Balancing motherhood, study, and industry disruption

07 March 2023

As part of International Women’s Day 2023, we’re celebrating the Inspiring Women from our MBA programmes by digging into their experiences around the theme of equity.

Katerina Mouliadou, Executive MBA alum, shares how she successfully balanced being a new mum with study, whilst disrupting the status quo in her industry.

Firstly, can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I grew up in Greece and then moved to the UK as an undergraduate student. Since then, I’ve been based in the UK and have been passionately working in innovation roles in the healthcare and digital industries, in combination with parallel studies.

What made you choose your career and industry?

Even as a child, I was naturally drawn to understand how things were made; starting with my own toys (which I ended up breaking apart!), to observing the engineers installing the new washing machine in our home. I never really felt like I chose my career, it all started by taking small steps following my instincts. I was privileged that my family gave me a choice to decide what I’d like to study without any interference. So, after reading through endless lists of courses, I decided to pursue my studies in product design engineering. This led me to a career in product development and manufacturing engineering which I absolutely loved. I am still fascinated by visiting manufacturing plants to see how things are made, and of course, I’m a big fan of the ‘Inside the factory’ tv programme. Through my work in new product and technology development, I started developing an attraction towards all things digital so I decided to change perspectives and work for a digital manufacturing solutions company to explore the sector and build my IT/OT knowledge.

Katerina at graduation with her childHow has WBS supported you in your career?

The Executive MBA programme was recommended to me by an external colleague who was then pursuing an MBA, so as soon as I read about the programme spec and got to experience the culture by attending one of the open days, I fell in love with the idea. I applied for the Inspiring Females scholarship and receiving that was a great leverage to gain internal support at work to proceed with my studies.

I started my Executive MBA at WBS in 2020, and shortly after had my first baby. Studying, working and being a new full-time mum wasn’t easy, but it is rewarding when you enjoy what you do! My MBA studies significantly matured my perspective at work, I got to apply the knowledge I was gaining straight away and see instant improvements which motivated me to keep going. I also got to meet an inspiring group of people who were bringing so much diversity through their experience and personalities including my professors, peers and support staff as well as professionals I got to speak to through my research project. I eventually got to use my learnings in my personal life too, I managed to evaluate where I should concentrate my efforts and optimised my much-needed time.

It’s been a couple of weeks since my graduation, and a door of vast networking opportunities has opened as a result of my association with WBS. I am very excited about the future following the completion of my MBA and I am looking forward to retaining strong links with the WBS community for the years to come.

Have you ever experienced inequity due to your gender either in the workplace or outside of it? How did you handle the situation?

Of course, I have! It’s sad to say it, but who hasn’t? Comments such as ‘you don’t look like an engineer’, ‘she’s not suitable for this job, she wore a [formal knee length] skirt in the interview’, and ‘what do you mean the new manager is a she?’ are unfortunately so typical. What made the difference is that none of them upset me, or made me adjust my choices. I saw it as a challenge to disrupt the status quo and I’d focus on achieving my goals by doing what I felt was right without allowing the noise to distract me. I thought that once these people get to know me and see my value, they’d turn around. And some of them truly did.

In parallel, I have built wonderful relationships with colleagues who mentored and supported me throughout my career, and I am very grateful for their advice and backing especially at the early stages of my career when I was largely unaware of my self-worth. I still carry this advice with me today.

What does this year’s theme, ‘Embrace Equity’, mean to you?

I imagine how dull the world would be if everything looked, felt, sounded and acted the same all the time!

It starts with simply embracing who you are! Loving yourself for who you are, finding out what makes you unique and using it as your competitive advantage to achieve your personal happiness by celebrating your distinctive value.

But it doesn’t end there, embracing equity in others is as important. Supporting others in discovering their strengths and sharing your own learnings is key to evolving as a society.

What’s your advice to any young women reading this?

My first thought is “I wish you knew your worth!”. My advice is to focus on building what makes you happy and not waste any time or emotional energy through unnecessary distractions. Always follow your heart, there is always something in there telling us what we need to do. Sometimes it clashes with our mind which is trained and used to adhere to societal norms but only you know who you’re meant to be.

I personally live by Steve Job’s quote:

“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Discover more Inspiring Women on our MBA programmes