Agnieszka Rynkowska always knew that she wanted to be an engineer.
“It was all about gut-feeling. I loved machines, engines, factories, things moving around in an orderly, well-designed and well-handled manner. Rules, processes, complexity, accuracy – all of these things fascinated me when I was growing up.”
Given Agnieszka’s clear passion, it will come as no surprise to learn that she went on to graduate with an engineering degree from the Warsaw University of technology, and is now celebrating her 12th year at Microsoft.
Initially joining the company in a role focusing on developers and technology adoption, she then moved on to Marketing and Communications, before moving on to the adoption of Office 365 in the Polish market. Today, she is proudly responsible for Microsoft Poland’s entire business management, product management, and revenue structure.
As International Women’s Day arrives once again, we spoke to Agnieszka about her journey into the tech sector – and the challenges and learnings she has faced on the way, which may help the girls and young women of today pursue their passions in STEM subjects.
A passion for tech
When speaking to Agnieszka, her passion for technology is immediately apparent, and her enthusiasm goes far beyond simply using it as a tool to speed up tasks.
“Technology is fascinating in all its variety and complexity. It has always been about progress, discovery, innovation, and disruption and development. It can help provide a longer life for people, and the planet.”
For Agnieszka, technology is a way for us to better ourselves, to improve our lives, but it also has an intellectual component that is very important to her – it sparks curiosity, the thirst for knowledge and self-improvement. And, in a more practical sense of course, it provides a key contribution to growth and GDP, building competitive advantages for businesses of all sizes.
The importance of inspiration
Agnieszka’s enthusiasm for technology is inspiring – especially to young women and girls who might be interested in studying STEM subjects or a career in technology, but are feeling disengaged as a result of a lack of role models – an aspect of Agnieszka’s life that was very important to her:
“I have always had inspirational people around me – both, female and male role models – at my college, university and workplace. They made a considerable impact on my self-confidence and shaped my opinions, allowing me to learn from them.”
This inspiration likely fuelled Agnieszka’s success in the male-dominated STEM courses and tech industry, though she admits that it took her some time to develop a fair and balanced way to benchmark her own performance and achievements against those of her male colleagues.
“If women want to be successful in so-called ‘non-female jobs’,” Agnieszka states, “we need to learn how to promote our identities in the workplace. Throughout my 20-year career in a male-dominated environment, I have done all I can not to be positioned by male colleagues predominantly or exclusively as ‘a woman’. Instead, I have strived to be equals first – an expert, an engineer, a co-worker – who just happens to be a woman.”
While Agnieszka has plenty to keep her busy in her current role – from developing strategies and acting as a mentor, to her hobbies studying fashion design and visiting Spain – her thoughts on the future continue to fuel her excitement.
“I find advances in Artificial Intelligence, robotics and data analytics very promising,” she explains. “Combined, they provide an incredible mixture of powerful possibilities, outside our narrowly defined industry. Technological advances in medicine, sustainable energy and human mobility are truly amazing.”
No matter what the future holds, one thing is certain – Agnieszka will be there to welcome it with a big smile, and open arms.