With Zühlke, I am part of the new normal in leadership
Barbara Rumpler was the first woman in her unit’s management team at Zühlke two years ago. Yet when she started, she was astonished at how irrelevant a fact that seemed to be.
Here she explains why she feels not like a role model – but part of the new normal in leadership. And how the conversation now needs to change for all genders.
Insight in brief
- Hear why Barbara feels that she was never hired as a female leader, but simply as the right person for the job.
- Discover why diversity and versatility runs through Zühlke’s veins.
- Learn about the mindset shift that’s needed for more women to enter tech.
Barbara Rumpler, Zühlke’s Senior Competence Unit Head, has never lacked confidence. But at the beginning of her career (then in financial services) she felt she sometimes had to moderate her behaviour in order to fit in with the male-dominated culture at work.
“It was harder to be visible as a woman 20 years ago,” recalls Barbara. “But, if you don’t talk, stand up for yourself or make an effort to connect with colleagues, no one will listen to you. Once I started learning the importance of networking, I began to keep track of the Bundesliga results – the German soccer league. Even though I wasn’t that interested in it, it helped to have some small talk topics up my sleeve.”
Part of the new normal
Of course, the finance industry - and many global sectors - have come a long way since then. But when Barbara left that world behind and joined Zühlke, the culture felt different - because it was different. As she walked through the doors on her first day, she became the first woman in her unit’s management team. But to her satisfaction, that was a fact that didn't seem to be of interest to anybody.
From the beginning onwards, she felt like all that mattered was her personality. Her skills, her experiences, her leadership qualities—but never her gender. “It was refreshing,” she says. “Although I found myself in a still rather male-dominated environment, me being a woman and a female leader simply didn't seem to be relevant to anybody. Instead, I was warmly welcomed into the open-minded culture of Zühlke. I quickly realized that I was never hired as a female leader. I was brought in as the right person for the job, not because of or despite my gender - and so will future joiners.”
The diversity conversation seems to be changing for the better in business and society. And as an international innovation service provider that has had versatile, interdisciplinary teams for decades, Zühlke has always understood that what matters most are skills and personalities that match its open learning culture and values.
“In that sense, I do not feel like a role model here,” Barbara notes, “I feel like a part of the new normal in leadership and management at Zühlke. And in that same spirit, I can do what I do best —empowering talented people to work in exciting innovation projects with exciting technologies. I support my team by guiding them towards what needs to be done, rather than micromanaging how they do it. They’re the experts and I see myself as the coach. It’s hugely rewarding to see people grow. When I get feedback that I have inspired someone to try something new, and left some footprints in their life in a positive manner, that’s what makes me really happy.”
At Zühlke, professional life is a constant personal journey, where everyone develops a growth mindset and practices intentional learning - from events, to skills training, coaching and mentoring, as well as an ideas marketplace to drive innovations forward.
Constantly looking to bolster its employees as well as its clients, Zühlke also puts on regular ‘I am remarkable’ workshops - a Google initiative that aims to encourage employees (especially women and other under-represented groups) to speak openly, positively and confidently about their achievements in the workplace and beyond and celebrate professional successes together.
“And then there’s the amazing projects,” adds Barbara. “This is the main reason I came to Zühlke. The projects are like a colourful bunch of flowers – many industries, various modern technologies, like IoT, Blockchain, Data science, etc. It’s all so exhilarating. It’s about creating value for our clients – and sometimes our project work helps their customers to have a better life after each project ends.”
As far as leadership goes, employees are always encouraged to train and develop their own skills. By taking the reins on management or tech lead responsibilities for client innovation projects, for example, and steering teams of diverse experts (such as software and mechanical engineers, data analysts and consultants). In Zühlke, leadership and versatility bubbles away daily like this.
Widening the net
Even though we´re on the right path to making the tech sector more attractive and accessible for women - within Zühlke and the industry - Barbara feels we still have a way to go. “It starts by encouraging more young women to study STEM subjects and inspiring more to enter the tech sector.
A way to do so is by focusing more on the why. The purpose behind our jobs and the opportunities technology offers. I, for instance, get excited by technology’s potential to enrich people’s lives and make the world a better place. I think we need to encourage women of all ages to participate in that vision—to imagine a future and then make it real. There is such a vast variety of jobs in technology. I feel if young people knew more about the reality, they’d be banging the door to our sector down”.
To support this goal, Zühlke has partnered up with Global Digital Women - an organization that connects women tech professionals, provides a platform to network and and promote exciting careers, and makes success stories of experts, female leaders, and women in tech visible across industries.
Barbara Rumpler is Head Competence Unit for Backend development in Eschborn and joined Zühlke in July 2019. She has almost 20 years of professional experience in the IT sector of banks and is a specialist for software development and quality assurance. Before joining Zühlke, she was responsible for bank-wide test management processes, load & performance tests, test automation at the largest German direct bank and successfully managed numerous major strategic projects as a project or sub-project manager. During the transformation of the bank into an agile organization, she actively participated as a member of the core team in the development and design of the agile organizational structure and IT processes for the agile organisation. At Zühlke Germany, she is responsible for the competency management Lean & Agile Organisations and is OKR Master for the OKR process.