Women of Delta: Lina’s story

“I see how people live back home, it is like they are living in a box, and they cannot think outside the box. When I came here, I realised the box is open, I can think other things, I can afford more things and I have more opportunities.” 

Moving to the UK at just 19 from Latvia, Delta buyer Lina started her own journey on getting out of “the box”. The box for her, is a dead-end constrictor, squeezing men and women into outdated roles and small-minded opinions.  

Something she has fought to outgrow and escape throughout her career, and a key driver for the incredible progress she has made since. Progress that was doubted by some and at times – even herself. Here is her story. 

Tell me about International Women’s Day in Latvia. Is it celebrated?   

“Yes, very passionately I would say. For me International Women’s Day marks that spring has begun, you see most men with some form of tulip in their hand” she smiles. “You might even get flowers handed’ to you on the street or at work, from someone you don’t know. It’s always been a nice and light day! 

“I think it is important. From historical times women would raise children, and now it’s much more about career driven women and women trying to balance motherhood and work. So, I think it is important to celebrate all the progress women have made in all these years, and they should be celebrated on their achievements.” 

So how did you get into the industry?  

I finished College, but because I come from a poor family, I couldn’t afford to go university.  I pretty much had the choice of working in a dead-end job for little money at home, with probably little growth, or on the suggestion of a relative go to live with them in the UK. 12 years ago,at 19, I got here and got my first job, which was in print working for a different company. After that I started working for Delta.   

I guess I discovered it is quite interesting. It is very interesting to see an idea of what someone wants, become the actual reality in shop windows. I do feel quite proud walking around the shopping centre or shop and knowing Delta did that.  Or central London if you go on the tube, you see things and think we did that! 

I recently visited one of our client stores, I have been working with the team on the ideas of what materials we can use for their work, so it’s quite nice to go in and see it in the actual store. Especially as it is a new chain of stores. 

19? Wow! How did it feel for you to move countries at 19 – out into the world on your own?  

“Scary – that was the first time I went on a flight, and I was on my own. It was so scary!” I could see the memory of this fly back into her eyes.  

“I was quite proud of where I was going, and I was happy that it did not make the second choice of staying in Latvia. I’ve always liked the English language, so coming to London was like “I can’t believe I have done this! You’re doing so well for yourself.” If I were to tell myself back then, when I was in school that I would be in London buying materials for printed items that go to London, UK, and Europe I would think no way! I would not have believed it.” 

“One thing I will never forget was arriving in London, sat on the big, nice bus and thought “Oh my god these streets are so narrow, the houses are so….small.’ she said sheepishly “and the streets so narrow! I come from the country with big roads.” 

I can imagine that when you first moved you were scared and just trying to make your way through? 

“It might not seem that way now, but I was really shy, really shy. So, all the interactions with people such as going to find a job, having interviews and that sort of thing, I had to overcome. Now communicating with people is a big part of my job, so I’m quite proud about that.” 

“I see how people live back home, it is like they are living in a box, and they cannot think outside the box. When I came here, I realised the box is open, I can think other things, I can afford more things and I have more opportunities.” 

In my country you are judged for everything. Wearing the wrong boots to school or not being able to afford the same things as others – you are judged. In London you can wear something ridiculous, and people accept it, it’s nice. So, living here definitely frees you from the limitations of living inside the box, you feel freer.” 

You know you can dream, do whatever you want, but a lot of people in Latvia are just sitting in that box and they don’t actually dream or think that they can get out of that box.  

Was there a person that influenced you? Or maybe inspired you to want to get out of that box? Or would you say it was an internal thing?  

I think it was just me. I think sometimes you can be your own inspiration. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, sometimes we are not surrounded by inspiring people.  

I’ve made some wrong choices in the past, with people who surround me who were trying to bring me down or maybe put me in the box again, that’s why I inspire myself – because I just keep going.  

I am now trying to inspire my sister to do that same as myself and take up opportunities across the world. I have tried to show her what life can be like, she has so much potential. 

Going back to when you joined at Delta about 11 years what was your experience when you came here?  

I started in a warehouse operative type job. It wasn’t easy, definitely wasn’t easy, there wasn’t lighter jobs for women or heavy for men we were both doing the same roles.  

But overall, it was warm. Mainly warm. The job wasn’t too dirty or anything, so in comparison to other jobs for similar money it wasn’t a bad option. 

How did you progress through the years to where you are now? 

First, I was on the shop floor doing the packing. I was actually, here when the warehouse was empty.  

Once the library was implemented, I continued working on the shopfloor, it was then that someone noticed that I could be a good candidate for an admin role.  

After doing admin for a while, I became a team leader. It was interesting as I had never been in a position to tell people what to do, telling people off, trying to find the middle ground between just being you and a superior. Telling others what to do, it was hard for someone who is naturally shy.  

But I had to step up to the challenge of having to approach someone that you’re quite friendly with and say you know you should be doing better.  

And from there it got to the point when I wanted to take on the role of Supervisor, but there was just no space for another, so I thought OK, I’m not going to progress here and I think that was probably my biggest leap of faith leaving the shop floor and moving into the office after six years working in the warehouse.  

How did you get to the office from the shop floor? 

At the time when the admin job was advertised so was the buying job (that I do now), there was a lady in the purchasing role, and the warehouse manager back then told me that’s a very good position – a role you can aim for. At the time I thought, I will never be able to do anything like that.  

Before starting my new admin job, I helped out in the office for a couple of weeks for the MPD team. Then on my last day I was offered a job there – but I turned it down.  

And how did you get into this role?  

A lady who did the role, she told my boss, that he should give me the opportunity and train me for her position.  

He was a bit sceptical at the beginning, because it is a big job and I didn’t have a clue about what to do, I didn’t know anything at the time about purchasing.   

But after some thought, he decided that I could do it, and decided to give me the opportunity and “train me up”!  And that is how I joined purchasing admin; it has completely changed my working life.  

When I was first approached about it, I didn’t think I could do it. At that time, I would not even pick up the phone to call anywhere – because of my own insecurity. It wasn’t about the language; I was concerned that wasn’t going to understand something or maybe miss something.  

I had this big barrier with a phone, a phobia. I explained this issue but was reassured that it was something I could overcome and that is exactly what I did. It has changed me a lot as a person I’m a lot more open. Obviously, I have to speak to random people, sometimes call companies up that I found online. The role has definitely helped me a lot, it’s helped me in life outside of work too, I’m more confident.  

What would you say to the next generation of women planning their career?  

Do not think that you can’t do it – because you can. Try things and if they fail, just find something else.  Don’t be scared to fail because there’s always something different you can do and do well at.