When your job's your second family.
Why Karina Schäfer is developing the subject of work further at EDAG.
Anyone driving development that changes mobility in the future has to sooner or later also think about social change and therefore a change to our working world. Not just because mobility will have an impact on it at some point, but also because we approach our working hours with very different expectations today than, for example, 30 years ago. Nowadays it's no longer just about a career and money. The focus is on enriching experiences instead, the possibility of achieving something, that great feeling of making a contribution that goes beyond just slaving away, these are crucial criteria for a sustainable work-life balance, besides the employer's state-of-the-art conditions.
Modern work does not have any prejudices
"It was very different in 1997," says Karina Schäfer. As the Sequence Simulation Team Leader, the 38-year old engineer holds the reins with her employees when it comes to accurately simulating the production of new vehicles in advance. Schäfer experienced a time at EDAG when development wasn't done on a computer but on a drawing board. And naturally it wasn't exactly easy back then to assert yourself as a young manager, especially a female one. However, this doesn't appear to be an issue or problem nowadays. "After my mechanical engineering studies and training as a technical illustrator I more or less came across EDAG by coincidence and applied there straight away. My career started during a kind of transition phase when the work was still organised very classically and you had to fight for recognition if you wanted to get further, just like in other companies. But EDAG has massively changed. We modernised very quickly. As issues of rank and gender do not arise at all in our company. For engineers are simply different today."
Schäfer is referring to a time when the graduate engineer was still like its own institution, usually male, rather conservation and above all a lone wolf. The fact that this image of an engineer is still around in people's minds is surely due to the technology focus of this profession. An engineer is an intellectual, stiff inventor, not a driving force and team player. That's the common belief. "Luckily the reality is quite different," says Karina. "The last thing that you will find here is the old image of the engineer. We work here in a very team-based, fresh corporate culture where the most important thing is developing and driving new subjects. In doing so the focus is very clearly on enjoying the work and a passion for mobility, besides of course technical expertise. This is what motivates all of us most, what drives us, totally regardless of our gender and ethnic background and is also what would still be decisive for me when choosing a job, if I were looking for a new job."
Management is nurturing relationships
What is most important to Schäfer is that the work is inspiring. As merely slaving away usually leads to frustrations, this is an important aspect that is often overlooked when it comes to the work-life balance issue. "What I can highly recommend to new entrants to the job market, regardless of the industry and their gender, is that you should simply have the courage to do what you love. Anyone who takes their own passion as the driving force for choosing their career, will definitely get further in the job. And enjoy doing so." As inspiring as a passion for your job can be, it can also still be just as challenging. "For all the love of my job: the balance between family and work is of course a major issue for me as a mother. As it's no good to me if I have such a passion for my job that I neglect my private life and family," says Schäfer. Especially when you also take on the responsibility of management, as in Karina Schäfer's case. "It really is a huge challenge, as I have to take care of two families in the broadest sense. My team at EDAG is almost just as important to me asmy own family, in particular because management is also an interpersonal task that has to mastered every day." And nurturing relationships properly takes time. "It sounds difficult at first because as a mother you need more time with your family. But at EDAG you can largely manage your time as we adapt the working models as required. The responsibility that you have towards your employees as a manager and team leader is in fact a demanding full-time job."
Further developing work
How to cope with the double responsibility without neglecting relationships with the family, friends and colleagues is currently an issue that we are actively working on at EDAG. "The good thing about EDAG is that we have the option of further developing our working models ourselves and organising them ideally for us. For example, at the moment we are trying to find solutions in interdisciplinary working groups that will help us and future managers to be able to tackle the issue of management ideally without any stress. As stress is a killjoy. And if work is no longer any fun, it's not only the job that suffers but also your private life." And having both of these in synch is the ideal work-life balance for Karina Schäfer.