Getting to know Operational Development Manager, Barbara Kenig-Siewior

Where it all began

Barbara grew up in Poland and graduated in International Trade Studies from University of Economics (postgraduate studies) and with Master of Arts in English & American Literature from the University of Silesia, Katowice.

She never thought of moving to another country, yet a coincidence changed her life in an unexpected way. Whilst visiting her friends in the UK, Barbara’s fiancé (Metallurgy and Materials Science Engineer) was encouraged to apply for a job based in the UK. He got the position, and they both faced a dilemma whether he should decline and stay in Poland or accept and move over to the UK… they took the decision to move to the UK. Initially the thought was that they would come to the UK for two to three years and go back home.

Fast forward 18 years, Barbara and her family are still here and not thinking of going back.

“The gender gap in the UK is way bigger than it is in Poland. In my previous job in the UK as an Export Sales Executive and being the only female in the sales team I was expected to make the tea and coffee”

Barbara Kenig-Siewior

Arriving in the UK 18 years ago was a culture shock. Having quickly expressed her disappointment on this, changes were made.

In the meantime, Barbara completed a Bookkeeping and Accounting Diploma and ran workshops on how to start a business in the UK for the Polish community. Doing this led to an interest in owning a business herself.  “I just saw an opportunity and jumped at it. I opened my own Polish shop and an off licence in Portsmouth.”

“I’m Polish, and even though I’ve been in the country a long time, I would say we have a more direct communication style than the British. The Polish are similar to Dutch or Scandinavians, in the way they communicate. This way sometimes may be seen as rude by the British. English language has a lot of indirectness and implied meaning built into it. Therefore, it is important to understand different cultures and nationalities to avoid misunderstandings and get the best out of everyone.”

 “I’ll never forget when I first moved here, people would walk past and say ‘Hello, how are you?’ and then are gone before I even had a chance to reply. I could not understand why you would ask if you don’t want to know?  I soon realised this small talk was part of the culture which I am using often now to warm up to the conversation.”


My career journey at Wärtsilä

“I joined Wärtsilä, 14 years ago now. My very first role was in Spare Parts team in 2009 dealing with some of the biggest customers in Wärtsilä.”

In 2014 Barbara them went on to become an Account Coordinator. Quoting KAM customers was just the start of the journey in this role for Barbara. Other positions followed later, and she rapidly began to build on her career. When she informed Stena, one of the KAM customers she was working with, that she was going to change her position and will no longer be responsible for them she was told, “We are all so sorry that you won’t be part of our team any longer, you have always gone that extra mile for us & we did appreciate it, although maybe did not always express it.” – Stena, KAM customer.

A position for a Customer Support Manager (NE area) became available in 2016 which Barbara jumped at. Opening CSC – a new department and recruiting new people, getting new experience, travelling around Europe, what an exciting new journey to be on. Barbara met great people, learnt how to be a project manager and a manager at the same. “It was challenging and yet rewarding at the same time”.


"Wärtsilä has given me a lot of opportunities to grow. At the same time, I have learnt that the only constant in Wärtsilä is change and that you must be flexible and able to come out of your comfort zone to accommodate those changes.”


A company restructure meant some jobs were changed and people were moved round

“Having joined Shaft Line Solutions, nearly 3 years on, I started with investigating the skills gaps and FSE’s certification structure. We want to grow our engineers and having an up-to-date skills matrix as well as the ability to correctly forecast where the skills need to be added and who should be trained in what is very important. Everyone is different and some people are happy to stay where they are forever, and some want to grow and keep developing further” quoted Barbara.

In her current position as the Operational Development Manager for Wärtsilä Shaft Line Solutions, Barbara stated that her role involves identifying, analysing and improving existing ways of working and processes, introducing better tools and taking parts in various projects to optimise performance, support the reduction of costs and increase the efficiency as well as improve FS Managers, Coordinators, Administrators and Engineers experience.


2010, the year I became a mum

There’s a common belief that when you have a child, your whole world stops, and everything becomes about your child. That your ‘old’ identity becomes overshadowed by the new one called ‘Mum’ once the kids are born. “I was very much worried this would happen to me. However, nothing about my sons’ entrance into this world has hindered my career nor my ambition in any way,” said Barbara.

“Sleep deprivation is not easy, and some compromises have to be made. Yes, I am still learning how not to feel guilty for dedicating time to work and still trying to find this perfect family-work balance to do both and how to be fully present when I am with my family. Yet, it is doable, with enough determination and energy boost from another cup of coffee”.


Life outside of Wärtsilä

“I love gardening. It gives your mind a break from a computer and allows you to free up some mental space. Funnily enough this was not something I would call my hobby when I was younger.”

Barbara also mentioned her enjoyment for ice-skating, although said she wasn’t great at it. Back when Barbara was at secondary school, she used to play basketball and at this time thought she would be representing the university basketball team. A bad knee injury soon put a stop to this.

“My list of home improvement tasks is much longer and more than the energy my husband has. I like to be busy so always find myself dragging him out. Spontaneous, tired… 5 mins later I’m ready to go again. Progress is how I feel good. I like to be out and about, not staying at home doing nothing”.


Hopes for the future

Barbara loves to study and always furthers her education at any given opportunity. “My long-term goal is to become an engineer.” This is something she has always wanted to do and in conversation said when her youngest son is a little older, she will head down the engineering route again – “I haven’t given up! I will always be a keen learner looking for new adventures and challenges.”

As a very independent individual, Barbara said “I like to find the solution to any problem.” A ‘get it done’ attitude leads Barbara to her success, “sometimes my progress isn’t planned and comes naturally. Once you get involved with one project, you can use your new knowledge to help progress in another project. A great benefit of the company!”

“There are so many opportunities in Wärtsilä so take them when you can,” said Barbara.

“I really enjoy working for Wärtsilä and I would recommend it to anyone. It is not free from challenges so if you’re looking for ease its not for you but if you are looking to grow this is the company to be in.”

Barbara Kenig-Siewior


Written by
Chantelle Waldron
Marketing and Communications Specialist