In Conversation With Christiane Llaca
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National Champion In Mountain Biking, A Single Mother, and Planning & Operations Manager at the Women in Aerospace Europe (WIA-E)

A free-willed independent woman with a growth mindset, a lifelong learner who learns even from her experiences no matter how challenging they are, Christiane Llaca is an inspiration to many young women to be bold and embrace life and the reality it brings together. She has a strong suit for Strategic Planning and wears many hats – a National Champion in mountain biking, a single mother of two little boys, a strong career woman, and Planning & Operations Manager at the Women in Aerospace Europe (WIA-E). Christiane advocates commitment to aerospace programs along with her colleagues, particularly increasing female and young adult visibility. With a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Administration, Christiane LLaca is multilingual and fluent in Spanish, English, German, Italian, and Dutch.

Christiane Llaca’s Work Life

Aerospace is one of the most interesting and challenging sectors to work in. In addition, being a woman in the space industry can be a challenging yet rewarding career path.

The first report recently published on ‘Women in the UK Space Sector’ shows commitment to encourage more women to join the space sector and become a more welcoming space for everyone to work. The report also shows that there is more ethnic diversity among women in space compared to men.

Christiane Llaca working at Women in Aerospace Europe, is an outstanding example of a woman who has paved her way through this industry with perseverance, confidence, and commitment.

To cover the skills gap in the aerospace industry, Christiane also connects with recruiters, HR, and other people who work around skill development in aerospace companies.

A true leader in the field of aerospace, she continues to be one of the most influential women today recognized for her organizational and operational knowledge and diverse work experience across EMEA, North and Latin America.

Join us in learning more about Christiane’s inspiring life journey, the challenges she faced along the way being an expat woman, the daily choices that led to where she is today and her advice for the young generation!

Christiane-LLaca-Alignthoughts-Interview
“I think that being competitive and having to earn and work for success made a big difference in building my character,” says Christiane Llaca when sharing her story of winning her first National Championship in mountain biking at a young age.

What were your dreams when you were a child, or what did you want to become as an adult?

I was always a very decided little girl, and I think I always knew what I wanted. Since the age of 12, I have biked and raced. I had to train, focus, and commit, even being very young. I think that being competitive and having to earn and work for success made a big difference in building my character. When I was 13, I lost my first National Championship, and I discovered I did not like to lose without giving a fight, so I said to myself, I will come back and win.

And four years later, I did win.

I had to study and train very hard at the same time and every day for a long period of time to achieve my goal. It was hard and a bumpy road, but I made it, and I feel very proud of myself now.

I originally come from Mexico. Like in many places, unfortunately, if you want to live from sports is not always the best idea for your future then I decided it was time, maybe, to move on and choose a career. I had to choose what I wanted to be, so that’s where my professional path started. I always knew I wanted to make changes, and I felt I was destined to do something where I could be an influence in people’s life. So, the first thing I did was to learn English.

I was very fortunate to always have the support of my parents. I think my father played a big role in my development since I was biking; he was with me all the time, taught me how to change a tire, he was there in easy and not so easy days, and always kept me moving with no excuses, he never gave me the feeling I wouldn’t do something for being a woman.

My father always said you need to be self-sufficient and do things for yourself and stood next to me to actually achieve that. I think that my father, together with my mother’s structure is what gave me much responsibility and independence, made me feel that they would have my back to move forward in life with any decision I would make, good or bad.

I was always free-minded, willing to take risks, and open to learn from every experience and person I met. For example, I lived in Canada, London, Germany, the United States, and the Netherlands. My professional journey started in Germany, where I did my internship, and since then, all my jobs have been somehow linked to each other by people I meet or projects I work on.

Throughout my career, I was lucky to be surrounded by good co-workers. I had bosses from whom I could learn, good men and women bosses, and colleagues who would encourage me, and believe in me by focusing on my capacity, becoming either an inspiration, a role model, or an experience for me.

Wow, that’s mind-blowing! 

I am sure your journey must have had some bad days, making you feel disappointed. So how do you keep moving forward in your life, especially during tough times?

I think, in a way, I was always lucky to have good leaders around me, people to look forward to, and also, I have learned to focus on what I have and not on what I don’t have. Everything is about perspective. I have learned from many different people and nationalities, and I worked a lot with German people. I remember one of my old bosses, who I look forward to,  who would be hard on me, he wouldn’t give me space to complain you have to look for solutions and solve the problems, he would say.

I’m also studying mindfulness, emotional management, and positive psychology. I enjoy this very much, and these topics have given me a different perspective on different situations where I know I just learn from the bad experiences, and I enjoy the good ones.

I think that when you do sports for competition, it hurts, but you go through it every day, and then you probably experience the process of life; you train, work hard, you win, you fail, it hurts, but it brings you closer to your goal and you enjoy that goal once you get there and then you want to do it all over because it is is worth it.

My mother also gave me very good advice. When you have a hard time, don’t think too much, just do what you have to do. My brother tells me all the time; it’s during the time of crisis is when you need to prepare and learn the most, and so I’ve done.

You have such a wise and supportive family!

Yes, I do think that when you manage to change your mindset to be grateful and to see what you have, you actually can train your mind then you just deal with anything in a more positive way. We will always deal with complicated people or situations. A lot of things can always happen, and life constantly changes, and the difference in how we act on them is very different if we respond or if we react to them.

Yeah, problems always come up for all of us. But we have a choice to react and complain or act and move forward. 

Did you get mental strength by doing sports as a young individual? Or do you also find other sources? Do you have any other routines or habits that you practice to grow mental willpower?

I meditate every morning. And yes, I personally love gratefulness meditations; it always helps you to remember that there are good things.

Do you also use any affirmations? Could you share it with us?

Yeah, for sure. When you asked me for my affirmation, I thought about it. I like to turn every experience into knowledge by asking myself what do I learn from this to keep growing and learning either personally or professionally. That’s why I believe in learning and enjoying the moment no matter what this brings; joy or learning.

I’m sure your children see a strong mother, a strong woman, and who is bringing them up. What do you think as women or as mothers can we do to help the next generation become better?

As a single mom, a mom, and a woman, I would say let’s teach our children to take responsibility for their own actions, no matter if they are boys or girls.

And, how do I do that?

For example, I always try to say things positively, and I tell them, “Everything has a solution” let’s clean/fix this together, or encourage them to do it themselves when possible, so they are aware of what they do.

I believe that as parents, the best thing we can do is really know, observe, take into consideration, and respect who our children are themselves, guide them of course with boundaries and what they need but guide them on what they are making them feel accepted valued and loved as much as we can.

Yes, we all have things to learn from each other. I think no matter at what stage we are in life or what level of success we have achieved, we can always learn and take steps to reach the next level in life.

What kind of challenges or obstacles do you think today’s young lads and girls face?

I believe there would be two things. One is technology together with social acceptance and the other one is the availability to choose between so many possibilities.

Now, there’s also the pressure to achieve things at a much younger age than before.

Exactly, and they probably have the feeling that they need to know what they will be and do in life at a very young age.

Were you always sorted about your career goals and what you wanted to be in life?

No, I wasn’t. I’m 37  years old and maybe 5-6 years ago is when I really knew what I was good at and loved to do at the same time. It takes time and experience to find this out, in my opinion.

Yeah, I agree.

What, according to you, was the light bulb moment or the turning point in your whole life until now? And what choices led to where you are today?

A few years ago, I would say not when I was 20 though. After a trail of events, the lightbulb moment was at a time when I was following Coaching and Psychology.

So it was a point where I realized that I needed to make changes in my life, so I started to read to understand where my feelings came from.

It was trying to find answers to my questions. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? It needs to be both to make it holistic. And so I did that, and then suddenly when I was answering the questions like I knew exactly what I was good at and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And I know I’m really good at operations, where my mind works well, etc.

For example, I’m very good to see the big picture and like a mindmap. And I said, I really enjoy doing it for me. That’s what I want to do, so I enjoy coming to companies that are in the early stages or in a growing stage that need to make changes and make things work smoothly.

Okay, it’s like self-realization. Find what you’re good at, and sort of shift your journey from thereon.

What or who is the greatest inspiration in your life? Do you have any role models or mentors you always look up to?

To be honest, I don’t think I have only one. I think I’ve met people around my career and life in different stages whom I have learned from good and bad experiences. Right now, I work with so many women; I have to say, it’s very inspiring.

Yeah, that’s like an unsaid challenge right out there for every woman, especially for women who work and manage house chores.

What are your conscious choices to integrate work and personal life in a healthy way? Do you do something on a daily basis to enjoy a good balance? 

Yes, I plan and try to focus really well when I work and stay flexible in my mind for changes, and adjust as needed without too much thought.

Yes, especially after the pandemic shifted all our lives from being fast-paced to helping us slow down, spend time on things that matter; and that requires a flexible work-life.

Indeed, with this situation, sometimes you just need to give up a bit and be sure people understand much more than it looks like.

I think so too, especially, women find it difficult to say no to things, to people, or at work. Do you have the courage to say no? And how do you decide when it’s time to take a pause?

I have learned to say no, and I believe setting boundaries make life healthy. Boundaries to me mean to be clear to myself and to others about what I need and can do. Being honest to yourself and to others can keep the smoke from rising, therefore more stability and better communication.

What kind of books do you read? Are there any recommendations for our readers?

I do read, not as much as I wish at the moment. Currently, I am reading a book by Dr. Brian White, “Many Lives, Many Masters,” and I would highly recommend it.

So what, according to you, can be the characteristics of an ideal partner? What are the traits we must be looking for in the one?  

I would say just someone that loves you for who you truly are, that you can be yourself with and someone that is willing to grow and evolute together, someone honest and someone you can have nice conversations with about good and difficult topics.

How do you make the tough decisions in life? Do you have any tips for women to navigate decision-making?

I think honesty to yourself, I think we always know the answer deep inside to especially difficult decisions, don’t be afraid if is not the decision everyone’s is expecting, it only needs to be the right decision for you.

Can you share a glimpse of your expat journey? What are the challenges that you faced in a new country? And what made you move from one country to another so often. Is it because you are a risk-taker, or you just wanted to explore?

Yes, I went to London first, I hadn’t been to Europe before back then, and then I got bored quickly and felt a strong connection to go to Germany. I wanted to learn German and also looked for an internship to make good use of my time, and through this company, I got connected to others and jumped through countries along with them.

How do you deal with rejections? Do you give up easily?

I take them as experiences, if I have to cry, I do, but then I learn from the experience and move on. I don’t give up. Instead, I learn, and if I think there is no room to grow any longer, I let things go when it’s time to let go.

How do you think we can support Inclusion & Diversity at the workplace?

I think by accepting each other and respecting each other without judgments to personalities, sex, or preferences. Also, focus on being supportive and encourage each other to look for the good in others. We all have good things and different capacities.

What words of wisdom do you want to share with the young generation?

I would emphasize, focus on what you have living in the moment; the rest will come together. Trust that what you have at this moment is what you need don’t be in a rush to have it all at once. Enjoy the process. When you’re young, you want time to go fast, and then you get older and want time to go slower; make sure the road is worth it.

Well, it was lovely talking to you, Christiane. We really appreciate the time that you took to share your thoughts with us. Thank you so much!

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