Anna Szkulmowska - 2021 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Co-Founder and CEO, AM2M
Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland
Born in Poland
Everything started in kindergarten. I was four or five years old and I was shown a photo of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Then I got the book, How Does the Universe Work? for my 10th birthday and Science Encyclopedia when I was 11. I was absolutely fascinated. I knew everything by heart. I was successful in many things at high school: theater club, journalistic club, geography olympiads, student government. I knew I could study different majors at university, but astrophysics intrigued me the most. I thought about astronomy, but I chose physics as a broader discipline.
Now I wear more than one hat. I am the CEO of AM2M, an R&D company in the field of biomedical imaging. There I work with true magicians–physicists, optical engineers, computer engineers, and electrical engineers, supervising them and managing projects. As the Broker of Innovation for the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Informatics, I am responsible for networking with entrepreneurs, businesspeople, and local government. I am also chairwoman of the National Smart Specialization Photonics at the Ministry of Development, leading members from both the scientific and industrial communities to develop photonics as a leading technology driving economic development in Poland.
I do not focus on obstacles or challenges in my life. I just accept them and wonder if my ideas or plans will come true. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I don’t call them successes or failures. I call them life. In life, you need a place for your career, but also for your loved ones, family, friends, and holidays – you use one of these sources to gain strength to overcome obstacles in another space. My greatest strength is my marriage and four daughters.
I wish I had learned more about good leadership, that I should pay more attention to someone else’s needs and sensitivity. For too long, I didn’t know I could be seen as too harsh on people. I want to know about effective teamwork and group roles, how to give feedback, and how to accept it. I wish I had started developing my soft skills much earlier.
If you are considering a career, choose the one that calls you the most. Do not be afraid. Find your own path and remember that you are not a project – you are a process. STEM strengthens women, and the world needs women in STEM.