Follow-the-sun is not meant as an advice for travellers but a term in the field of Distributed Work. Rebecca Davis (MHP) & Anja Hendel (Porsche) are big fans of this concept as it enables companies to offer 24/7 support. In this interview these two women in Automotive IT point out: It’s not the X or Y chromosome that matters.
Rebecca and Anja, the proportion of women in the automotive industry is only around 14%, and as women working in automotive IT you are an even rarer phenomenon. What drives you?
The automotive industry will see more dramatic change in the next five years than it has over the past fifty years. The digital component is a key driver of this change. Smart Mobility and Connectivity are just two of the challenging concepts that we face, and that’s why companies need more and more people with the expertise to guide them through the digital transformation. It’s incredibly challenging, but being part of this change is also motivating and inspiring.
Nevertheless, as women you are still the exception in this environment…
Yes, of course, a company only reflects what’s happening in the world of study. And we as women are still in the minority when it comes to MINT subjects. That’s why we have to encourage people to follow this path. For us, it isn’t the X or Y chromosome that matters, but the Porsche gene.
At #ada17 you’ll be hosting a workshop on the workplace of the future and how tech is changing the way we work. Is the age of pen and paper over?
Don’t worry – we still love our books. We don’t just carry them around with us as accessories… but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s more a case of work habits changing, and future employees are developing their own unique ideas about the workplace of the future. Work-life integration is replacing work-life balance, and the use of tech is massively supporting this change. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is tech that is making this change possible in the first place. We need to examine how we can keep up with the times despite not yet knowing exactly where the journey is going to take us.
Many companies are critical of work models such as Distributed Work. Are you able to overcome this bias?
Distributed Work is an integral part of the global world. 24/7 support (FTS – Follow-the-sun) works because there are people at work all over the world.
Modern collaboration and communication tools (such as Slack, Trello and JIRA) make this possible. There are, of course, valid concerns that need to be addressed, and many managers are finding the move from a presence culture to a results culture a difficult one. But the same applies here as everywhere else: the more positive examples there are, the more confidence will grow, resulting in a new understanding of leadership.
In one of your recent tweets you said “Bring on the female nerds!” Is the gender gap in automotive IT getting smaller or is inequality still a big problem in your field?
As I mentioned earlier, the problem begins in universities. Unfortunately, female students are rare in MINT subjects, which in turn affects the number of female job applicants, and therefore the number of employees. Our goal must therefore be to encourage girls and young women at an early stage to take up technical degree courses and apprenticeships. Porsche is leading by example. The proportion of women in technical training has increased from six to almost 30 per cent in the last four years, while almost 50 percent of dual study program graduates are women. We have also been involved in Femtec since its foundation.
This article is part of Ada’s Heiresses 2017, an interview collection with speakers of Ada Lovelace Festival 2017. Are you interested in more #womenintech content? You can download Ada’s Heiresses here for free.
Anja Hendel & Rebecca Davis
After my studies in business informatics, I started my career at the business consultancy Capgemini. My work focused on the technology (programming, data migration, and infrastructure) of large and international SAP-projects. In this context, I was especially concerned with distributed work models, where globally dispersed teams collaborate on a task. During this period, together with two colleagues I published a book on this topic, entitled “Rightshore: Successfully Industrialize SAP Projects Offshore“.
Following five years of professional experience in consultancy, I joined Celesio (today: McKesson) – a pharmaceutical wholesaler. Initially, I established the SAP program management and the unit SAP Services (enterprise architecture, SAP Basis, development, authorization as well as responsibility for the central SAP systems). In this position, I was able to deploy the knowledge of many international projects, which I have completed in the former years.
Another five exciting years later, I increasingly dealt with portfolio management. Focusing on this topic, I started in October 2013 at Porsche. Besides portfolio management, I helped shaping the IT strategy of Porsche. For almost two years, I have been working as management assistant to the CFO, who is also responsible for IT at Porsche. In this role, I push forward digitalization and innovation topics in the finance and IT area. The conception of the Porsche Digital GmbH, the Porsche Digital Lab in Berlin as well as of the Porsche Innovation Office in Israel are only an excerpt from many exciting topics I am dealing with.
Rebecca Davis is a senior consultant for digital innovation & design management at MHP- A Porsche Company. After her bachelor degree in product design at HAWK Hildesheim, she continued her education with a joint master in Global Innovation Management at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, UK and Aalborg University in Aalborg, Denmark. During her studies she researched the influence of design methods on the innovation process. Since graduating, she has helped large corporations establish a culture of innovation and become more user centered. After a stay at Audi working in the field of electrification in the car IT, she returned to MHP in the beginning of 2017. Her current tasks are further developing and growing the department of digital innovation & design management.