Suzana Chakrokh is Controls, Accessories and Marine Leader at our Engineering department. She’s been working at GE for some time now: at the age of 18, she moved from Iran to Italy to study Engineering at the University of Bologna. Her career at GE began as Globalization Leader in Turbomachinery Engineering at Oil & Gas in Florence, and she worked as Global Leader TM & Subsea for three years. During this time, she managed the new Oil & Gas engineering centers that were opened in India (Bangalore and Hyderabad), China (CTC Shanghai), and Poland (EDC in Warsaw), GEIQ (Queretaro, Mexico). At the time, she mainly focused on developing a vision for each international site together with HQ, as well as help make the engineering team global, and transfer know-how and effective collaboration procedures in order to improve the capacity and efficiency of the engineering team.
After she took the role of global integration and operations manager for the Oil & Gas Controls, Electrical and Electrification team, she began creating a common base for sharing expertise and best practices, in order to leverage them cross-functionally. Subsequently, for a brief time, she was Engineering leader for the Subsea control team in Nailsea (Bristol, UK). From 2012 to 2014, she was head of the System&Project Engineering team at the Power Conversion offices in Paris, calling it “the most important experience I’ve had so far, from both a personal and a professional standpoint.” After three years there, the Avio Aero opportunity came up, which she eagerly accepted. We met her and asked her a few questions.
What did you learn from this intense professional path?
I must say that every role I’ve held so far at GE required me to actively listen to the teams I was working with, paying close attention to cultural diversity and the different environments we operate in. It’s all about enhancing the assets all teams already have within their organization and at the same time calibrating our shared processes and models when we apply them to those organizations. I think trust and active listening are the starting points to achieve this, followed by the ability to establish a connection with the people you work with. Connecting with the local team at every level, encouraging an open door policy, assigning roles and responsibilities to address specific concerns—all this helped me understand where the opportunities for improvement really were and what could be done to inspire everyone’s commitment. However, it really doesn’t work if you simply try to apply your own formula the way it is, without being open to change. This means empowering and enabling those who work with us; the result is a true team spirit with people passionate about what they do.
How did you steer your career in this direction?
First of all, I’d like to say that it’s really up to us to manage our careers. Managers and HRMs can provide some advice, but it’s up to us to assess new roles, apply to different positions and take the risks that come with them. I have applied to positions nobody wanted, focusing on what I could learn from them, rather than the organizational structure. People often think that what makes you a leader is managing a big team, but it’s really not like that at all. A leader is what you are, how you behave, inspire and connect, and the impact you have on your organization. I became a manager with just one member of staff, so what I say really reflects how things are in reality.
On the other hand, I’d like to point out that—while I had the incredible opportunity of traveling around Europe and hold positions at other companies—moving is not essential: it is possible to get transfers and hold new positions even within the same company, you just have to be open to accepting the challenges of new positions, teams, and responsibilities. In other words, take the risk of starting from scratch.
You have also been a Women’s Network Leader, what is your advice to the talented women we have at Avio Aero?
The Women’s Network is incredible. As today's leaders, we should leverage it to promote and support the growth of tomorrow’s women leaders. The WN is a fantastic resource to give visibility to young, talented women, establishing connections and networking opportunities. My main advice is: take heart and apply yourself to new roles and responsibilities. Don’t be shy, there’s a world of opportunities waiting for you to find them!