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What does it take to become a manager in the IT industry, Isabella?

Isabella Stolz about her way to becoming team leader and the challenges of team management in times of COVID-19
Isabella Stolz, Manager Consulting Delivery, about her way to becoming team leader and the challenges of team management during the coronavirus pandemic

In the series “How does your working day look like?“, employees from a broad range of fields are giving you an insight into their work routine. After speaking with Product Owner Dominik, Isabella, who is team leader in SupplyOn’s Consulting division, now takes the floor.

Starting as a Junior Consultant

What brought you to SupplyOn?

I wrote my bachelor’s thesis on supply chain risk management. For that, I investigated relevant platform providers, including SupplyOn. Thus, I already knew the company and that’s why I applied when I saw a job opening. The interview process was uncomplicated and quick, so in October 2015 was my first day at SupplyOn.

What did you do prior to joining SupplyOn?

After graduating from high school in 2011, I spent a few months working & traveling in New Zealand. In 2012, I started a combined vocational training and degree program in “Business Administration for Industrial Corporations”. For the vocational training I worked in a company in Munich and the academic courses were held at the DHBW in Stuttgart. Over the course of three years, I worked in different departments throughout the company. This helped me to identify the areas of work which I found the most interesting, that is purchasing and logistics.

You started as a Junior Consultant. What were your first responsibilities?

I started with basics such as configuring our solutions and supplier rollouts. In retrospect, I’m very happy about that. The fact that I learned these basics right at the beginning still helps me today in discussions with customers and when designing concepts. In terms of projects, the topics included transport and container management.

After-work excursions with colleagues from different departments helped me to quickly familiarize in the company and to get to know a lot of people, for example while night skiing or at the Oktoberfest.

Becoming a Team Manager

How did things develop over the next few years?

Until mid-2019, I worked on supply chain, purchase-to-pay and transport management projects. From 2017, I also managed these projects. In some cases, I worked on site at our customers’ for longer periods, including in Germany, Switzerland and China. These projects were in fact always global projects with many distributed locations and project staff. I am still in contact with some of my colleagues from that time, working together with them in new projects.

When did you become a Team Leader and what new responsibilities came along with that?

I became Team Leader in September 2019 after working as a Consultant and Senior Consultant. Even before that, I had been supporting my manager in tasks such as capacity and resource planning, training employees, and conducting team and project meetings. This helped me to gain experience in management tasks and facilitated the transition. Since I became a Team Leader, I have taken on additional tasks. These include estimating expenses for quotations, hiring new employees, as well as staff appraisals and staff development.

How did the transition from team member to supervisor go?

Initially, I didn’t think it would be easy to become a supervisor within my team. Obviously, it feels a bit awkward to take on supervisory responsibility for colleagues of the same age, with whom I have always maintained a casual relationship. It also wasn’t exactly a matter of course that my older colleagues would accept me as their manager. But my colleagues indicated to me from the outset that they agreed with the decision and would support me. I thus had the support of the team from the very beginning, for which I am very grateful.

I do not see myself as “standing above the team”, but always as part of it. Of course you have be blunt from time to time, but essentially I see it as my job to make sure that the employees work efficiently and smoothly and to promote their further development. From my point of view, the transition worked out well and I felt comfortable in my new role right from the start and I am having fun doing it.

Being a female executive in the IT industry

Are there acceptance problems for you as a woman in male-dominated industries like IT & manufacturing?

At SupplyOn I didn’t and do not have the impression that I have an acceptance problem as a woman. But of course—like every new young employee—you first have to show your worth and prove your skills and knowledge. Overall, I did not feel treated any differently than my male colleagues who joined along or after me. In some projects, however, I first had to demonstrate my way of working and my skills before I had the feeling that I was being taken seriously.

I cannot speak for other companies, because I do not have the insight to do so. However, I doubt that I would have had the same opportunities and development chances in other companies as I have at SupplyOn. This is mainly thanks to my managers, who have given me the opportunity and trust in me.

Since March we have been working mostly from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. How do you feel about that? Are there any effects on your daily business?

To be honest, this coronavirus time has troubled me quite a bit. Particularly the personal exchange and contact with colleagues from various departments and also in private life, social contacts with friends or sports, were cut off overnight without replacement. We have regular phone calls within the team for informal exchanges on all kinds of topics. The focus here is not on work. I also make regular appointments with colleagues for a virtual coffee break. But none of this can replace personal contact—especially not the “coffee-kitchen exchange” with colleagues with whom I do not work on a day-to-day basis. My impression is that you are less aware of what is happening in the company.

I don’t see the coronavirus situation as a hindrance to my work as such, for both my tasks in projects and my responsibilities as team leader. I have full trust in my team—no matter where they work. However, the training of new employees who do not yet have such a large network is more difficult and concerns me a lot. Planning uncertainties are also quite a challenge and have left me somewhat in suspense as a manager who is not yet very experienced.

SupplyOn als an employer

What do you like about SupplyOn as an employer?

I have been with SupplyOn for almost five years now and I have never been bored. After completing projects, I often had the chance to work in a new area and to lead or support projects of various kinds. SupplyOn has offered me plenty of opportunities for development and has shown that I am valued as an employee. I have been given opportunities that I might not have had anywhere else.

In addition to the development opportunities in consulting, there is also the possibility of being assigned to our locations abroad or of advancing in other areas such as pre-sales and product management.

Personally, I think it’s the people who make SupplyOn what it is—you always try to support each other and you can rely on your colleagues. Even when things get a little heated in a technical discussion, it doesn’t affect the good personal relationship.

In summary, I like it at SupplyOn. You have good career prospects and incredibly nice and fun colleagues with whom you can have fun at work!

And how can we get even better?

No company is perfect. For example, we usually collaborate constructively, but the different departments sometimes pursue different goals, which sometimes makes things a bit challenging. In this respect, internal events such as crowdtesting are very helpful. Here, colleagues from all departments jointly improve our solutions. There can almost never be to many events of this kind, where all employees pursue a common goal. On the other hand, SupplyOn is constantly evolving and improving, also based on the feedback of its employees.

SupplyOn is a great company, which I can only recommend. New colleagues should have a good deal of initiative, the desire to help shape processes and standards and should enjoy contact with customers and colleagues.

Thank you for the interview and your time, Isabella, and all the best at SupplyOn!

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