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how to build a career: tips on making it in male-dominated industries

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

With a diverse background and various important accolades in her pocket, Judith Winkler currently leads the real estate law department at Wiener Linien, Vienna’s public transport operator. Responsible for some 180 underground, tram, and bus lines, Wiener Linien caters to 2.6 million passengers per day and employs over 8,700 people.

From a fashion & design school, via construction engineering, to a law degree specializing in real estate - Judith has really done it all and managed to succeed in fields that are still mainly dominated by men. As a recognition for her department’s achievements, she was the recipient of the 21st Century Award 2018, which applauds efforts to support women leaders in the field of law.

A deep believer in the strength of community, Judith built a team that currently takes on challenges enthusiastically, and creates an impact for the citizens of Vienna on an everyday basis.

The key to her success? A collaborative approach, the ability to listen and a sense of resilience instilled in her ever since her youth. Judith shared with us her insights and top tips she has for women currently building their careers, especially in male-dominated fields.

#1 never stop learning

With a diverse background and determination to succeed in spite of adversities, she largely attributes her success to her desire to expand her horizons and constantly seek out new perspectives.

With a certain degree of expert knowledge, you can always find a good basis for cooperation. That’s why I have always made sure that I acquire new knowledge, ‘keep at it’, continue to train my skills, and remain curious about my other people and their worlds.

#2 remain persistent

Raised to believe she can achieve anything she puts her mind to, Judith strived to make a contribution from an early age, knowing that her attitude is key in overcoming obstacles and stumbling blocks.

Hard work comes before success. I am very persistent and always optimistic about the future.

#3 always look for different perspectives

Currently in charge of a team that is very diverse in terms not only of gender but also age and length of service, Judith strives to incorporate different angles into everything she does. It is the conviction that strength comes from sticking together and capitalizing on everyone’s personal experience that drives them to succeed in a field so diverse and fast-changing as the law.

These diverse professionals and educational backgrounds provide us with a valuable source of experience in our internal discussions. It is only thanks to these different perspectives that we are able to all develop together in new directions.

#4 remember your why

Judith grew up in Vienna’s 11th district and formed an interest in public transport from an early age, by way of the tram line 71, which she used on a daily basis. It came as no surprise then, that she chose to join the team at Wiener Linien and support them in their mission to provide the best possible service, and to thereby steadily increase the public transport share of city traffic, which still motivates her every single day.

Playing a role in shaping the City of Vienna is important to me. All of my training has ultimately been focused on providing people with services – the fact that I can use everything I have learned in my work at Wiener Linien makes me happy.

#5 nurture your network

There’s nothing more important than the people you have around you, and Judith focuses on nurturing her relationships with her team members, as well as her other colleagues on a regular basis. Opportunities for development & growth play a pivotal role here, as she believes that leading a team of experts is all about providing them with what they need in order to perform at their best, and continue to bet on diversity as a driving factor.

I’m a team player, and this is also where I get my energy and motivation from. It is fun to work together with my team and other colleagues in the company on implementing projects - seeing a new underground line operating in Vienna that was earlier just a line on a plan is extremely motivating.

#6 lift others up

Judith is a deep believer that motivating young women to train for and start careers in male-dominated fields is extremely important, as it is the only way to close the gender leadership gap. STEM industries, in particular, tend to still be dominated by men - while the solutions need complex approaches, the presence of role models for young leaders plays an important role in achieving progress. As a mentor in the female factor network and an advocate for female empowerment, Judith likes to live by a #werisebyliftingothers mentality.

I try to encourage people to reach for their dreams and aspirations, and to persevere even if the going sometimes gets tough. I encouraged my neighbor’s daughter to go to a technical college. She has now graduated and is still working in this professional field and enjoying it. My young niece also plays with a train set sometimes. Let’s wait and see how her career turns out.

#7 take challenges head-on

There is one tip Judith advises all women on their way to a management position to remember:

Grab the opportunities offered and be brave. I never spent much time planning my career but whenever a new challenge has arisen I have always grasped it with both hands.

about our partner.

Vienna's public transport operator, Wiener Linien is committed to providing the best possible service on about 160 underground, tram and bus lines. A company as diverse as the city of Vienna, Wiener Linien's mission is to ensure sustainable, green mobility.

Judith Winkler has been managing the real estate law team at Wiener Linien for 4+ years. Before that, she gained a wide range of experience in different areas, such as fashion & engineering. While still working as a construction engineer, she began studying law. After earning her degree and two other legal positions, she began working in the legal department of Wiener Linien in 2012.

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