From practising Japanese in Salzburg to working in Tokyo
Women with children are still far too rare in leadership positions. Kerstin, Senior Manager Finance & Administration at SKIDATA Germany, is one of them. Here is how she organizes her family and career, the greatest challenges she faces, and how she balances them successfully.
Career or family? For Kerstin, choosing between the two was never an option. “I come from a family company in which children always had their own place,” says the mother of two who works for SKIDATA Germany in Landshut as part of the management team. As Senior Manager Finance & Administration, the business economist leads a team of 13 members and is responsible for a wide range of tasks: In addition to classic sales topics (budget, monthly and annual accounts, forecasts and analysis), she is also responsible for order processing, service and repair as well as office management in her area. “It has grown dynamically over the years—both the team and the domain for which I’m responsible have constantly expanded,” explains the 42-year-old, who has worked at SKIDATA since 2004.
Born in Dingolfing, Kerstin started her career after graduating with a dual education in Gießen and Eisenach. She became familiar with managerial responsibility from the very start: After finishing her training, she immediately took over as the deputy store manager at a DIY store in Munich. But she wasn’t completely happy in the big city, which is why Kerstin kept her eyes open for professional development opportunities: “The job advert from SKIDATA for a job in internal sales appealed to me just with its name—I’m an avid skier.” Kerstin worked in sales support for three years. “It was great for me because I got to know all the products from the bottom up.”
In 2007, the commercial manager role was vacated. “SKIDATA gave me the opportunity to learn the ropes in this position—and I took that chance,” says Kerstin as she summarizes her career progression. It’s the same position she still holds today. “My job is endlessly enjoyable. That’s why it was always clear to me that I wanted to keep working, even if I had a family.”
“When I became pregnant, there were still no women with children in a leadership position. We had no idea how we would work around that,” Kerstin explains. She had her own thoughts, and developed a proposal for how it could work well. An important piece of the puzzle: Delegating tasks and seeking support. After the birth of her first son in 2012, Kerstin quickly returned to work part-time while a colleague assumed some of her responsibilities. When her second son entered the world in 2016, Kerstin handed over the entire order processing area. “A colleague from my team already had older children. I asked her if she could imagine growing alongside me to be a part of the management team. She did that and went from part-time to full-time.” The perfect solution from both sides—and the number of women in management doubled.
What is important when it comes to balancing a career and a family successfully? “There is no blueprint. It’s important to find the right model for yourself,” Kerstin says. The model that she and her husband work with relies on good organization, a certain flexibility and a lot of support from grandparents for childcare. “Right from the start, the children spent a lot of time with Oma and Opa. It’s great for everyone involved.”
But organizing her family life is only one side of work-life balance, and employers play an equally important role. “At SKIDATA, we work on even ground—from trainee to managing director. I received a great deal of trust from all sides,” says Kerstin. The flexible working model and the opportunity to work remotely helped reconcile her family life and her professional life. SKIDATA doesn’t only rely on innovative solutions, but also on constantly developing itself as a company. The fact that the entire company group works as one makes it even easier.
On the days when Kerstin works full-time, she makes sure that the children get to school, the day-care center, or their grandparents safely. Afterward, she is out and has the space to think about professional matters. For two afternoons each week, this space belongs wholly to her children. “As much as I love my work, it was important that everything wasn’t just about my job.”
When asked what she thinks is the greatest roadblock stopping more women from entering leadership positions, Kerstin answers with a laugh: “The men!” Even though a lot has happened in the past ten years, after the birth of a child many revert to the classic model: The man goes full-throttle professionally while the woman holds back. “Other models are less accepted.” Another hurdle? Childcare opportunities still differ greatly.
And what advice would she offer to women who want a leadership role as well as children? “Don’t lose sight of yourself.” It’s necessary to take a step back from time to time and to check whether the direction you’ve taken is still the right one for you. Kerstin does this regularly for herself, and together with her family. Her conclusion at the moment: “Most days, I come home happy and content.”
With this as her foundation, Kerstin felt well-prepared for the new challenge that awaited her at the beginning of the year. When a management position was vacated at Nagra Media Germany–a member of the Kudelski Group, like SKIDATA–she accepted the offer to take on this additional role. “Now I have to sort myself out again,” Kerstin says. She has no doubt that she will succeed: “If you take pleasure in what you do, then you’ll manage.”