The Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) team sat down with Zuzana Hrnkova, Vice President of Marketing at ATR, as part of our Women in the Aviation series.
This series of interviews aims to shine a spotlight on notable women in the industry and the diverse career opportunities in the sector.
Zuzana believes aviation is in her DNA. With a private pilots license and Aeronautical Engineering degree, Zuzana brings an innate understanding of aviation to her role at ATR.
Here, she reveals her career highlights and why she believes the evolution of the passenger experience is key for further industry success.
Zuzana, how long have you worked in the aviation industry?
“I started in 1994 with Airbus, so I have 26 years’ experience in the aviation industry.”
How did you get into the industry?
“Planes are in my DNA. My grandfather was a pilot, my uncle is a pilot, I received my glider licence when I was 18 and PPL when I was 22. This passion for aviation led me to study Aeronautical Engineering in Slovakia and then also in France. I was then hired by Airbus just after my diploma training.”
What is it about working in the aviation industry that appeals to you?
“The possibility to connect people and places, bringing the world closer and making it more accessible. Also continuous innovation, not only on the technological side but also in terms of customer experience.”
“More diversity enriches both the working environment and our capacity to innovate.”
As a woman, how do you find working in such a male-dominated industry?
“Well, I’ve never felt strange, as I’ve been used to the low percentage of women since University. I followed a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, and it seems that this branch tends to attract men. Then I was used to a ratio where about 10-15% were women.
The good news is that this is improving these days and at ATR as a company, we talk about greater than 25% female representation. In my team of 20 people, I’ve achieved 40%!”
Have you encountered any gender discrimination in your career?
“Based on my own experience, during my study and working/professional life, I’ve never had any bad experiences. I think it is very important to understand that no matter which gender, we all have a value to add to this industry. As an employee, I have two “diversity hats”; I’m Slovakian and female, and honestly, I believe that my contribution coming from a different cultural background and point of view has continuously contributed to enriching my working environment.”
“Being transparent and being yourself is your big strength!”
As a female senior leader, why do you think it’s important for companies to address the gender gap?
“More diversity enriches both the working environment and our capacity to innovate. What do you believe has been the key to your success? I’ve always tried to create the value, use my differences positively and stay true to myself, following my fundamentals and values.”
What characteristics do you believe women need to survive in the aviation industry?
“Be passionate, know how to exploit your unique features, never give up and don’t lose sight of the lesson.”
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to women succeeding in the workplace?
“There seems to be a pressure where women try to be ‘superwomen’ in terms of their work/life balance and then feel guilty for wanting both… It is important to ask for help when needed!”
What would you say has been your career highlight to date?
“Working on the development of the A350XWB as it was a chance to work on clean sheet design aircraft. Moving to ATR has also been a highlight. It has encouraged me to push myself out of my comfort zone and create a fantastic team, as well as implementing new tools and ways of working.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Don’t try to hide your emotions. Being transparent and being yourself is your big strength!”
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the aviation industry?
“Climate change is a concern for each and every one of us, and all transport modes produce external environmental impacts, including noise, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. As air traffic grows, especially to power the emerging economies of the world, aviation needs to balance that growth to control our impact on the climate.”
What do you believe has been the biggest development in air travel over the past 25 years?
“For me, the biggest development in air travel has been seen in the passenger experience domain, by shifting from engineering-driven design criteria to passenger experience-driven criteria.
“Planes are in my DNA.”
The main quantum leap was done in the high yield segment, where the passenger experience is comparable with private jets while maintaining reasonable space efficiency and airline economics.”
If you could change one thing in the aviation industry, what would it be?
“Improve the pre-flight experience by improving all stressful and time-consuming steps before you finally board the aircraft.”
About Zuzana Hrnkova
Zuzana Hrnkova has 26 years’ experience in the aviation business and joined ATR, the European turboprop manufacturer and the world leader in the regional aviation market in 2015 as Vice President Marketing.
She leads the team responsible for market strategy, airline marketing and product development and continues to extend her long-lasting experience in aircraft interiors to the regional segment. Previously Zuzana worked at Airbus and her last assignment was Head of Aircraft Interiors Marketing, where she led the Aircraft Interiors Marketing team, covering all current and future Airbus cabins.