2021-03-08

Strong women, diverse careers

Female engineers and managing directors, service technicians and data scientists: the roles that women play within the KION Group worldwide are many and diverse. Particularly in areas that have traditionally been considered male domains, women at Linde Material Handling, STILL, Dematic, the KION Digital Campus have been confidently going their own way for a long time: with sound expertise, outstanding ideas and passionate commitment. Today is International Women's Day, and we would like to thank them for their commitment - and give them the floor. Because we at the KION Group know: Much better than talking about strong women is to let them speak for themselves. Enjoy the interviews!

Angela Holt

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

As the Head of Engineering Excellence at Dematic for Northern Europe, my role is to create an environment within the Engineering team and with our external stakeholders and customers of Collaboration and Continuous Improvement. I am responsible for creating, developing, and implementing key engineering improvement projects and plans into Northern Europe ensuring consistency and alignment to the wider GPE organisation’s strategic direction and Dematic business strategy..

Why did you choose this job?

I have always had a passion and drive for Continuous Improvement. I often look for the opportunities or positives to change rather than the negatives. During my Engineering Career this mindset led me to lead several development projects and to complete my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. Taking on this role in Engineering means that I am able to continue my technical development whist maintaining a focus on my passion to encourage a culture of Continuous Improvement within the team.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

What really engages me in my role is the variation of tasks and topics but what I find most rewarding is the collaboration with others. I get a real buzz from facilitating workshops where the team are all working together to achieve the same goal. It can be often be difficult driving projects forward in a fast-paced Operations business such as Dematic. I have grown along with the business over the last 10 years and have seen many improvements and gains all of which make Dematic the winning solution provider that it is today.

What is your typical day at work like?

A typical day would involve a morning update with my Peers on the Engineering Management team, this ensures we are aligned on our priorities. Most days I facilitate an Improvement workshop on one of our Key Improvement Projects. There would usually be actions to complete from these workshops or I may need to reach out to other regions or departments for support or further information. Our Goal is to ‘Deliver Solutions We are Proud of.’

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

Find out what your passion is. There are many different routes into engineering and many different roles you can take. That can be quite daunting as a young engineer and maybe more so for a young woman in engineering. Women working in Male dominated roles can often feel the need to prove themselves and their capability to be higher than their male counter parts but that doesn’t need to be the case. Always keep learning within your field and outside of it, don’t shy away from a challenge and most of all Keep listening.

Birgit Darra

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

My current job is in International Key Account at the STILL company. I look after some large customers in the food and beverage sector. My tasks include negotiating international contracts, project management and processing global tenders. Furthermore, acquiring new customers and building a stable, consistent customer base.

Why did you choose this job?

It was an offer to develop within the company. I was driven by two main factors. Firstly, I had swapped roles with my husband, i.e. my husband stayed at home with our children for the first few years and I took on the role of "breadwinner". Secondly, I wanted to have an interesting, challenging job.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

What I love about my job is that it is multifaceted and does not get boring even after 14 years. I also particularly like the international environment. Working with colleagues from different countries and regions broadens my horizons. What I like about my employer is how open they have been so far to offering career opportunities to women.

What is your typical day at work like?

I'm in constant communication with my customers, processing inquiries and creating conditions for large tenders. I'm the main contact person for my customers and then, depending on the situation, I pass on the tasks to the regional responsibilities or specialist departments, or we form a team with which we work on tenders, for example. Every step of the way, you try to get into the world of the customer's purchasing, logistics manager and forklift driver and take this on board for negotiations, presentations.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

It is good to speak at least a second language besides English. If you like to travel and are quite sensitive and not the typical desk jockey, then this job can just be a lot of fun. If you would like to start a family, then you need an open-minded partner at your side with whom you can flexibly organize your family life. You do a balancing act between job and family every day with two small children, but it works and at some point children are grown up and then you have your place in the professional world and can develop every day. Nothing is worse for the woman in the current time than the standstill.

Christine Mezger-Behan

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

My team and I are responsible for E2E Supply Chain Management in ITS EMEA. We are responsible E2E for the development, establishment, deployment and measurement of our KION ITS EMEA supply chain strategy. In addition, my team and I support the other regions in supply out of EMEA.

Why did you choose this job?

Mid 2020 in the middle of Corona, I was given the opportunity by the team that staffed me to establish Supply Chain Management at KION. Change is part of my DNA & based on my experience & track record I knew that I could make a great contribution to master the challenge ahead. In addition, Supply Chain Management is the one function that has interfaces to almost all functions in the value chain.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

I love being responsible for both strategic and operational moves. I love being part of an international team. I love bringing people with different perspectives together and building bridges. I love working together with so many people who are passionate about forklift trucks, software and services and strive to make tomorrow better than today.

What is your typical day at work like?

The first 15 min of every working day are spent in the here and now with the plant logistics team assessing where we have difficulties in supply to ensure our colleagues in production can get on with their job. I spend time with my leadership team, time on transformation, time designing processes, time with suppliers simply ensuring supply. I also spend time coaching individual members of my team on a one to one basis. I get lunch if I am lucky and I run in the morning to ensure that I get some me time.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

First and foremost follow your passion. If you are passionate about what you do you will be successful. Your gender is irrelevant. Be authentic and rely on yourself and your own capital and your ability to inspire and win others to make it happen. Pay in to gain trust, check out when you need support. Never give up.

Dee Cusack

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

I lead the Global Products and Solutions business unit for the Dematic business.

Why did you choose this job?

I joined the business nearly a year ago. At the time I had to decide between two opportunities. Both Dematic and the other business were financially strong and outpacing the general market for growth and on paper looked pretty equivalent. From a personal perspective the other business offered a more attractive compensation package. So why would I have joined our business? The people. The culture. Even during the interview process the leaders in the business distinguished themselves as genuine and humble. I knew this was a team I wanted to work with.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

There are many challenges in my role. I am responsible for not only the products and solutions we provide to customers but also implementing our strategy around standardization and differentiated new technologies. Successfully implementing these strategies is a very important foundation to the future business growth. I love that I can make a positive impact for the business.

What is your typical day at work like?

I joined the company as the world started working remotely when possible so I wouldn’t say my days are at all typical. I try to engage with my team and other colleagues in the business on a regular basis to not only ensure we continue to progress on our priority workstreams but also to increase the collaboration across the business. I am also involved as an executive sponsor to the Dematic Womens Network (DWN) and informally and formally mentor women in the business.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

Supply chain automation is an exciting market! While there are many areas of expertise needed in the market I would recommend that someone new to their career rotate into a couple functional areas: technology, service or customer facing role, operations for a period of one to two years. Understanding customer needs and translating those needs into a seamless, integrated system is and will continue to be a valuable skill.

Gillian Reed

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

I am the STILL UK Service & Operations Director and lead a team of 140 colleagues across the different departments with my function. These include the Field Engineering Team, Parts Team, Service Support team, Contract Team, Technical Team and Workshop. I am responsible for the financial & operational performance, the customer experience and the wellbeing of my team.

Why did you choose this job?

I was excited to explore a new industry but using my previous experience of leadership and customer focus to develop myself and the business.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

I love leading teams and helping individuals be successful as well as exceeding challenges and targets. I also the diversity of my job, after 7 years I still feel I learn something new every day. One of my favourite things about working for STILL is that the strength and prestige of our Brand is globally renowned, but we have a real personal and local feel with colleagues and customers.

What is your typical day at work like?

They are usually a mix of lots of different topics. Internal team meetings, manager and customer reviews/conversations all surrounded by a bit of fire fighting and juggling. That’s the beauty (and sometimes the beast) of working in service. One minute we have all hands on deck solving a customer issue that is impacting their business, the next we’re talking about the future of our industry reviewing the projects we’re working on to move forward.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

I’ve got some key principals on careers and jobs which I have tried to live by and I have found to be useful. Be curious before you set firm roots. I would encourage anyone to get as much exposure as possible to different jobs and environments - this will all help you to find what you love. Whatever role you’re in don’t spend time looking for your next job, focus on doing a great day today and your next job will find you. With any role I have whether professional or personal the 3 mantra’s I apply are: Choose your attitude, Choose your role model and Have fun!

Kyra Penzes

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

I am a service technician in the CS FO W (Customer Support Field Operations W) department. My colleagues and I support customers on site. Our tasks include, for example, checking accident prevention regulations, inspections, maintenance, troubleshooting, repairs, operational support or retrofitting Dematic or third-party products.

Why did you choose this job?

I completed an apprenticeship as a mechatronics technician and was assigned to customer service right from the start. When I applied for a job at Dematic, being a service technician was the only thing that came into question for me! The work is versatile: electrical, mechanical, automation, varied customers and working environments. Whether in a team or alone, no two days are the same here.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

Particularly, I appreciate the variety in my daily work, the cultural diversity among my colleagues and the wide range of products. From the manual Destamat in a furniture shipping department to the ultra-modern Multishuttle in the automotive industry, everything is possible. I often get to know plants in a wide variety of technical constellations, and in doing so I experience another piece of our long company history.

What is your typical day at work like?

To ensure that our customers' systems run safely and smoothly for a long time, we service technicians are regularly on site. This means: turning the automated operation "off" and the manual operation "on"! We lubricate lifting chains of storage and retrieval machines, check the brake on a lifter in a deep-freeze warehouse or adjust the guide rollers on the column head of an automated miniload system. However, cleaning up afterwards and writing an inspection report are also part of my job.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

The job of a service technician is not for everyone. You have to come to terms with being separated from your family, partner and friends at times. The daily routine is more difficult to plan in advance due to assignments on weekends, long hotel stays and changing working hours. You should be aware of this from the very beginning. However, there is no problem that we cannot solve as a team!

Lilly Dang

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

I am Head of Module Development at KION APAC, responsible for module and components development and series support which covers powertrain, mast and hydraulics, electrical and electronics and new energy development.

Why did you choose this job?

My major at university was mechanical design. Afterwards, I worked for four years as a mechanical engineer. During the following eight years I was working for CAD service and gradually got in touch with simulation, electrical harness design, mast and hydraulics. Since I like to learn something new, I transferred to the warehouse truck development team where I got to know more on project development and electrical system development as AGVs were also part of my project. After sixteen years of working experience on variable system development and thirteen years in management experience, I got a chance to deepen my work on module and component development. It is truly a big challenge for me, but also a great chance to further develop my potential.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

The aspect I love most about my job are the great people I am working with and the fruitful feeling every day. It is not really the feeling of success, but rather the feeling of learning something new which broadens my horizon day by day. As an employee who decided to work for KION more than fifteen years ago, I like the company culture and working atmosphere best.

What is your typical day at work like?

My workday always starts with a couple of meetings, and then I am dealing with all the emails and documents in the later afternoon and evening. Surely, all those meetings are necessary either for new concept study, project progress or technical decisions. The lunch time is probably my most relaxing time where I have the chance to discuss all kinds of topics with my colleagues.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

Being curious about the job and interested in the field is always important. A positive and activate working attitude is not only helpful for successful result but also leads to a better self. Further, technical evaluations should be based on data and facts with enough background information to support them.

Dr. Marina Ignatov

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

I am a development engineer in the Technology and Innovation department in the Advanced Products division at STILL. My area of responsibility includes innovative development projects in intralogistics. In doing so, I am involved in the entire project development. In detail I take care of the investigation of new technologies, the safety of the product, the cabling and the development of software.

Why did you choose this job?

Even during my doctorate in electrical engineering, I found it fascinating to realize my own ideas in a prototype from the very beginning. At the beginning, one is rarely aware of the dimension of the design. However, there is the goal that you have in mind. And you get closer to this goal step by step, accompanied by euphoric and also challenging days. I also have this opportunity to be involved in the entire process of creating a prototype in my current job, combined with many varied and exciting topics.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

The close cooperation with colleagues and the family atmosphere within the company. Especially as a newcomer, I had a lot of questions at that time and I could also speak to a colleague in the corridor who was perhaps still employed a few levels above me. I really notice that together we pursue the goal of finding the optimal solution for the customer and that the company is doing well. My employer is always interested in the further development of employees. There are numerous training opportunities, English courses and annual employee reviews, which help to define and also pursue one's goals.

What is your typical day at work like?

Even though I have been with STILL for more than two years now, there is no typical workday for me. First of all, I check my emails every morning, and then there are many possibilities: I make adjustments for ongoing projects in the safety software, or I go to the workshop to work on the vehicle and directly test the written software. The list could go on and on, however one thing happens to me quite often: I have to quickly pack up my stuff and run to the clock-out machine because sometimes I just forget the time at work. And that's what I really like about my job.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

I would definitely recommend that they study the different areas of electrical engineering. And then to specialize early on in an area that is future-oriented. The important thing here is to enjoy the subject matter.

Nilakshi Naphade

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

As a Data Scientist, I am responsible for all the analytics projects at the KION Digital Campus. We work closely with our functional units to understand their requirements and determine how data can be used to solve their problems. We perform predictive as well as descriptive analyses using various statistical models. My main tasks include understanding business problems, acquiring the right data, performing exploratory data analysis, data preprocessing, creating machine learning models, and evaluating the models to measure the results.

Why did you choose this job?

It was during my master’s course in Germany, that I was first exposed to the field of data science and machine learning. As a research assistant, I got the opportunity to study Vandalism detection in Wikidata. That was where I came across statistical modeling and machine learning concepts. I have always loved working with data and I like the challenge of performing critical analyses, finding patterns in the data, creating hypotheses, and testing those.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

At KION I get the opportunity to work on interesting projects. Since I work in an interdisciplinary team, I always get a fresh perspective on things. I look at every project as an opportunity to learn new things and KION has never disappointed me. Also, I enjoy the work culture here. I joined KION during the pandemic. Therefore, I haven’t met half of my team personally. However, we still manage to stay in touch by having virtual coffee talks, virtual breakfast meetings, and Christmas celebrations, etc. which makes work life enjoyable.

What is your typical day at work like?

We start our day with internal meetings. Then I spend some time understanding the problem and looking at the available data. I run some preliminary analyses on data and try to come up with initial models. We have regular meetings with our product owners where we discuss our findings, try to get answers to our domain-specific questions, align business use cases with the data and get feedback on ongoing tasks. We also sometimes have virtual coffee talks and team-building activities where we have more personal interactions with each other.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

A data scientist doesn’t necessarily have to be good at writing software, but they definitely need programming skills. What is more important than rote syntax memorization is an ability to understand the problem at hand and then coming up with an intelligent solution. Last but not the least, I cannot stress the importance of developing one’s interpersonal skills. Since a data scientist has to talk to people from diverse sets of industries, communication is a key aspect that needs to be focused on. Good interpersonal skills help to understand the problem at hand and also present solutions that customers are happy with.

Ulrike Just

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

I am the Managing Director of KION ITS UK & Ireland and of LMH UK & Ireland - and responsible for ensuring that all the different parts of the organization come together in a way that creates happy customers, engaged employees and strong financial results.

Why did you choose this job?

I always wanted to become a manager, initially, because I get bored easily and management allowed me to be involved in many different topics, work in many different countries and meet many different people. Later, a professor told me that management is one of the most noble professions, since you can make a positive impact on the life of many people. If you create a positive work environment, people will find purpose, pride and community in what they are doing. So, that’s what I am trying to do.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

I love the diversity of the job – every day, I deal with hundreds of different topics. And I love interacting with people from many different parts of the organization – from going through a workshop and having a chat with an engineer about a truck he is fixing, over meeting a lady from the Sales Back Office, to having a strategic discussion with my management team. If I can help to bring all these people together into a strong community that achieves great results – that’s magic.

What is your typical day at work like?

My days are mostly spent in meetings with people from different parts of the organization. We discuss how to drive financial performance, progress on important strategic initiatives, solve organizational challenges, address customer issues, and many more topics. You quickly need to wrap your head around each topic, connect the dots and give sound input and guidance for your people. But you also need to ensure that your people leave the meeting energized and ready to push on. So, basically, I am spending my days as conductor and cheerleader.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

I don’t think that you can plan your career towards becoming the Managing Director of a country. There is a lot of luck and being at the right place at the right time involved. But what certainly helps is: Work harder than anybody else. Always take on a challenge or pick the hard route – there is no shortcut to success. Make your ideas heard – others only listen when you yourself believe in what you have to say. Invest in the people you work with – there is nothing you can achieve alone. Be enthusiastic to learn and grow. And most importantly: Do it for the right reasons. So, you will only enjoy this job if you have a bigger purpose than external recognition.

Ulrike Meyer

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

I am heading the IT and Digital Solutions departments at Willenbrock Fördertechnik, a Linde Material Handling Entity. I am responsible for smooth operation of all servers, our ERP, networks and around 550 PCs. Within the department Digital Solutions, we create digital products and business models for customers.

Why did you choose this job?

I just love technology and am a geek at heart. It is fascinating to explore new fields like artificial intelligence or quantum computers and see how I can incorporate it into our business and create digital products to generate new revenue streams for our group.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

The company allows me to fail. Although we all know how important it is to try new ways and take risks, it is absolutely not standard to have your back when you actually do fail. My job gives me the opportunity to grow a seed in a protected environment and have it bloom when shared with Linde and scaled when shared with KION. Management engages even when my idea is not within the “classical field of expertise”. They let me introduce the Linde Forklift Emoji which is shared via social media and has now been viewed 23 million times worldwide.

What is your typical day at work like?

Last Tuesday started with our weekly management meeting where we discuss inter-divisional topics. Followed by an update call with KION Group IT to align on the next steps for implementing Next Global Workplace at Willenbrock. Next up was a 2-hour workshop with the Linde eCommerce team talking about processes. After that I met virtually with my digital solutions team to talk about the newest insights of our current minimum viable product running at a customer site. At the end of the day, I got to do something real fun; I had a MS Teams meeting with our KION Artificial Intelligence community. After a quick chat with a colleague from Dematic in Atlanta I answered a few more emails and was done for the day.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

Find your passion and just start. Contemplating whether or not something could be too difficult holds you back from opportunities. Persistence is key! Stand up for your ideas and work hard towards your goals. When you fall, stand back up and try again. It will pay off eventually.

Vera Friedrich

What exactly is your job and what are your responsibilities?

I am the CEO of Dematic Canada & VP Sales NA and it’s my job to meet the needs of our employees, customers, and shareholders. Thus, my main responsibilities include safety, compliance, business development, customer relationship management and the leadership of the Canadian team to deliver on our financial commitments. I also act as Executive Advisor to the NA leadership team on topics related to sales governance, organization, and strategic initiatives.

Why did you choose this job?

I chose this job because it was a unique opportunity to apply my skills and passion for building great teams and working closely with customers to grow the Canadian business for Dematic.

What do you love most about your job and your employer?

I am passionate about being an inclusive and fair leader; I love supporting my team and seeing them succeed and grow. I really enjoy working closely with our customers to deliver the best value and solutions to them that meet their specific market needs. Dematic is a great company with great people; I am very proud of our shared KION values and leadership principles to guide our actions and collaboration every day with everyone we engage with.

What is your typical day at work like?

Each day at work is different, frequently dominated by the most urgent and important matters at hand. In addition to meeting with the Canadian team on operational, strategic or leadership topics, I also engage with my Global and North American colleagues on various topics and assignments. A typical day also includes some form of customer engagement, whether it’s touching base with a customer on current or future projects or presenting our offer and commitment to earn our customers’ business. I also dedicate time to check in with my team individuals, supporting them through any challenges and concerns in 1:1 discussions.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to start a career in your field today?

Live in accordance to your values, be honest and always keep your promises. Strive to be the best at what you do and be committed to what you do. When you become a leader, know that it’s not about you, it’s about your team and your people, be open minded and a good listener, so you keep learning as you gain experience in your field. Be passionate about what you do and try to have some fun doing what you do. Following all that, the opportunities will come to you, have the courage to take them.

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