What impressed you most when you first came to Zühlke?
As a job applicant, it was mainly the professional standard of the technology. If you come from an academic background, as I did, where a lot of options simply aren’t open to you, and then you see a well-funded project with people developing state-of-the-art software, that’s bound to make an impression. But once I started at Zühlke, it was more the methodology. Back then I shared my office with two very experienced project managers. I was impressed by the very clear and structured way they approached even the biggest and most complicated tasks and challenges.
And are you now passing on that approach to younger colleagues as well?
I really did ‘soak it all up’ back then and I‘ve taken the same approach in a lot of projects over the years. Being very structured myself – and helping other team members to structure their own work – for sure that’s a big part of how I do my job. For me, it’s important to give younger colleagues orientation and to stop teams heading in the wrong direction if need be.
How has your career developed at Zühlke?
It was a very natural process. I was just given more and more to do over time – and even when I got management responsibilities two and a half years ago, that felt like a natural progression. I’d been working on senior-level topics like quality management and supporting more junior colleagues with their career development for some time. I subsequently completed our development program for executives and attended a whole series of training and coaching events.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a leader?
Your biggest challenge in line management is when an employee’s self-perception is completely different from how others perceive them. But that’s quite rare at Zühlke, partly due to our rigorous selection process. It’s crucial that employees trust an executive’s judgment and that they’re also able to assess themselves properly – that’s a good basis for a discussion. And for solving any problem without anyone feeling they’ve been treated unfairly. At Zühlke, we take a very empathic and supportive approach to our line management duties. We have a unique way of looking after our employees – especially if they are facing personal hardship.
Speaking of approach, at Zühlke the term “agile working” comes up a lot. What does that mean exactly?
We don’t describe ourselves as “agile” just to make our organisation sound special or cutting-edge. We really work according to the original principles laid down by the inventors of agility, people like Dave Thomas. Not that we’re dogmatic about it. So, for example, we don’t blindly apply the same methods over and over again. Agile working means working in a very disciplined way. Making it very clear where you stand at all times and defining very precisely the best steps to take to reach your goal. In other words, steps that get you where you want to be and at the same time give you the flexibility to readjust in the future. At Zühlke, this way of working is very pronounced.
A lot of employees stay with Zühlke for a very long time. You’ve been part of the company for more than 12 years yourself. Why is that?
I really enjoy working at Zühlke – simple as that. In part because I get to work on exciting projects, but there are other things that are even more important to me. For one, a lot of people here do an incredible job. My colleagues are an absolute pleasure to work with, at all levels of the company. Solving complex problems together with these people is so fascinating and fulfilling – you want to keep doing that for as long as you can!