How She Did It: Anna Keeling On Shattering Glass Ceilings

The Aerospace industry is widely documented to have a diversity problem. Long-standing member, Anna Keeling is one of the extraordinary women who has shattered the glass ceiling by joining Boeing as Managing Director of Boeing Defence UK in 2019 from GKN Aerospace. Anna was named one of 2017’s 100 Women to Watch, The Female FSTE Board Report.

She is also an advocate for diversity by supporting young talent in the sector.

Born in Poland, Anna Keeling moved to Australia when she was five, and it was there where her curiosity as to how things worked was sparked. “As a trade-certified engineer, my father was passionate about understanding the mechanics of how things work, and as I was growing up, he would involve me in some of his projects and encourage me to be curious. Family trips to the Royal Air Force museum inspired me to pursue aerospace engineering and I’ve never looked back.”

Anna has travelled and worked across 30 countries and lived in Australia, Switzerland, Poland, France and the UK. “I have always loved adventures. Through having a mobile life and career, I have gained wide experience of different people and cultures, and the way business is done around the world.” 

Anna Keeling is also joining us as a keynote speaker at the FL National Awards & Summit – The Grand Final, in Leeds on the 29th November. We caught up with her to find out how she did.

What has driven your passion for diversity in the aerospace industry? 

My family immigrated to Australia from Poland when I was 5 years old – that first plane trip really captured my imagination.

What’s the biggest myth about the aerospace industry?

That it’s large and complex. Like many industries, it feels quite small when you spend enough time in it.

What is your advice to women looking to pursue a career in engineering and specifically aerospace?

Go for it! It’s an incredibly interesting and rewarding career path. It provides you with the opportunity to apply technical as well as interpersonal/management skills, it can take you all around the world if you choose. It’s an incredibly flexible career path.

I started as a fully-fledged engineer, then moved to technical sales, then business development, then programme management, regional management and finally an executive position.

What’s your go-to question during job interviews? 

“Tell me about yourself?” – people dive straight into their CV and chronology of employment but that’s not the question! I really want to know something about the person, who they are, what’s important to them, what they think is important to share with me? It immediately demonstrates a person’s listening and critical thinking skills vs. an auto-pilot response.

What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever been given? 

“Sleep on it” – there a few decisions that require an immediate answer. And when a decision is really important you do need the time to consider it. Sleep literally wipes the slate clean. It restores you, resets your emotions, it helps you to see things more objectively and with fresh eyes. I always feel good about decisions I’ve “slept on”.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

If at all possible, go for a run! Even if it’s just for 20 minutes. It gets me outdoors, I get lots of air into me. It helps me set a more focused tone for the day. If not, I have herbal tea and take a few minutes to breathe deeply and give myself a few moments of silence before I start rushing around.

What gadget can you not live without? 

My iPhone. It’s my way to be “connected”. I travel a lot with work so it’s important that I use travel time productively. Whether on a train, plane or in a cab I can call the office, answer email, text, message my husband or family in Australia. I’m in the middle of a renovation project at home and I need my phone to project manage from the road.

What’s your favourite book and why?

I’m a keen reader so I have many. I think one of the business books that had the biggest impact on me was “The 7 habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. It’s got some great advice, models and techniques and a nice balance between getting to know yourself as a person as well as how to have a better impact on others. I also love fiction (holiday guilty pleasure) and here there are too many to mention; “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson which in my view is about a curious little girl that didn’t take “no” for an answer; anything by Jane Austen, Tracy Chevalier or Michelle Moran who all write about strong and courageous women throughout history. I love historical fiction.

This is a very exciting time of the year here at FL as we celebrate the UK’s most phenomenal female leaders and male agents of change! Find out who made the FL National Awards & Summit shortlist this year and join us for the biggest, brightest and most diverse celebration your region has ever seen. BOOK YOUR TICKETS HERE 

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