Title: Board member for human relations; director of labor relations
Location: Hanover, Germany
Family: Husband; stepson; two step-grandchildren
Born: Hamburg, Germany
Languages: German, English, French, Portuguese
Education: Doctorate in law, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany; fully qualified lawyer
What attracted you to the auto industry?
Being on the move, growing and reaching out to people are driving forces in my life. The automotive industry provides all of that. I also really value working at a manufacturing company. It is important for me to be close to people and to meet them personally, regardless of hierarchical level, cultural background and education.
First automotive job:
Head of international labor relations at Volkswagen in 1999.
What was your big break?
That actually happened when I took a step back from my career to follow my husband to Brazil. My experiences there significantly advanced my professional and personal development so the presumed step back was followed by even more advances. In addition, while in Brazil I introduced a qualification program to our shop floor colleagues. It’s a country where there usually is no training system at all. This project helped me fine-tune my future professional attitude.
What major challenge have you faced in your career?
There were times in my career when it was a challenge for me to be the woman in a male-dominated environment. But it’s always been important to me to stand up against inequality. I have found that the keys to success in this area are persistence and continuously performing at a high level.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
My husband. He’s my best and most trusted personal coach. I have learned a lot from him. He is my compass. He allows me to reflect and gives me the opportunity to examine my decisions regarding whatever direction I take. And I can always be sure that he will stand by me.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?
We need more role models. This is the best way for young women to get a sense of direction. I think other companies could learn a lot from Continental in this area because I see great openness among my colleagues when it comes to the topic of diversity. We also know that actions speak louder than words.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
I like being outdoors doing things such as walking with my dogs or horseback riding. I also really value the conversations I have with family and friends when we prepare meals together.
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing. I sleep very well and make sure I get enough hours of rest. I know from experience that getting enough sleep and physical exercise are important to staying mentally alert and productive. That’s especially true when facing very challenging and stressful situations.
Tell us one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.
I like working with my hands even though it’s not my greatest talent. For example, cleaning a horse stable is very therapeutic for me.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
I spend a lot of time at work. The time I do have off I like to spend with the people I am closest to. My favorite dinner companions are and always will be my husband, my family and my friends.
If I had it to do all over again, I would ...
Definitely spend some professional time abroad again, particularly in an emerging market. The experience you gain there is invaluable. And I’m a real car girl. I would chose the automotive sector again every time. Our industry and our company are undergoing so many changes and transformations right now. Helping to shape the future of mobility and fostering a culture in which people can grow and give their very best is incredibly exciting and inspiring.
When and where was your last vacation?
We went on a short sailing trip in Denmark in early June.
Name one talent you wish you had.
I wish I could work better with my hands. I would like to be able to repair things.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Never give up and keep pursuing your goals. Follow your own ideals and stay true to them. Believe in what you do. And, last but not least, just do it.
What advice would you give your child?
Believe in yourself, be self-reflective and stay curious. Respect and value other people’s attitudes and opinions.
If you were a car, what car would you be?
I would definitely be a new kind of multi-purpose vehicle because it would take me across all types of terrains, especially the rough ones. It would provide enough space for several people because it is important to me to bring people together and make them talk to each other. It would also be electrically powered or have a hybrid drive. Naturally it would also be sporty, fast, and drive around bends without losing traction because I wouldn’t want to skid past any potential opportunities for personal growth that are waiting around the corner.