February 11th, 2022 – TODAY, we celebrate the International Women’s Day in Science
This year we place the spotlight on Irene Alvarez Garcia, Head of Commercial Telecom Operations here at Airbus Secure Communications. In this interview she talks about her professional background and the key milestones that led her to where she is now.
- Can you tell us about your career history?
I joined Airbus in 2008 after graduating with a diploma in telecommunication engineering and have been with the company ever since.
I started out on the Astrium Services internship programme in France working in welfare services before joining Airbus Space Systems as an apprentice in signal processing software. After that, I went on to become a System Engineer in Baseband & Quality of Services Technical Authority, before becoming a Project Manager. Whilst in this role I witnessed the rise of commercial communications services in Airbus, with the purchase and integration of Vizada and the reselling of Marlink.
Since then I have held the position of Head of Commercial Telecom Operations for Airbus Secure Communications where I manage a team of fifty people. We are in charge of operator infrastructure for Airbus and provide communication services to governmental and military customers. We manage framework and inter-ministerial agreements, like ASTEL-S, with the DIRISI in France, EU SatCom Market with the European Defence Agency (EDA) and with other entities in the EMEA region (Europe Middle East and Africa).
- Why did you choose to study engineering?
I was curious! At the beginning of communications, especially mobile telephones, technology progressed tremendously. I had a relative working in telematics at the time which stimulated my curiosity; my uncle would share his experience and knowledge about telematics, a subject that I found interesting.
During that time, engineering schools were made up of mostly male students, for instance, during my first year of university only 8 students were female in an 80-person year group and by the end of my studies we were only 2.
- Why did you decide to join Airbus Secure Communications?
After graduating, I had always planned to join a big corporation for their diversity and international aspects.
I was especially looking for companies that specialised in the wireless telecommunications sector like telephony, before I switched to Satellite Communications. By chance, I discovered that Airbus is in that domain.
- Have you seen any changes in gender equality since the beginning of your studies?
Yes, I have; Especially within Airbus. More and more women are being recognised in management positions, like Sarah Casenove, Head of SatCom Services Solutions (read her recent article on Commercial Satellite Communications in the Military domain). Now, there is more diversity, changes and opportunities.
To succeed and establish yourself, you need to be strong, have knowledge in your field, and be integrated within your team. Women have a different vision than men which can create a great synergy within their team management.
- What advice would you give to girls who want to pursue engineering or scientific studies?
She has to be able to question herself. I think trying, making mistakes, being able to make progress and to learn from them enable us to succeed in our careers. Women have to be more confident, ambitious and be sure of their decisions.
- What do you think about International Women’s Day in Science?
To be honest, I didn’t know this day existed. I think having a dedicated day is good for improving communications around gender equality but to keep it beneficial, affirmative action should not become a hindrance to equal opportunities between male and female. Those special days are good to share or give example of a success story and then to move ahead.