Seven years ago, Odeta Brigaityte, then still a student of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), began to manage a team of fifty men at a fertilisers manufacturer plant. Now Odeta is a Technology Transfer Project Manager (TTPM) at KTU National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre. She is responsible for ensuring smooth mutual cooperation between science and business, commercialisation of the latest innovations developed at the University.
Odeta is working with the projects of KTU Faculty of Chemical Technology. A graduate of the same Faculty, she knows the specifics of her work inside out. However, the young woman emphasises the importance of inner values and situational awareness at her job. After all, there are no ground rules for that.
“We are research and business intermediaries, and our product is knowledge and technology. The core competence includes a persistent, respectful, wise and sometimes flair communication. This is the best formula,” says Brigaityte.
Girl leader in a predominantly male environment
Odeta was still a student when she started her career as a manager in a manufacturing plant producing 120 thousand tons of fertilisers per year. The job was a real challenge, and the lack of experience was not the only obstacle. It was the first time when a female started leading a predominantly male staff.
“At first, everyone laughed and thought it was a joke. The employees expected a leader, someone who is competent enough. You can master job specifics relatively quickly, but the respect has to be earned,” remembers Brigaityte.
In order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the production, Odeta started working in late-night shifts together with factory staff, never shying from physical work.
“I quickly learned a lot about the factory. With that, the trust and respect from the employees gradually grew. When a good relationship prevails, then it becomes easy to work – it is enough to give orders through the walkie-talkie,” says Brigaityte.
The woman says that she was not surprised, nor angry about the attitude of the employees. It was rather unexpected and unusual to them.
“I think that for a young person coming to a new job, it is only natural to aim to show your worth. It does not depend on the gender, more on the experience you bring in. When a younger person takes up the leadership, resistance can naturally arise. My choice was to achieve a result without anger or prejudice, but through a sincere relationship,” says the Brugautyte.
Odeta’s hard work did not pass unnoticed. She was offered a job in an even larger manufacturing plant in Russia: “I could write a book about my experience in manufacturing.”
Later on, she also worked in the international projects division, the sales division, and eventually, the experienced manager ended up at KTU.
Negotiations between science and business – mission possible
In Odeta’s job portfolio – many successful deals between science and business. She claims that despite the challenges, the job very interesting.
“Most of the time, you are trying to sell an idea or an action plan, and you never know if it leads to the end product. In this aspect, the process is very different from the usual business sales. In order to proceed smoothly, both sides have to communicate clearly in a language understandable to both sides”, explains Brigaityte, an experienced technology transfer project manager at KTU.
According to her, the crucial aspect of a successful negotiation is reaching an agreement, an acceptable solution with the researchers as their knowledge is the product.
“In order to withstand the pressure from business, which often needs a certain product for less money and in a shorter time, there must be mutual trust between the parties”, says Brigaityte.
She does not over-emphasise the gender aspect in the technology development field. It is true that men are more visible in successful technology projects, however, this might be the case of low involvement of women, rather than men overtaking the initiative.
“Success stories happen to those who prioritise their work and alienate themselves from other activities. I am a perfect example of this. When I started working at the manufacturing plant, I achieved great results really fast. However, I had to devote my time entirely to this job – I practically lived there,” says Brigaityte.
According to her, our choices and career reflect the different needs of various stages of life – there is time for prioritising work and career, later on, the time may come for prioritising family needs and personal life.
“All of our achievements directly correlate with our priorities and life experiences. It is important not to compete but to complement each other. We should do something we love and what we are good at. I believe that everyone can find the most appropriate path and achieve the best results, regardless of gender,” says Odeta Brigaityte, a technology transfer project manager at KTU.
Women in Tech – a project by the Kaunas University of Technology about women working in technology, engineering and innovation. The aim is to eliminate gender stereotypes linked to career choices and achievements in science.