When and how did your career start at Hirschmann Automotive?
I joined Hirschmann Automotive on September 1, 1998, when I took a position as an office administrator trainee. Due to personnel changes shortly after I started my trainee program, I was given the opportunity to move to Human Resources, where I took care of administrative tasks in payroll accounting. I then started working more and more in a supporting role in accounting and was given larger projects with more responsibility, such as fleet management. At the same time, I joined the trainee/apprenticeship committee when I was about 24. I wanted to have more contact with people, so in 2011 I applied internally for a job opening as HR Business Partner and was selected for that. Over the past nine years, I recruited candidates, helped shape the international transformation of the company, and supported the buildup of the product development team, project management, and IT. At the beginning of this year, I was appointed Head of Human Resources at the company’s headquarters here in Rankweil.
Women in management positions are rather rare in the automotive industry. How do you see the opportunities for young women who want to climb the career ladder, and what advice would you give them?
Women are still mainly drawn to traditionally female occupations, and we are a clear minority in technical sectors. In my opinion, women and men face the same level of opportunity, but there are simply more men in the market. Regardless of the sector, I think that women have to develop thick skins and not be too overly sensitive in order to successfully advance in their careers. I personally follow the adage of live and let live. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes and think about why they are acting the way they are and not to be confrontational about it when I am of a different opinion. In technical industries in particular, you often have to bite the bullet and take on work that does not necessarily fall within your own area of responsibility. In my experience, this allows you to be the recipient of a great deal of gratitude and accommodation from the person you are dealing with. Going the extra mile can have a really huge impact. By the same token, women should not waste too much time thinking about gender discrimination, nor should they look for hidden meanings in everything. I think we women could take a page from our male colleagues’ playbook in this respect and approach things in a more relaxed way and, first and foremost, with practical results in mind. This helps make cooperation a lot easier and gets you to your goals faster.
What are the biggest challenges as Head of Human Resources?
At the moment, it is still quite difficult to put my previous tasks behind me and make the leap from being a coworker to being a manager. In daily conversations, also with the colleagues on my team, I am now taking on a completely new role. My personal opinion has to take a back seat to a neutral point of view that corresponds to my position. In terms of projects, the main focus in our area is still on digitalization, and we are currently working on a variety of optimization measures. There is also the processing of issues that have not been addressed, where the expectations of the employees here at the plant are quite high.
Can you describe Hirschmann Automotive in three sentences?
What inspires me again and again is the passion that our employees bring to their profession and their work. The company has enormous potential for development, both from an economic point of view for the business and from a personal point of view for each individual employee. I also appreciate working together with colleagues who are both brilliant and somewhat offbeat in their personalities, people who are not afraid to try out new things even if that sometimes involves taking a risk. That makes my day-to-day working life incredibly interesting and exciting.
What is it about your job that makes you happy?
I particularly appreciate the fact that I was able to work independently and take on a lot of responsibility right from the start, that I now get to face new issues at an early stage, that I can help shape these topics and contribute to the decision-making process, and that my new position is giving me experience in approaching things strategically. I should add to that that working together with people and rising to new challenges over and over again are things I really enjoy.
Based on your years of experience as a Business Recruiter, what tips would you give to future applicants?
If someone is interested in joining a company that is a supplier to the automotive industry, they should ask themselves first if this industry really suits them. Our line of work is quite distinct and specialized, and not everyone is made for it.
During the interview, you should be open and honest and not put on an act or sell yourself as someone other than who you are. We conduct our interviews in a very honest and authentic manner, and we want the same from our applicants.
And last but not least, application documents should always be double-checked for errors.
What do you try to impart to your employees?
I try to communicate the strategy of our senior management to the employees. The past years and especially the time during the recession demonstrated that we can rely on and have confidence in the course they have set and the steps being taken. Even if we are currently experiencing times that are somewhat more challenging, we can’t forget that we are one company, one entity. Moreover, change is a positive force and should be viewed in regard to the opportunity it presents to us. We can’t fight that, and we don’t have to either. We need to approach things with an open mind and allow optimization to happen. Digitalization is also playing a major role here.
Who is the person behind the title of Head of HR?
I’m also the type to stay active in my private life, and I’m always setting new and challenging goals for myself. This year, I’m planning on participating in a team from Hirschmann Automotive that will be taking part in the Spartan Beast Race in Oberndorf and in the Ironmännli in Lustenau. For 30 years now, I have been a member of the gymnastics community of my home town of Göfis. In 2023, I plan on participating with them in the Gymnaestrada in Amsterdam. Apart from that, I would describe myself as fun-loving and devoted to my family. On Saturday mornings, I enjoy going shopping with my family in Feldkirch’s town center and then having lunch together. In addition to that, I find that being out in nature really helps to recharge my batteries, especially when I can get to the mountains. Whether I am hiking, skiing, or ski touring, I find I am able to just switch off for a while and rejuvenate.
What was the make/model of your first car?
A red VW Polo with just four gears and 55 horsepower.