How Practicing Karate Helps Me Succeed at Work

Managing emotions, analysing components, and keeping focused on the goal – these are some of the things Agata has learned from practicing karate which has helped her thrive in IBM. In this interview, Agata shares how she has consistently used her passion for Karate to improve the quality of her work, and how IBM supports her in expressing her passions.

By Agata Winiarska

How would you describe your five years working for IBM?

Agata
Agata Winiarska

Wow, already five! These years in IBM have been full of opportunities and dynamism for me. I started as a Service Coordinator, forming a totally new team supporting the tool for ticketing system of French Customers. I needed to learn everything from scratch but it gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about the processes and IBM itself. After one year, the team grew from 2 to 11 persons and needed to have a structure. My functional manager proposed me a Focal Point role where I gained a lot of experience in managing people, working on their development, and coverage of business needs. After some time, I decided that I want to develop more in this area and I was nominated to take a Team Leader position. This role gave me a wider view of IBM processes and competencies in soft skills. Then, after one year I decided to take a more client-oriented, customer-facing position leading me to function as a Service Delivery Manager for French Customers. After few months I got an opportunity to become a First Line Manager and I just took it. Since then I have performed this role with my team of Technical Specialists from different areas: Networking, UNIX, Wintel, DBAs and Storage.

As you can see, these five years gave me a lot of development, a lot of challenges, possibilities to learn, and chances to grow.

 What did you learn from Karate that has helped you in your work and performance?

Karate is often seen as an aggressive sport but it is not only about having a fight. A very important part of karate is spiritual, finding your inner peace, understanding your body and mind. Feeling comfortable with yourself, seeing more things around you, dealing with your emotions when something goes wrong.

Karate helps you understand yourself and those around you. Understanding yourself and your reactions gives you an advantage during stressful situations, difficult conversations or meetings. In my role, I use this when it comes to managing my employees as I am able to feel their emotions, reactions, and also get a chance to build stronger relationships.

Another important part of karate is self-development. It’s an individual sport so you have to focus on yourself, your weaknesses and strengths and learning how to work on them. It’s being done part by part, not everything in one day, so it teaches you to be consistent and persistent. Although it’s an individual sport, it also teaches you respect for each other and team work. The karate community is built of very supportive, honest, kind, and reliable people. The higher belts always teach and support lower. The black belts should make the lower belt holders also grow by sharing the knowledge with them. This is very similar to what we do at work.

Karate keeps you also focused on the goal of learning new techniques or kata (the set of techniques), and developing a new tactic for an opponent in a fight. It’s the same when you receive a new task at work, challenging assignment. First manage the emotions, then analyze the components, prepare a step by step plan, and keep focused on a goal that I want to achieve. And most important, not to give up when something goes not according to this plan. Just change the tactic and try again.

Is it difficult to develop your passion while working on a daily basis?

I believe it’s all about having a proper level of discipline and motivation. And a very understanding husband. Everything can be done if you plan it well. During my preparations for the European Championships, I trained twice a day. I woke up every day at 5 AM, had training before work which lasts up to 2 hours. Then, fully waken up, I get to work. I don’t need any coffee but I always have one (cause I love it!). After work I have a second training before going home. I have to say that it is very important to have a supportive partner, as my availability for home tasks is limited. Having the trainings makes me focused at work and able to start fully concentrated. I feel that it also helps me deal with stress and get rid of negative emotions accumulated during the day. It also makes me look at things from other perspectives.

Agata Winiarska_ME Belgrad2_edited

How has IBM helped you build your passion at work?

IBM is a place with lots of opportunities. You just need to be ready to work, be open-minded, and motivated for self-development.

Having a great supportive people around you is also a key to success. As my story shows – I haven’t finished any IT studies but during my years here, I was able to learn everything I needed to perform my duties, to understand processes, and to complete ITIL Certifications. I have found my career path. This would not be possible without people who were managing my progress. This is a big value of IBM – we have very good managers, colleagues, and mentors.


Agata Winiarska is a People Manager at IBM Client Innovation Center Wroclaw & Katowice, Poland. She is also a 2 DAN holder (2nd black belt) in Karate ShinKyokushin, European Champion 2016 and V-ce European Champion 2013-2014; Bronze Medalist European Championships 2015-2016, 9 times Polish Champion.

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