Making a difference for a safer tomorrow

Insights with Celia Pelaz

Since Celia Pelaz began her career over 20 years ago, she has trailblazed in areas such as diversity, leadership and corporate responsibility. Now in her role as HENSOLDT’s Chief Strategy Officer, Celia is steering the company towards a a more sustainable future, through which people are encouraged to be heard and recognised so that they can collectively make a real difference.

"We all deserve to live in a safe world!"

In the following interview, Celia outlines what making a difference means to her, and how defence and security companies like HENSOLDT are well placed to pioneer innovation to guarantee that customers are always ready to respond to new emerging threats.

Celia, how has your long experience in the defence sector influenced your thoughts when it comes to the positive impact the industry can have on the world?

We all deserve to live in a safe world, and maintaining peace and security is the cornerstone of everything we do at HENSOLDT. There are many misconceptions about the role that the defence industry plays, but I firmly believe that it is crucial to our security and it makes a positive societal impact in so many ways.

Military systems and solutions are of course what we effectively deliver to our customers every day, and these contribute to strengthening national security for Europe and its allies. But there is so much more that HENSOLDT delivers to ensure that we live in a safe and secure world across all aspects of life, including for humans, animals and the environment.

“Whatever industry a company works in, each one is a corporate citizen, and they therefore have a responsibility to recognise their place in the world and do something good for it.”

Celia Pelaz
Chief Strategy Officer at HENSOLDT

Corporate responsibilities are integral to success, and at HENSOLDT we take this very seriously. Our environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) responsibilities are a strategic priority, and as a result we have been identified as a leader in the defence and aerospace industry for sustainability.

We issue an annual sustainability report to outline our goals for each year, and we have an appointed sustainability officer. Our corporate responsibility does not end there, however, but is rather in the make-up of our company’s DNA, and is part of everything we do.

What do you think is essential when it comes to making a difference?

I think that people are the key to making a difference. People need to be invested in so that they can thrive, and this is not just a financial investment. They need to be provided with the freedom, tools and support to be able to innovate, and only when they are empowered will they perform to the best of their abilities.

And when I say people, I mean everybody, not just the engineers that are developing our life-saving technologies. Heroic actions are not required to make a difference; everybody counts and is valuable, and each and every action is important to delivering the capabilities that our customers depend on.  

Every person is an important link in the chain, and we at HENSOLDT strive to provide an environment that allows each one to prosper and be the best that they can be. An integral part of this is embracing diversity, which is a subject very close to my heart. I am a woman, and I am not defined by the colour I like, what I wear, the nationality I have, or the gender that I am.

And that has always been a driving force for me to show to the world that we can make a difference and show that anybody can be whatever they want if they work hard. When I started at the company I worked to establish a women’s network, and when I became a more visible leader I felt more responsibility to support diversity causes.

It hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth it, and the more women there are in leadership roles in the defence industry the more difference we can collectively make. I'm wholeheartedly convinced that diverse teams are essential, and of course, gender is just one aspect of this.

Are there any other areas that you have a particular passion for?

Leadership is another area that I am passionate about. When I started to work for this industry, leadership was very transactional, but I’ve always thought that in order to get the best results in anything, you need the best out of people. And people are always driven by their feelings, so trying to hide these with fake professionalism is not productive.

“You need motivated and empowered people, and you need them to be driven to do something because they are following a purpose, and only then you can achieve amazing things.”

Celia Pelaz
Chief Strategy Officer at HENSOLDT

While this is not the type of leadership that I found in this industry when I started, it has always been a driving force for me to show that you can lead in a different way. You can make a difference, you can lead from the heart.

How important is it to work for a company that emphasises the protection and security of people, countries and the planet?

I am proud to be involved in a number of outstanding projects that demonstrate how empowered pioneers can think outside of the box and shape critical technologies.

HENSOLDT technology is used to protect rhinos in South Africa and monitor polar bear movement in Canada, and these are just a couple of examples of our environmental protection work.

Moreover, last year our PrecISR1000 radar onboard a twin-engine fixed-wing ISR aircraft was able to detect a missing yacht at a range of 66 km on its first pass during challenging weather conditions. Our surveillance technologies are being used on a daily basis to save lives.

I am proud of each and every project we deliver on, all of which in some way contribute to the safety of people, animals and the ecosystem.

Security underpins areas such as sustainability and sovereignty. How important is this for HENSOLDT and how does this drive the company when it comes to innovation?

Indeed, sustainability efforts are not possible without security. The war in Ukraine has served to demonstrate that when conflict hits, all other initiatives are secondary because the focus has to be on survivability and resistance.

This is why HENSOLDT continues to focus on high technology development sourced from our international footprint, bringing together the best-in-class technology – and the best-in-class people – to ensure that our customers are ready when they need to be. We have been identified as a leading innovator, and we want to continue to lead the way to ensure the best for our customers and to ultimately protect lives.

One area where you are supporting a country’s sovereignty is in Ukraine – how have you supported them as a result of the illegal Russian invasion?

Thankfully for most of our customers conflict is a distant thought and deterrence is the norm, but recent events in Europe have shown how important military readiness is, and HENSOLDT is proud that the solutions it develops that are being used in the Ukraine conflict are performing successfully.

We have provided our COBRA (counter-battery radar) to Ukraine, which allows users to see where artillery shots are coming from. Our medium-range radar TRML-4D is part of the Iris-T SLM air defence system that is also helping protect Ukrainian citizens from incoming missile fire.

The conflict in eastern Europe is clearly demonstrating the importance of defence cooperation across the continent, and the need for this is likely to only increase in the future. 

What other areas of the business have impressed you when it comes to ensuring safety for people and that countries can address new threats?

Whether it is mission planning, self-protection or situational awareness systems, HENSOLDT is at the forefront of innovative, high-technology solutions, helping countries stay ahead of the threat.

Moreover, we recognise that the military landscape has evolved over the past decade, and multi-domain operations and connectivity are at the forefront of the way conflicts are fought. Threats in new and emerging military domains have the potential to be just as disruptive – if not more – than the traditional ones of air, sea, land and space.

Take misinformation as an example; so-called ‘fake news’ can be spread around the globe in mere seconds, and the negative impact can be phenomenal.

The hybrid threat is therefore one of the most powerful tools an enemy can have, so HENSOLDT is ensuring that it focuses on the use of open-source intelligence – or OSINT – to determine how adversaries might be trying to influence society.