Iwona Bartnicka – Agatha Christie’s Biggest Fan
by Andy Goram
Continuing our series on looking at what it feels like to work for Technical Foam Services, the UK’s best and most trusted foam conversion business (well, in our opinion anyway), Andy Goram from Bizjuicer, sat down with Production Operative, Iwona Bartnicka.
In this series of interviews with the fabulous people that make up the TFS team I’m now never surprised by two things that always occur. Firstly, how much everybody likes and recognises the level of care and appreciation for their work that’s shown by Duncan Geddes, TFS’s Managing Director, and secondly, the unique and often surprising story that emerges from each and every one of these conversations. My time spent with Iwona delivers in spades in both regards.
Let’s start with the unique backstory, and I’m just going to leap straight into it. You see, Iwona is a Master of Social Science with a specialism in Criminal Rehabilitation. Yep! She’s a qualified Criminal Psychologist. I mean, that’s the first thing you think of when you meet Iwona, right?!
“How did you get into that?” I ask, pretty sure my jaw was still lying, agape on the ground after hearing that. She goes on to say that whilst studying psychology at College, she was inspired by her lecturer who took them to many different places, including prisons and children’s homes to see the good that behavioural psychologists could achieve, with a huge range of people all facing different challenges. This led her to undertake 5 years of study at University in Warsaw and graduate with a Masters Degree in Social Science. So, how come I find her working the back-shift at TFS in Corby? Well, as is becoming a repeating story, the availability and competition for jobs in Poland meant that it was impossible for Iwona to pursue her career in the behavioural sciences, so she came over to England to take stock and put a new plan into action.
She came over to the UK three years ago, with her fiancée (who’s also a Master of Social Science!) and landed in Corby on the recommendation of friends they knew there. Iwona wanted to find a small, friendly business that had a good working environment and where she would get the chance to improve her English. The dream being that if her English improved enough, she could try and resurrect a career in Criminal Psychology over here, in future years. She started on the back-shift, which worked out perfectly for her and her husband, as he’d taken a job as an overnight lorry-driver (a job he absolutely loves) and it meant that could both hold down jobs and see each other in the day. To this day they are both doing the same thing.
I ask Iwona why she enjoys her work so much. “I like working on packing,” she says, “I like to work fast and quietly, so packing is perfect for that.” But she goes on to reveal why she likes the quiet nature of the work and it’s all to do with the sounds held within her headphones. She always starts the shift off with a few digital English lessons, and then the good stuff starts. What else would a Criminal Psychologist listen to other than true crime podcasts and murder mystery novels? Her favourite author in that genre is the grandmother of them all, Agatha Christie. “So I get to learn better English, and indulge my passion every night whilst I’m working. Perfect!” she exclaims.
Iwona goes on to tell me that she and her fiancée are currently planning their wedding for next year, back in Poland. That is, if we’re in a better situation with COVID-19. But the wedding plans are not the only things that Coronavirus is disrupting in Iwona’s life. She’s a keen traveller and says she was planning a trip to Torquay in Devon. I innocently ask her, “Why Torquay?” She looks at me a bit funny and says, “It’s the birthplace of Agatha Christie!” This is not a fact I knew, but have banked that away hoping for an opportunity in a post-COVID pub quiz to use it to propel my team to the winners’ enclosure.
The other thing is the effect it is having on another passion of Iwona’s. Football. Specifically her love of Manchester United. She’s a fully paid-up member of the Corby chapter of the ManU Fan Club, is a huge David de Gea fan and she’s desperately missing going to Old Trafford and watching the Reds play live. Though judging by their recent performances, it might be a blessing in disguise! “I feel very sorry for Solskjaer,” she says, “we’ve just not signed very good players for years. I would have liked to see us buy Lewandowski, but there you go.” I’m sure that’s a wish shared by many a Manchester United fan, but one I’m not sure will be granted any time soon.
As I begin to wrap up our chat, I ask Iwona why she still likes working at TFS after 3 years. Her answer is one I’ve now heard repeatedly during this series of interviews, but she puts it very succinctly, “This is the first job I’ve had, where the boss really cares about us and appreciates our work. He creates such a good atmosphere and we all trust him.” You know, you hear something enough, you can’t help but be sure it’s true. In this case, I not only hear it, but I see it everyday I’m here in the actions and behaviours of the whole team.
I thank Iwona for her time and I get a big, beaming smile and a completely unnecessary apology for her English and we say “Goodbye”. I can sense she’s keen to get back to her work and start sorting out that packing line whilst no doubt listening to the gory details of some gruesome crime that was committed and profiling the criminal behaviour behind it, you know, just for fun.
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Andy Goram, helps create stickier, more successful businesses by connecting strategy, brand and culture to their people.