Leading the way as the first female plant manager at Ball Aerosol

Lenka Pribyslavska discovered a love of manufacturing while still in school. Being curious about how the production process works spurred her to pursue a career in male-dominated industries. Now she is the first ever female plant manager at Ball Aerosol Packaging, taking up her new role at the company’s Velim location in the Czech Republic in January this year.

Here we introduce the next profile in our mini-series, shining a light on the impact women are making in manufacturing.

Women remain underrepresented despite the manufacturing industry making concerted efforts in recent years to close the gender gap. Now more than ever, faced with labour shortages exacerbated by an aging workforce, its future depends on a diverse workforce.

Pribyslavska talks to our features editor Iris Arsic about the importance of having more female role models, being encouraged from a young age to take the road less travelled, and finding a common language and connecting with coworkers to build trust as a way to support business objectives.

Have you always been interested in manufacturing? What inspired you to take this career path?

During my studies I decided to focus on Quality, Environment, Health and Safety. My professor inspired me to get my first job in a manufacturing plant and since that I’ve stayed in manufacturing because I like to be part of the production process when material components are being turned into a finished product which I can see and touch.

Can you describe your journey to becoming a plant manager – and your career so far?

After several years in quality I moved to a plant CI (continuous improvement) leader role. This role gave me a broader perspective of all processes and their connections. It also helped me to learn how to motivate people, support team work across departments, understand people and their needs at all levels in the plant, and through that, how to support business objectives.

In the CI role I got a chance to work abroad as well – one year in the US – and then as a divisional CI leader in different countries across Europe. Through working with divisional business leaders, I gained experience of how to manage a business from different angles and in different cultures and environments.

During my career I also held a role of production manager. I wanted to learn what a day-to-day job of a production manager means with full responsibility of people and results and how to balance continuous improvement with operational priorities. Before joining Ball, I was Quality and CI leader in the automotive industry which gave me a strong customer experience. All my experiences have shaped me to become the leader I am today and I keep learning and improving day by day.

What were the challenges you had to overcome and some of the most rewarding moments of your career?

There have been many, e.g., facilitating events being the only woman in the room, being the first Czech women in a purely German management team without a good knowledge of German, or working with people (from Italy, France, etc.) on the shop floor with language barriers.  Finding a common language to build team trust and making things better is always my north star.

The most rewarding moments for me have always been those when I see people win and shine. For example, shop floor people being proud of their achievements and recognised by top management, successful cross-functional alignment with goals and progress transparent to everyone and way forward, and being part of individual growth of my colleagues.

 You joined Ball Aerosol in January. What attracted you to the company?

The key company values (for example being close to customers, innovation, sustainability, and a strong focus on people and culture) are fully aligned with my personal values and I am thrilled to see that the values are fully embodied in the company culture, and also lived by the company leaders.

What to do you enjoy most about your role?

I like the variety of the role, bigger scope and many challenges ahead of me. In the end it’s still about working with people and that is what I love to do the most.

What challenges do you face now?

I’m learning about the aerosol business, products and customers, and about sustainable aluminium packaging. Breaking down silos and improving overall communication is my focus now.

Do you see meaningful progress being made on gender equality?

This is not an easy question. To me it all starts at school, motivating young girls to take the career path which might have not been typical in the past. Supporting them during their studies and early years is important as there are not many women role models they can look up to and learn from.

It’s important to promote company cultures on real life examples, what benefits the gender diversity can bring and give a chance to women to be successful and bring their best to the table. If the person feels included he or she will be much more successful and use his/her full potential. What is also important to me is to make sure that we’re fair no matter what gender, race, age, background, etc., people are.

Reflecting on your younger self, what advice would you give to young women entering the manufacturing industry?

Believe in yourself. Keep learning, work hard. Then you can do whatever you want.

How do you see your career progressing?

I don´t plan my career in advance. I always do the job the best way I can and I use every opportunity to learn and develop. When I’m ready for the next step the new opportunities will come. I would like to continue my career with Ball.

Describe yourself in three words: Growth mindset, caring, driven

Your favourite leisure activity/activities: Travelling, skiing/snowboarding, hiking, canoeing, arts

One thing on your bucket list: Visit Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Bali, China, India, etc.)

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