men or the other way around. But what matters is the mix of different perspectives and backgrounds. I like to compare it to our approach at PTV: For example, when I went to my first internal event after having joined PTV, I was surprised and impressed by the mixture of different approaches and how international PTV is, bringing together different points of views and mentalities. I think this mixture of different people is great. We’re like a puzzle. Everyone contributes something very specific and together we create something big.
Because many panellists at the Forum were already part of the middle and upper management in their companies and organisations, it would be interesting to also include sessions focusing on everyday challenges. Not every woman sitting in the audience at the event held a management position, so I shared this feedback with one of the organisers and I’m pretty sure they will work something out for the next event. I still remember that when I started my first job, I was the youngest one and also the only woman on the team. After a few months, I got my first promotion and some of my colleagues acted a bit surprised. I still remember what it felt like and we need to address these situations more and deal with them professionally. A networking event is perfect to talk about different obstacles and how women in their early career can find ways to overcome them.
Compass: You mentioned that at PTV we often work in very international teams. Do you think we should also pay more attention to the male-female balance in our teams?
Martyna Abendrot: Yes, I think so. At the Forum, we discussed how to foster innovation and all agreed that women can be just a little bit more innovative because obviously we are very good at multi-tasking. And we also bring in a different perspective focusing on details but never forget to look at the bigger picture. That’s why I think it’s always beneficial to work in mixed teams. For example, at our subsidiary in Poland, we started with one woman, and that was me. And at the moment, I have six male colleagues, but shortly we’ll have another woman joining and I hope, she won’t be the last one.
Compass: In 2017, you joined PTV in Warsaw. Previously, you headed large projects, like the TRISTAR and ITS Lublin implementations. Tell us a bit more about leading these projects. What were your learnings?
Martyna Abendrot: With the TRISTAR project, we implemented intelligent transport systems in three different cities: Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk. So the number of people involved was huge, as we worked together with three different road authorities, managed a big budget and were in charge of more than 150 intersections. I coordinated the team of traffic engineers and was the contact person for the clients, and this was also where I first met colleagues from PTV. For me, it was a great experience to lead a team and handle such a diverse group of clients. Sometimes it was also quite challenging because my team and I had to develop new solutions within very short notice due to some last-minute changes.
TRISTAR took three years to be completed and its final year was particularly challenging because we had already started the next ITS project in Lublin, a very time-critical one, as we only had one year to implement the new system. So, nearly every weekend was filled with work for my team and me. But at the end of the year, we finished two projects successfully. It was amazing to see that when you believe in your team, everyone gives their best and together you achieve your goal. Because success is not only about yourself, but also about your team and the best way to master challenges is to work together.
For me it was a very exciting time because two things happened in parallel: I managed this project and at the same time I took the next step in my career. At first, I became an executive in the ITS department of one of the contractor companies. And directly after that, I became the CEO of one of their daughter companies. I’m glad, I had the chance to prove myself and still remember that when I wasn’t sure if I’m the right pick for the position, my former boss told me, ‘Martyna, you can’t be too young or too old for a leadership role – it’s not about age’, so I took the job.
How do you define leadership and how do you foster diversity in your organisation? Join the conversation and connect with Martyna Abendrot on LinkedIn and make sure to check back with us in the following week to read the second part of the interview.