A perfectionist who loves her work and is proud to be part of a winning team. A dreamer, an optimist, aware of the importance of her role. Laura Imbriglio brings the same attitude to integration of complex Telespazio systems as she brings to everything in her life: complete, total dedication, giving it everything she’s got! Those eyes – the Sentinels of the European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus programme – which observe our fragile planet with the utmost care, may well be her own. They miss nothing; they always do their best, and they never settle for any less.
As part of Leonardo’s continuing series of interviews with some of our outstanding female employees, and to coincide with International Women’s Day, we talk to Laura about what motivates her and what she is doing to support and inspire her colleagues and the next generation.
Laura, what are your most distinctive characteristics?
I am a passionate woman. I often let my enthusiasm carry me away, and I am amazed when I discover things I didn’t know. In a word, I’m curious. And I transform this energy into passion for what I do.
What is your main flaw?
Oh, I have lots of faults; I think the worst one is being a perfectionist. It might sound like a good quality, but it really makes life tough. As a perfectionist, I cannot be indulgent either with myself or with others, and I expect other people to share my obsession with detail, but they often don’t. In short, I have a hard time forgiving myself, or other people.
Who are your heroes?
I prefer to think of them as important examples, and in this sense my heroes have always been and still are my parents, hard workers of great integrity. They have given me a sense of honesty, dedication and perseverance, and they have always encouraged me to do my best, without holding back, in whatever I do. Then the rest takes care of itself.
What are your favourite hobbies?
I love travelling, and I enjoy working with my hands and doing sport. But if I had to choose just one, it would have to be cooking, because it says a lot about me. I experiment with new recipes, and there’s curiosity, a focus on quality ingredients, careful attention to cooking time and the look of the dish, as well as the element of conviviality. But what I love best is getting my hands dirty! This is my philosophy of living: if you want something to grow (or to rise, as in bread making), you need to get your hands dirty first. I love this because it gives us an active role to play, but it also makes us imperfect; we get our hands dirty, we make mistakes, but then we try again, and we share the results at the table!
What really upsets you?
Passivity, resignation. I can’t stand people who complain but don’t do anything to make things better. That’s the easy way out!
What’s your motto or favourite phrase?
I often use my own version of a phrase from a well-known film, ‘Life is beautiful - but it doesn’t last long’. I have gone through two very difficult experiences – the earthquake in my hometown of L’Aquila and the pandemic. Both of them taught me that life must not be taken for granted, and I mean not only our own lives, but those of the people we love, of everyone. We often forget this, and go about our lives as if we were masters of the world, but a few seconds can be enough to change everything. So let’s allow ourselves the luxury of being amazed every day, and let’s smile more often: it’s free!
Why did you choose to study STEM disciplines and why would you recommend them?
My interest in the sciences goes back a long way. I originally registered to attend an experimental high school specialising in sciences and maths. Then my mother found out! She changed everything, and I found myself studying Latin and Greek in a high school with a focus on classical studies. But the study method I acquired there turned out to be the key to my future. It enabled me to approach complex problems using a language familiar to me: the formula. At university, I challenged myself and registered for a faculty completely different from classical studies: engineering. I would do it again right away! I really enjoyed my studies, and then my PhD studies, international work experience and opportunities to work with others. Studies in STEM disciplines don’t give you an answer to a problem, but they do teach you how to approach the problem, and this is an important thing to learn in life. This ‘how’ means we don’t need to limit our creativity in coming up with solutions, and we can improve our self-esteem, knowing that we will definitely be able to come up with an appropriate solution, however big the problem and however complex the situation. I can now say there’s nothing complicated about being a woman undertaking a programme of studies in the STEM disciplines; all you need is a strong desire to learn, the curiosity to do it and the determination to make your dreams come true.
What projects are you particularly proud of?
I’ve been working with Leonardo for just over seven years. I work in programmes for geo-observation of the Earth, such as the ESA Copernicus programme, which includes what we call the Sentinels: satellites that use the data they collect to monitor the state of health of the planet. I have worked on both Sentinel 2 and 3, but in the case of Sentinel 3, I oversaw all the stages: design, software development, integration tests, launch and post-launch. An important project which brought me growth in my career. I remember with joy all the late nights with my colleagues, and how we celebrated when things finally appeared to be going the right way. At the launch, I was really proud of myself and the work I had done with all the others. I remember the speaker’s voice narrating the event live, and in my head I could see the names of all the people who had contributed to it all, with great dedication, sacrifice and perseverance. I was proud to be a member of that team! I’m also proud to have been a part of the first Accelerate programme in 2018, for improving the skills of talented young people. It was a very important experience. It allowed me to fully understand the great company I am a part of, in all its lines of business, and to meet colleagues from different Leonardo divisions and discuss our company’s ideas and values. This was a profoundly enriching experience which has helped to strengthen my sense of belonging to this company, and my desire to convey this in my everyday life.
Diversity as a corporate value, gender as an opportunity. During your career, what challenges or opportunities have you faced as a woman?
I believe that being a woman in a prevalently male profession can be complicated at times, but we are always the ones who lay down the rules, and I’ve never had to submit to a decision. I’ve always said outright what I think. In my work experience, I’ve always attempted to balance the presence of men and women wherever I could. I truly believe gender complementarity to be essential for bringing out the best in all of us! As for the benefits, another source of great pride for me was being identified as a Leonardo Role Model in the School and Enterprise System project, which now involves more than 170 professional women coming from STEM studies in more than 30 big companies, and students from over 100 schools. As Role Models, we commit to a mission for our country’s future, telling girls at school about ourselves in inspirational meetings and offering them a sample of what their future might be like if they pursue studies in STEM disciplines, providing them with information for the choices they will be facing. Working with young people in these areas means working with the future.
As a talented Leonardo engineer, how have you balanced your professional life and your private life?
I don’t think it’s easy to find a compromise, especially when you love both aspects with your whole self, but I have a husband at my side who has never limited my passion for my work. You need to find a balance, and I believe I have found it now, with his help.
In your opinion, in which areas (of culture, welfare, economy) is there still room for improvement?
It’s important to keep up with the times, and everything changes very rapidly, especially in technological innovation. We need to speed up to make sure we are not left behind, and especially to anticipate change wherever possible. We have the skills, passion and means to do all this, but we need a profound change of mindset. We need to be open to diversity, to the new, and to streamline our internal processes.
In conclusion, what message would you like to share from your personal or professional life to young people in particular, as well as to Leonardo’s global workforce?
What I have to say to young people is: don’t study to get a job, or because it’s the thing to do; study to do what you dream of doing, what makes you curious and makes you smile, what makes you want to get up in the morning. Let yourself be amazed!
To my colleagues, I say you are all a single world, because every one of you is distinctive, deep down inside, and every one of you has something precious to offer. We work together every day; let us remember that we are all cells, with different roles to play and various functions, but all as part of one single body. Being and feeling a part at the same time. Play an active, not a passive role!