My Career: I dreamed of become an engineer since I was a little girl

Konstantina Stefanidou, Engineer at Deputy Synthes, Johnson & Johnson features in our My Career in WoW! 
My Career: I dreamed of become an engineer since I was a little girl

Konstantina Stefanidou Materials Engineering Senior Manager Materials & Surface Technology - Coatings & Biomaterials

Name: Konstantina Stefanidou.

Age: 35.

Lives: Kinsale, Co Cork.

Job title: Materials Engineering Senior Manager for Medical Devices, Depuy Synthes of Johnson & Johnson

Salary bracket: In line with the industry standards.

Education background: BEng in Materials Science & Engineering, after this I completed a 2 year MSc in Chemistry & Technology of Materials. In addition, I completed a degree in Business Management and Leadership.

Hobbies: Art and culture, I find painting a mindfulness exercise and something which I regularly enjoy. Since Covid, I have started some new hobbies: Hiking (within permitted distances), learning the piano, kayaking on the cold waters of Kinsale and reading more books than ever. Reading books has really inspired me — I keep ordering lots so at the moment I have plenty to keep me going for 2021.

In addition, I feel really passionate and actively participate in non-profit organisations such as Network Cork Ireland, Women’s Aid, Jack & Jill foundation, Volunteer Ireland and LIFT Ireland.

Describe your job in five words: Innovative, Inspiring, Personal-care, Transformative, Challenging.

Describe yourself in five words: Inspiring, Kind, Dynamic, Rewarding, People-focused.

Personality needed for this kind of work? Leading by example is how I would summarise my kind of work. Innovative, Committed, Perseverance, Determination, Empowerment, Critical Thinking and Intelligent Risk Taking are some of the traits of an Engineering Leadership role.

Sounds challenging? Yes it is, but it can become really joyful when brave work, courage, authenticity and whole hearts are the norm.

How long are you doing this job? 3.5 years.

How did you get this job? Funny story! It all started with a dream of a little girl to become an engineer. I started my education in Greece and when my family moved permanently to London, I followed them. I didn’t have experience in the industry at that time so it was an exciting but also scary time. How do I go about it? Where do I start? How? What?, were some of my looping questions at the age of 24.

After many applications, Honeywell Aerospace offered me my first engineer role. It was a remarkable environment, full of senior engineers and full of potential. Honeywell was and still is a future-shaper company and truly fosters talent development whilst maintaining a people-culture oriented environment.

Honeywell saw my potential and started to invest in me in many areas. They sponsored my Leadership degree, certified me on Lean and Six sigma, increased my span of responsibility and trained me on military life support systems — sounds like a dream? Yes, it was!

I started travelling the world, to America at least three times a year, supporting different Aerospace sites like Phoenix/Aizona, California, Mexicali, Glendale, Boston, Des Plaines/Chicago, South Bend, Torrance, but also within EMEA places like Berlin, Madrid and Paris.

I was traveling for training purposes, as a certifying technical auditor, as a new partner on boarding vendors and assessing their capabilities, or even to support root cause analysis on sites that experienced materials challenges. My Senior Management was an amazing team, with purpose, determination and empathy! I met some of my best friends in aerospace and still stay connected to them now!

After six years, work had become my life and I had started to think about a change — a fresh start. 

Healthcare was always really appealing to me at the time — changing the trajectory of people’s lives... sounds awesome! So, whilst I was looking for my next venture, I got referred for a role in Depuy Synthes, part of J&J.

I must admit that when I started looking for a new role, Honeywell Automotive, and other companies offered me great opportunities, but becoming part of the J&J team was more appealing to myself and my values and purpose. I started as a Materials Leader in England — supporting the bone cement market — and further on increased my span of responsibility to Ireland. I thought the idea of re-locating to Ireland was fantastic and I went for it! A kind and open-hearted culture and such amazing views! So, here I am, located in Kinsale, living permanently in a place full of laughs and love.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? To obtain an engineering leadership role, it’s common to have at a minimum a degree in engineering or similar field and with vast experience on a medical/pharmaceutical or similar industry.

Describe a day at work: I always start my mornings by making a lovely cappuccino. Since Covid-19, I am working from home so I spent my day in the virtual meetings world. I start by reviewing my daily and weekly calendar and focus on prioritising my activities.

I allow some quality time, ensuring critical work has my full attention. I spend my remaining time on virtual meetings coaching and developing my team, supporting escalations/risks, introducing new strategies whilst managing a healthy pipeline and portfolio.

I am following an operating dynamic rhythm where I keep my focus on five main areas such as People & Culture, Business Leadership/Development/Partnerships, Financial Oversight, Strategic Portfolio work and Strategic Governance.

How many hours do you work a week? An average of 39 to 45 hours per week.

What do you wear to work? I really enjoy following the business and smart casual dress code. I am not much into fashion but I always make sure that every piece in my look is comfortable. I can pull off any look without trying too hard or feeling out of place.

Is your industry male or female dominated? Being part of the engineering group, diversity and inclusion is not just a commitment but it’s reality and with many women occupying roles in various positions, so I believe it’s well-balanced. I do feel proud to be part of such a diverse group. Johnson & Johnson makes diversity and inclusion how we work every day. 

In general though, and across different businesses, I still think there is a ceiling glass that we women need to break!

Does this affect you in any particular way? I’ll ask the question in a different way; ‘is the glass ceiling real?’ Yes it is, unfortunately it is. And moreover there are plenty of statistics to back the metaphor. Women have come a long way, but we can and will go so much further, being self-aware, it provides the courage and strength to continue this path.

Furthermore, It’s been so remarkable to build courage from role models such as Sanna Marin the Prime Minister of Finland (Sanna is also the youngest ever state leader) and more recently the new Vice President elect Kamala Harris. As a strong advocate of Women Leadership Inclusion, YOU can too drive positive change.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: I believe all jobs are somewhat stressful. There are days that are easier and less challenging than other days. The important question is how everyone is managing stress, or even, how everyone is managing a lockdown whilst having no job, or working from home and expecting to deliver great results.

Personally, I feel fortunate, being part of J&J to have the opportunities to access the best in class health and wellbeing programmes whilst given the freedom to cultivate an environment in which making good-for-you choices is easy.

When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to it — I found Kelly McGonigal’s inspirational talk of how to make stress your friend really open- minded, unique and I’m trying to practice. I often remind myself that yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift (Disney’s Master Oogway is teaching us and our children in so many ways). Feeling gratitude and living today is the way to look at life!

Do you work with others or on your own? I work with others, and love being a part of a great team. Moreover, cross-functional and cross-regional support are paramount for the success of our projects and portfolio, thus building interpersonal relationships is critical and a second nature of my role. Being an active listener and choosing courage over comfort are some permission slips that are useful when working with others and with teams and that’s something I would highly recommend.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? I haven’t given it a lot of thought. Being near the people I love is always a dream come true.

Best bits: Enjoying life and work in the same pace. Supporting a team that is enjoying every minute of their work and its challenges! In addition, supporting and being supported greatly by my loving family keeps me going!

Worst bits: Working from home and missing the face to face interaction! It’s unlikely work will ever go back to being what it used to be. Even when working from home is becoming the new norm, the workplace should not go away as it truly accommodates further innovation, purpose and energy, empathy and culture! ‘Staying attuned to each other’ (love that Tracy Brower quote!).

Advice to those who want your job? My advice is to always keep hope and always dream. Dreams do come true — and have the courage to ‘Just Do’. There is a caveat though, without commitment you never start and without consistency you never finish.

Don’t undervalue your talent, your contribution, your effort. You may meet unconscious bias, and I know it won’t be an easy path but you can start one step at a time (turtle steps!), start by realising, start by deciding consciously and start by speaking up.

YOU can change your life... Be Brave, take the hill but first answer that question of what’s your hill. #yougotthis

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