“I always need to have several balls in the air.”
Melanie Tschugmall has been working for Zühlke in Zürich for more than four years. She heads the Commerce sector and has Key Account Manager responsibility for the Telecommunications, Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods sector. She owes her impressive career to three personal qualities above all: passion, boldness and curiosity. She may not have a technology background, but much more important is always keeping the business focus in mind: "I need to see the big picture and keep my eye on strategic issues."
Standstill would probably be very difficult for Melanie to bear. She feels most comfortable when she can make a difference. And so it is little surprise that she does not regard "multitasking" as a burden, but rather as a challenge. "I always need to have several balls in the air at once," she admits. This is also evident from her path at Zühlke, which reflects her dynamism. When Melanie joins Zühlke in early 2016, her then boss is in the process of expanding business development within the company. Melanie becomes her right hand and involves herself intensively in topics such as customer relationship management and the sales process. Despite a 100 percent workload, she simultaneously completes a part-time master's degree course in "Strategic Marketing" with a focus on innovation and behavioural economics. She graduates in 2019.
A wish for direct customer contact
After just one year at Zühlke, Melanie becomes Business Development Planner. "This role didn't exist before: I designed it myself because I saw a gap and wanted to fill it," Melanie explains. "I would like to contribute to making business development and marketing work together more strategically." From now on she will take care of the positioning of individual sectors and offers. "After a while I noticed how well the whole thing is set up, and that it works without me. I wanted more direct customer contact and saw potential in the commerce sector," says Melanie. Her new focus: winning customers in the retail and consumer goods businesses, a sector she is building up strategically for Zühlke.
"I have always had an affinity for the end-customer business," explains Melanie, who also holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Management. In business development, she starts from virtually zero with no existing customer base and wins new customers for Zühlke. "A real greenfield approach," she remembers. And she is successful, has the first customers after only a few months, others soon follow. She is not afraid of failure: "Nowadays, rejecting opportunities from the outset and simply not trying is a much bigger risk than starting a venture that carries with it a possibility of failure. It is always important to reflect on yourself and learn from your mistakes."
However, her success is also due to the interdisciplinary teamwork that is typical of Zühlke. The industry team itself has a very diverse structure, and it was built on teamwork right from the start. When Melanie starts Business Development in the retail and consumer sector, the business consulting department in the company is simultaneously repositioned, and many new colleagues join the company. "We worked together particularly closely during this phase. Good networking is very helpful." And it is important, in her experience, to find supporters within the company. "From the very beginning I was encouraged and supported at Zühlke. Those people are still very important to me today and act as sparring partners, challengers and mentors."
"In my career to date, it has been very important to have senior managers who recognised and encouraged my talent. This is also important for other young and ambitious employees, especially women. In general, there are still too few female role models in Switzerland itself with whom one can identify. At Zühlke I have been fortunate to find sparring partners for specific topics, and these partners are role models for me. It is also important to me that in the future I will be able to follow in such footsteps. That is why I see part of my management duties at Zühlke to be that of encouraging young employees."
Melanie describes her management style as strict and at the same time inspiring. "As a team, we have a clear vision and a route to achieve it – a strategy. Each individual has clear tasks and goals, however, which are measured transparently against certain key figures. Everyone takes responsibility, she explains. "My job is to take the team with me and see that we are ready for the future."
Zühlke's entrepreneurial culture leaves plenty of room for freedom
She also appreciates the entrepreneurial culture at Zühlke: the freedom that the company gives its employees when it comes to managing and organising. In this context, she relies on a collective approach. "We live and work in a very complex world, in which you can't oversee everything on your own. So when a difficult decision has to be made, I discuss it with the team and consult the relevant experts at Zühlke so that I can consider as many different perspectives as possible. The decisions themselves should then be clear to make."
Zühlke invests heavily in the continuing education and training of its employees. "I use this a lot because it's important to me that, as a discussion partner for my customers, I can be as comprehensive, as all-embracing as possible" she says. Melanie is currently completing a further education course in Digital Ethics at the University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration, Zurich (HWZ). Besides her actual work, this means lessons on Saturdays and every second Friday.
Lots of different things on the go, even after work
In spite of her daily work routine and large investment of time in further education and training, Melanie still takes time to practise sports regularly – a lot of time. She jogs and does her ballet exercises – both daily. And as if that were not enough, she also does voluntary work for girls and young women. "Female empowerment is important to me," says Tschugmall. She is an active member of the Association of Business and Professional Women Switzerland - BPW Switzerland. Tschugmall also founded the non-profit organisation "The Small Village Botswana" together with her sister in Botswana at the end of 2019. "The organisation promotes health, start-up financing and education for women." And how does the power woman relax? Lots of culture, and travel to far-away countries. Rarely twice to the same place. "There's so much to discover in the world. But I'll make an exception for Paris." Melanie Tschugmall travels to the French capital once a year. "In addition, my private surroundings and my colleagues at Zühlke give me a lot of energy. I have a very diverse circle of friends so I keep getting new impulses and food for thought. It inspires me."