‘Swahili vocabulary and grammar rules currently buzz around in my mind’

Malwine Braunwarth, head of risk and engineering at  Bombardier Inc.

What are you thinking about right now?

The 13 nominal classes in the east African language of Swahili, grouped into seven genders, and whether I’ll ever distinguish between them. I’ve travelled regularly through east Africa and currently support Go For Zanzibar, a small non-governmental organisation. I’ll be in Zanzibar again late this year, on a project to improve the living conditions of elderly and destitute people, so Swahili vocabulary and grammar rules currently buzz around in my mind.

What is your most treasured possession?

There are only a few items I would take with me to a deserted island: old black and white pictures and handwritten letters. My most treasured letter is dated 24 February 1898 and written by my great grandfather, Joseph Braunwarth, to a girl called Emma. The pages are filled with hope, anxiety and the sheer excitement over whether Emma might be willing to spend the rest of her life with him. The answer was yes. Emma became my great grandmother.

Who is your greatest hero?

Women who have taken on a pioneering task and have been successful in a formerly male dominated business world. I was delighted to discover the story of Mary Read and Anne Bonney born in the early 17th century. These women had to dress as men to be recognised as successful pirates. I am pleased that nowadays we do not need to dress as men to succeed.

What is the biggest risk you have taken?

At the age of three, lifeguards saved me when I was ‘swimming’ in the middle of a large lake and just about floating, with the help of my red water wings. Some years later, I was saved by mountain rescuers as I hung onto a rock wall 10m above the ground.

What is your greatest fear?

I was once pulled out of a room filled with thick smoke - I couldn’t see anything and or breathe properly. I still fear uncontrolled fires to this day. Another concern is globalisation. The worldwide network is an opportunity but also a threat, as it becomes harder to have an overview of associated risks.

What is your greatest achievement?

The greatest one is hopefully still ahead. As American writer Henry Miller once wrote: “All growth is a leap in the dark.” In any profession, you need the courage to go down unknown streets.

Tell us a secret

In a professional environment, I prefer not to have secrets. I’m more of an open book. It allows for more efficient work. If I do have a secret, it’s that I don’t like answering machines. I hate listening to messages and tend to delete them right after knowing the caller’s name - but I am quick to call back.

What makes you happy?

When playing golf and the ball follows the direction you want it to, and finally when you hear that perfect ‘plop’ sound as the ball falls into the hole.

What is the most important lesson you have learnt?

To pay more attention to those who have achieved something tangible rather than to those who talk about their future success.

Malwine Braunwarth is head of risk and engineering at Bombardier Inc.