Martyna Abendrot: “The future of planning is about being transparent and involving people at all stages of a project.”

Martyna Abendrot: PTV Group’s Managing Director in Poland

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 second part of our interview, we talked to her about studying psychology and why transparency is important for transport projects.

Compass: As an engineer who designs and optimises infrastructure so people can navigate cities better, what’s your preferred mode of transport? How do you get to and from work every day?

Martyna Abendrot: For me, the fastest way is to use public transport. I think it’s the best way to travel in Warsaw. Even when I was still a student and worked as a tutor teaching private lessons in math and physics, I used to take public transport. It’s the fastest way to get around the city. Warsaw is beautiful, but unfortunately, there is heavy traffic everywhere, so I only use my car when I absolutely have to. Like now, when I want to buy furniture because I’ve just moved houses. So I use it only on weekends.

Compass: What is your favourite thing to do while on mass transit and why? Do you read or listen to music?

Martyna Abendrot: It really depends on how crowded it is. When I can sit down, I often check the latest news, especially articles about mobility and Software-as-a-Service solutions. But sometimes I just like to observe people. I hope that doesn’t sound too weird. Because, you know, my background is traffic engineering, but last year I enrolled in a university programme that focuses on management and leadership. It’s a great mix of psychology and economics for managers. So with regard to the psychology aspect, sometimes I like to observe how people interact with each other. It’s interesting and sometimes also really funny. Try, for example, smiling at someone you don’t know and nearly 99% of the people will smile back at you.

Compass: You’re studying psychology to learn more about human behaviour and to advance your leadership skills. But isn’t that also interesting in terms of traffic engineering and urban planning because the infrastructure you plan and implement needs to be aligned with human behaviour? People need to adapt to whatever structure you provide them with. Do you find it helpful to have some knowledge in behavioural science and what do you think about initiatives like #PeopleNotCars” and #Copenhagenize to change the way our cities are structured and organised, also in terms of transportation?

Martyna Abendrot: Yes, I do think that’s important. Unfortunately, at many universities, these aspects are not part of the teaching curriculum of transportation engineering programmes and we have to self-teach us. I focused on this in my keynote at the Forum and, in fact, all conferences that I have participated in, started and ended with a focus on people and human behaviour. It’s impossible to leave that out. Psychology is about how to listen, react and manage a range of different ideas because usually there is not only one way that is right and the rest is just wrong.

I really like the book “Cities for People” by Jan Gehl. I think it’s great that today, more and more people want to get involved in how to plan and optimise infrastructure and mobility services. The future of planning is about being transparent and involving people at all stages of a project. This was also my experience when heading TRISTAR and ITS Lublin. For TRISTAR we only focused on communicating with the end customer, but not necessarily with the citizens. In the second project, however, I suggested we do things differently, so we met with Lublin’s mayor and the media every month to give them a project update and explain to them the agenda for the following month. It’s important to tell the citizens what is going on in their city and how the city is investing public funds. This helps to manage expectations and reduces the number of complaints because citizens get a chance to understand the project better. Because, in the end, our clients are the citizens.

Compass: Lastly, we are curious to hear your advice for women who are thinking about a career in transportation. In your opinion, what are the three most important skills that have helped you build your career?

Martyna Abendrot: I think to be authentic is important because it’s very difficult or even impossible to always distinguish between your professional and your private self. You have certain values and things that are important to you and you can’t just ignore them if they don’t fit into your company’s culture. So being authentic and trusting people, trusting your team, is the best way to work together successfully and establish a good relationship with your customers, partners and so on. And if you’re passionate about engineering, that’s a great starting point. You should definitely pursue this because the stereotype that only men are good at engineering is just that: a stereotype.

And when you’re thinking about taking on a leadership position, soft skills are very important. I think we can all become great leaders. But for that, first you need to understand yourself, then you need to figure out how you fit into a team and work in a group and then you can start thinking about how to lead people. In every company, there are always several departments and often times each department has their own goals. Great leaders unite teams and help them understand that in the end, they all work towards the same goal, namely to further the company. Building an environment of trust is the perfect basis to foster that.

Compass: Thank you, Martyna, for your time.

What do you think, how important is transparency in infrastructure and transport planning? Join the conversation and connect with Martyna Abendrot on LinkedIn.

And don’t forget to read the first part of the interview here.