New Delhi. 28 March 2024. In the month of celebrating women power,  Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU) spoke to Katarzyna Kalisz, who as Director of JPB Système’s Poland-based operations, looks back on a career in which steadfast determination has enabled her to seize opportunities and confront challenges.

ADU. Can you start by explaining how your journey in the aviation industry began?

KK. It began around fifteen years ago, following my creation of a consulting company that helped mainly French investors to start up and develop their businesses in Poland.

This was a period of sleepless nights, short deadlines and never-ending tasks as I travelled from meetings to business trips to conferences. I loved this early period of my career and met hundreds of amazing people with whom I had illuminating conversations and shared countless heartwarming moments.

I built up many connections in those years and it was through one of them, the French-Polish Chamber of Commerce, I met Damien Marc, CEO of JPB Système. At that time the company had already earmarked Poland as strategically important and knowing the local market and its suppliers, I helped JPB to make valuable connections. My first role was to ensure deliveries were on time, in the right quantity and of the highest quality. This was a big responsibility for someone new to the industry to take on, so I have to thank JPB for entrusting me with this role and allowing me to fulfil my ambition of being part of the aviation sector. That paved the way for me to eventually join JPB Système as a full-time employee.

ADU. Nice segue; can you tell us about your current role?

KK. Soon after becoming settled at JPB, the company branched out to Jasionka, Poland. Thanks largely to the funding received by the EU, we are strategically situated in the heart of Poland’s ‘Aviation Valley’, where the likes of MTU, Safran, and Pratt & Whitney, (all of whom are our customers) are also based. On the creation of this Polish branch, Damien appointed me as managing director of Poland-based operations, a role I am incredibly proud to hold.

Being the first employee of the Polish arm of JPB Système, I have seen it grow from paperwork and forms to a relatively simple operation with four CNC machines to where it is today, into a business with five efficient departments, two production halls and a couple of dozen employees.

ADU. That sounds like strong and rapid growth, in what has in recent years been a challenging time for the industry. How did JPB Système address this?

KK. We all face challenges, and in our lifetime I’m not sure any has been as universally felt as the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted the aviation industry as much as any other.

Despite many companies throughout the manufacturing and supply chain laying off employees as a result of a shutting down or significant slowing down in operations, our CEO took a bolder approach, encouraging us to use this period for development and training. Indeed, JPB Système was able to navigate COVID having not reduced its global headcount at all.

ADU. That’s impressive in itself. With that all thankfully behind us now, have you witnessed any particular changes at all within the industry?

KK. Almost four years on, the aviation industry is undergoing significant changes and something that I believe is worthy of attention is sustainable development initiatives, be it via the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft, the use of more environmentally friendly aviation fuels, and overall efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Technological advances are also changing various aspects of aviation. This includes improvements in aircraft design and the increased uptake of technologies like additive manufacturing – something our own company is exploring via metal binder jetting 3D printing.

While the industry is facing challenges, it is also offering opportunities for innovation and growth. I can see the main objective of the industry is to strike a balance between advancing technology, improving the passenger experience and addressing environmental concerns. From our own company’s perspective, 2023 has brought a major development to our Polish arm as we commenced work on a new 4,000m2 state-of-the-art facility.

ADU. You have clearly succeeded in what is admittedly a largely male-dominated industry. To what do you attribute your achievements?

KK. Be that as it may, there have still been numerous times when I have battled stereotypical viewpoints about females’ ability to operate effectively at a senior level in this space. But it’s about looking forward, putting in the hard yards, demonstrating your strengths, professionalism and expertise and ultimately earning the respect of others. Indeed, regardless of gender, I have seen that, time and time again, great leadership comes down to your individual character traits, determination and will.