Woman and STEM for life!

The CIO of Avio Aero talks about her career path and the challenges that modernization, along with the global emergency, lay before us in an increasingly interconnected digital world

Mar 2021

In Italy, there are still only a handful of women CIOs or CINOs (Chief Information Officer, Chief Innovation Officer). According to research by the University of Pavia, in 2019 only 6.8% of CINOs were women, compared to the European average of 25.2%, and even 34.2% in the United States.

Meanwhile, Piera Carrà is a newly appointed CIO. She has held this position at Avio Aero for a few months following a career within the organization, during which she has fully witnessed its changes and transformation. “In 1990, I joined what was then Fiat Aviazione as a consultant. After a few years, I was hired in the Information Technology Division. The company has undergone radical changes to adapt to new contexts in terms of processes, mindset, and leadership. I still smile when I think back to that time. The IT Division was not considered a top-level function with the important strategic role it plays today and which, for years now, has seen the Digital Technology Function reporting directly to the CEO”.

Much time has passed since then and today Piera represents a department that drives many key people-related processes. It is no accident that the company chose a woman to lead its post-pandemic transformation. For some time, Avio Aero has shown its desire to foster greater female empowerment, implementing policies to make this actually happen.

For Piera, being a woman is completely incidental, given that she was trained and educated in a male-dominated technical world. She says, “as a young woman, I chose to specialize in science at high school because it guaranteed a solid education and at the same time opened up a broad selection of majors at university. When I finished high school, the rapid evolution of information technology was showing its full potential, making for some interesting future prospects. The Faculty of Information Technology was among the most innovative courses of study and offered a whole host of job opportunities. Well before graduation, I had several offers in hand. I never questioned whether it was a ‘man’s’ or a ‘woman’s’ major, but it is undeniable that there were very few women in the program or in the workplace. I, too, have found myself being the only woman sitting at a table of all men, but since I never considered that being a woman could put me at a disadvantage, I don’t think this approach had any effect on me.”

Piera Carrà, Chief Information Officer at Avio Aero.

I, too, have found myself being the only woman sitting at a table of all men, but since I never considered that being a woman could put me at a disadvantage, I don’t think this approach had any effect on me

Piera faces a lot of challenges, like guiding the company towards the “new normal” with so many rapid changes. The Covid emergency has given rise to considerations that go beyond purely technological solutions. “Until recently, we were accustomed to thinking that every change must be properly pondered and planned. The difficulties we face now, however, have given rise to a need to react,” says Piera.

“My work has been impacted in terms of methods but not in terms of substance. The digitization strategy has never stopped and continues to progress, albeit with different and varying priorities. And I’m not just referring to enabling full smart working for all office staff, but also to key projects for the company such as Lean Warehouse Management at the Pomigliano site. This project aims to improve the efficiency of the workforce, to optimize warehouse saturation, and to improve TURNS by ensuring full traceability of parts, from their entry at the gates, to storage, to transfer to the production line, and through to shipment. This will give us a great competitive advantage in logistics. There’s also Digital Stamping: this is a factory application that enables fully digital management of production orders, including certification stamps and quality notifications. Then there is the digitization of  processes, data and documents in all our functions. All this technology serves a change management process that leadership decided to undertake and that not even the pandemic has interrupted.” 

The emergency situation that Piera and all her colleagues experienced required an enormous ability to challenge preconceived ideas, to listen and be open to accepting and recognizing the need for a sudden change of direction without losing sight of the ultimate goal: “the transformation of people and processes. We were guided by humility, one of our company values,” Piera emphasizes.

Piera Carrà here with Valentina Pilo and Alberto Riccabone from her Digital Technology team.

Piera’s leading style also focuses on empathy: “Personally, I put great store in constant and continuous dialog. In fact, I believe that open, sincere, and transparent dialog that enables relationships to be established with great trust between people are the basis of a positive and inclusive working environment. I try to promote a mentorship and coaching approach to encourage and stimulate people’s growth, providing them with support rather than solutions. People know that in times of difficulty they can count on my support and my availability, not necessarily for the answer to a problem, but for advice or a simple discussion. I strive to give clear objectives and priorities, motivating employees to work with the necessary independence to achieve results”.

As a result of her appointment as CIO, Piera’s sense of being a role model is also growing. “I have a very strong sense of responsibility towards young women because I firmly believe that a STEM path is rewarding, both personally and professionally. With the STEM by Women Association - of which Avio Aero is a founding member- I work to develop young people’s awareness to ensure that both the study pathways and the professional outlets are in place. The role I hold today is proof of a success that many others can also achieve.”

A satisfying private life for anyone is the best recipe for facing daily challenges on the job.

One of Piera’s main traits is definitely her energy. “I have a lot of personal interests that I try to pursue despite a very demanding job. I believe that good work-life balance is essential. I love the mountains, which I frequent regularly in both winter and summer. I love all types of skiing, as well as long walks in summer, which help me regenerate and appreciate the beauty of nature. Some people might think that not having children means that time for oneself is all relative, but this is a stereotype that needs to be debunked: choosing life as a couple requires the same attention and care for one’s partner or one’s self. The topic of work-life balance is very dear to me and I’m working with Avio Aero’s Inclusion Council to take it outside the confines of gender or sex. A satisfying private life for anyone is the best recipe for facing daily challenges on the job.”