Karolina Lachi Kolarova

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International Women in Engineering Day: An interview with Karolina Lachi Kolarova

Jun. 22 2021

The Women In Leadership series by Bureau Veritas Certification compiles a variety of interviews from our female managers, providing a platform to speak on the challenges and opportunities they have faced throughout their careers. Join us each month to hear the stories of some of our many #WomenInLeadership.

Karolina Lachi Kolarova has been tackling problems head-on since she moved to the UK at age 19 without speaking English. Her tenacity and natural leadership skills helped her rapidly advance from an admin position at Bureau Veritas UK to her current role as Certification Director. She discusses work, leadership, and the importance of empowering others.

What does your typical workday look like?

I’m a generalist, so I like to spend a significant part of my day speaking with different people, listening, learning and applying that knowledge.

As Certification Director for Bureau Veritas UK, I manage around 70 people. We manage several large international contracts from the UK for clients with worldwide operations and sites. Our certification of management systems covers a range of business issues, from QHSE to cybersecurity, sustainability and food safety.

My personal mission is to enable the people that work for me. I strive to help them see their potential, work as a team and deliver outstanding results.

What makes a good leader?

I’m a big believer in the “servant leadership” model: it’s my conviction that the best leaders empower others to take the lead and find solutions for themselves. This doesn’t make servant leaders any less focused on results: they tend to set high standards and hold their people accountable.

Empathy and agility are essential qualities for leaders. Being able to influence people is crucial. And listening and effective communication help achieve results. It’s often more powerful to listen to people than to tell them what to do.

How has your career evolved over time?

I joined Bureau Veritas 14 years ago in an administrative role. Since then, I’ve held many different positions and worked my way into leadership roles.

The common thread throughout my career is my tendency to work on fixing an issue, like an underperforming Business Unit. I’m perceived internally as a problem solver, and this has helped propel my career.

It’s rare to progress from an admin role into leadership. But my story shows that it’s possible!

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career – and what advice would you give?

I moved to the UK from the Czech Republic when I was 19. At the time, I didn’t speak English. So, my first challenge was learning the language, which I did in 6 months.

When you join certification of management systems as someone who is not a Health & Safety expert, people perceive you as less knowledgeable. I overcame this with strong leadership skills, my ability to drive results, and by never pretending to be an expert in something I wasn’t.

I always say, don’t hesitate to be vulnerable. I’ve found that people respect you more when you show your humanity.

Thinking specifically about women and leadership, how much progress do you think has been made? What barriers do you still see today?

At Bureau Veritas UK, we recently introduced a new maternity and paternity package, which is a step in the right direction.

In terms of barriers, I tend to think men and women are equal and have the same opportunities. However, there are countries and places around the world where that’s not the case. So, moving forward, we need to keep talking about this topic, hearing people’s stories, and challenging stereotypes.