"A woman is able to do everything when she has a reliable back". Interview with Shift Supervisor from M4

A century ago, almost the only social role, a woman possessed, was being a wife and mother. But times have changed. Now women set the pace in business, work on an equal basis with men in areas that are hardly for them, as one might think, arrange everyday routine, jump with a parachute and serve in the army.

A UTS employee, the Shift Supervisor at Toll Plaza on 515 km of M4 Don highway, Irina Ishchenko is an example of such a woman. Her service record is difficult to overestimate: she made almost 5 thousand parachute jumps, served in the army, worked in the EMERCOM and now keeps on leading people at TP.

Irina, you experienced skydiving so many times. It is incredible! Tell me how it all started?
— Perhaps, it all comes from the family (laughing). My mom and dad were in the same aeroclub that I joined later.
At first, I even marked the 100th, 200th, 500th jumps, and then switched to aerial acrobatics, which is completely different. It’s not only about jumping, but a specific result – performing certain figures in the air and showing landing accuracy.

What about your first and last jumps? How was it? What is the difference and similarity?
— Before the first jump I was worried, but there was no fear. I came to the club in September and until May I studied three times a week. Then I passed the exam: it seemed to me, I knew everything thoroughly: the parachute fabric composition, the correct way to jump on the air stream. By the way, only thanks to my aeroclub I got into the army.
The very first feeling from the jump is silence, no footing, and then an overwhelming view around! I quickly got comfortable and began to look around, felt that hanging was uncomfortable with everything pulling. Then I saw the other guys, started to shout congratulations. 
It is the last jump that I don't remember. Absolutely. Probably, because all the movements by that time had already been honed and there was no "wow-effect."

Have you ever felt scared while jumping? 
— There was one case in Cherkasy. That time we were to jump from 2.5 thousand meters. Imagine: two groups - guys and girls – sitting fully equipped on board and waiting for the height to be reached. When we got to 1.9 thousand meters, we suddenly heard a strange clap, and then – silence. The cockpit door opened, the mechanic ran out and shouted: "To the exit!"
The boys stood up and jumped. But we, girls, stayed waiting, thinking that boys group was the first, and the next was our turn. 
Finally, I was embarrassed by the silence and quietly knocked at the cockpit door. They were so surprised, we were still on board, and сried at us to get out.
It turned out that they were already descending. It often happens on such kinds of planes: when a certain altitude is reached, the engine fails. It sounds scary, but when a plane glides down, the engine starts again. In our situation, both engines failed. Сan you imagine? Of course, they worked professionally and went so smoothly down that we did not even notice! By the way, they did start the engine at 600 or 900 meters height.
Another thrilling story is related to the flight, not the jumps. We didn't even jump that time – something caught fire in the plane gearbox and we had to land urgently in someone's yard. It turned out a comical story: people totally equipped, were standing in the high grass without a single move.

Amazing! So many stories... By the way, has anyone in UTS become interested in skydiving after listening your experience?
— I have been working in the company for almost 7 years and since, of course, many learned about my past (laughing). Some even started parachuting after my stories!
I suppose, we could even make a UTS team of sky-divers. There are so many young and sportive guys in the company who are engaged in hockey, mountain biking, etc. I bet they would agree to jumps as well.

Is there anything in common between jumping into and your work? What is the similarity?
— Actually, there are similarities. Both activities require discipline and restraint. Sometimes it seems in the air that the situation is hopeless, but you continue to look for the ways to solve the problem. When communicating with the highway users, the situation is the same: once you think there is no way to convince or find a compromise, you keep searching and suddenly get a solution.
However, the sphere of toll roads operation is more complicated. When parachuting, all depends on experience and high-quality technology, they allow you to do your job well. In UTS everyone has to get trained as well and experience comes over time, but working with people is much more difficult. Users are always different – there is no perfect "key" to any problem.

"Working with highway users is similar to parachuting, it seems sometimes that the situation is hopeless, but one must continue searching, and the way out will be found".

Being a woman in the male world is not easy, and leading a team is even more difficult. Have you faced difficulties at work with superiors or subordinates?
Someone may think that it is difficult to become part of the team but for me it turned out to be easy. UTS is a team of ordinary people. Everyone has his/her own character, but they are all good, understanding and helpful.
The management does not see gender differences, they are sympathetic and support everyone. They provide lunches, transportation to and from work, and always find solutions in any problem situations. The secret hides in a simple human attitude.
With subordinates, I try to adhere to the same approach. As Shift Supervisor, I work mainly with women, and it is usually more difficult to come to an understanding with them, but all the difficulties are always related to work. I think, I'm fair.

What is more important for you in communication? What qualities are mostly needed in your job?
— In our work, patience, decency and diligence are the most important.
I am good at listening to people and I am sure that constant dropping will wear away a stone. This particular approach helps me find a common language with highway users, my team, and management.

You worked in the EMERCOM, what advantages did this experience bring to you?
— In the EMERCOM the work is almost the same. There is an order and you shall comply. Some colleagues even make jokes that during my shift it is like in the army. There is definitely discipline, but I am not strict, I always listen to employees and do my best to help.
It is sometimes difficult with the highway users: some of them do not want to listen to a woman. Nevertheless, the experienced character is immediately visible. And I have it. I attained it not in the EMERCOM, but even earlier – in the aeroclub.

Are you interested or engaged in any other kind of sports? What do you like now?
— The last time I jumped with a parachute was 5 years ago. Of course, the sky will always attract me. But still, my husband fostered in me love to another "hobby" – off-road driving. This is a very exciting experience, especially going through the mud in our Niva!

What do you think: can a woman combine successful team management with the happy family life? Did you succeed?
— Indeed. A woman is able to do everything when she has a reliable back. I am lucky: my husband and mom always support me.
My husband even calls me boss for fun (laughing). He is, by the way, a helicopter pilot and he, as no one else, understands my craving for skydiving. We’ve been for 30 years together.