Growing up in Slovakia, Adriana Cuskova, Manager of Marketing Operations, Polar Air Cargo, was introduced to, and fell in love with, aviation at an early age.
“My father – a military veteran turned police major – loved anything that could fly – and the faster and farther it flew, the more it interested him,” Adriana said. “As a result, I too loved aircraft, space shuttles, anything that could take off.”
This interest in “taking off,” led Adriana to pursue a number of opportunities that served to broaden her horizons.
After graduating from high school in Slovakia, Adriana participated in a student exchange program, which brought her to Texas. There, she had the opportunity to live with a family, immerse herself in the culture and take classes. When her exchange program ended, Adriana then moved to Prague in the Czech Republic, where she enrolled in an accounting program and also worked at Accenture as a junior accountant for a French client.
Heeding her father’s advice that she would find opportunity in America, Adriana entered into a U.S. State Department Green Card lottery program for a chance to immigrate. She was thrilled to learn that she had been awarded a Green Card to live and work permanently in the United States. Adriana was given six months to make the move; she decided to take a leap of faith and go for it.
After landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Adriana waited for friends of friends to pick her up from the airport. “We had never met before, and this was before video conferencing was a norm, so we basically relied on a mutual friend to make the arrangements. I arrived with all of my belongings not really knowing a soul in New York City, and they whisked me off to start my new life.”
Adriana enrolled in New York City’s Baruch College to continue her accounting studies; and after a few weeks staying with her new friends, she found a local retail job and her own apartment in the Astoria neighborhood in Queens, New York.
One of Adriana’s new friends worked for Atlas Air, and let her know of some job opportunities at the company. Adriana applied for, and was offered, a role as a Cost Analyst for Atlas Ground Ops, which she accepted. She commuted to Company Headquarters in Purchase, New York and continued her studies at Baruch.
Adriana achieved her Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Investments and continued to advance in her career, progressing through a series of positions of increasing responsibility at Atlas before transferring to Polar in 2015.
“I love that I get to be close to aviation and apply my finance and process management expertise,” said Adriana. “And, our team is just incredible. Nothing scares me more than a monotonous career or getting stuck in a rut. Our exciting business is the very opposite of that, as we make things happen rather quickly. In addition, throughout Polar and Atlas, we are all motivated by a strong network of leaders and I’m grateful for the culture my manager promotes – one that is all “all hands on deck” to make sure we reach the right decisions with all the relevant information.”
She continued, “My dad was very influential in encouraging me to recognize opportunities, particularly when it came to moving to the U.S. and doing something that was in line with my love of aviation. My mom has always been my biggest fan and supporter, and is why I am the person I am today. In my professional career, I am really motivated by the fearless women throughout Polar leadership who are strong, determined, kind and fun to be around.”
Adriana’s work ethic has not gone unnoticed by her colleagues. She is frequently commended by her peers for her problem solving capabilities, commitment to drive positive change and her ‘roll-up-her-sleeves’ attitude to get the work done.
In her current role, Adriana is responsible for ensuring the cargo management process works smoothly through the company’s cargo management system, which is used by more than 800 Polar and Atlas employees to oversee cargo movements for customers. She is focused on increasing coordination between departments and enhancing platform education so that cargo management is seamless throughout the process.
Regarding her role, Adriana explained, “The move to digitalization is so important. With more systems ‘talking’ to each other and eBookings as the norm, we are taking steps to eliminate obstacles and ensure data accuracy, which is the best way to deliver value to our customers.”
Reflecting on Women’s History Month and her role as a woman in air freight, Adriana added, “My advice to young women thinking about the careers ahead of them is ‘don’t be a one-trick pony.’ It’s good to have a strong skill and leverage it throughout your journey, but be open to learning and doing new things. Not every path is set in stone, find the opportunities that lead to new paths, and find mentors and leaders who empower you to do your best. Also, try things that you aren’t necessarily great at.” Adriana explains that she’s taken up painting as a way to develop a different set of skills.
Adriana also has advice for people in the workplace to become allies and help the next generation: “For people already established in their careers, try to be the person you needed when you were younger – be the mentor, the guide, the support for those who are coming up behind you.”