Theresa is driven by using innovation and new technologies to create business value for Bertelsmann, advance society and actively shape digital change. After completing her Ph.D. in mathematical statistics in Stockholm, Theresa joined Arvato Systems where she is currently leading an agile software development team working on a large data project. She aims for a daily digital detox and loves to take walks in the forest where she can rewind and calm down.
What did you do before you joined Bertelsmann?
Before I joined Bertelsmann, I studied mathematics in Münster, Germany, and in Edmonton, Canada. After I had graduated with my master’s degree, I moved to Stockholm in Sweden where I obtained my doctoral degree in mathematical statistics. My research focused on developing mathematical models to better understand the spread of infectious diseases in order to inform and support public health decision makers.
When did you first hear about Bertelsmann?
It feels like I’ve always known Bertelsmann as it is a large and very well-known German company. Moreover, I grew up close to the corporate headquarters. However, it was when I first started applying for a job at Bertelsmann that I discovered how little I actually knew about it. Bertelsmann is so diverse and unites so many different competencies under one roof that I'm still learning something new about it every day.
When and why did you decide to join Bertelsmann?
I joined Bertelsmann after completing my Ph.D. in 2019. Besides offering exciting career prospects, what really impressed me was the nature and the drive of the application process that made Bertelsmann stand out from all other companies. There was a very open and personal atmosphere that convinced me and, in addition, I was offered an extremely interesting job. It was being part of building an AI competence cluster at Arvato Systems, and this made me identify with Bertelsmann's core values, creativity and entrepreneurship, very early on. It is a great opportunity as Bertelsmann enables me to use innovative, state-of-the-art technologies to create business value, advance society and actively shape digital change.
"Bertelsmann enables me to use innovative, state-of-the-art technologies to create business value, advance society and actively shape digital change."
How would you describe your job to your grandmother?
I love talking to my granny, and after telling her about my Ph.D. in mathematical statistics, it wasn’t all that difficult to explain to her what I am doing now. I started working at Bertelsmann as a data scientist and, together with my team, developed AI services for a number of different industries. In my current role as a product owner, I'm leading an agile development team as we work on a large data project. I'm responsible for guiding the conception and the technical development by working very closely with stakeholders, customers and developers.
What makes your professional life exciting?
I love working at the interface between business and tech. It allows me to combine my technical and communication skills to look at a complex problem from many different angles. I get inspired by working with talented interdisciplinary teams where everyone brings in their individual expertise so that we find the best solution together. Moreover, we work with the latest technology, which, of course, is a real plus for any tech-related job. It gives me the opportunity to learn new things and stay up to date. The entrepreneurial culture also makes my job exciting. The company puts a lot of trust in me, allowing me to explore different roles and take on responsibility. Entrepreneurship is not an empty phrase at Bertelsmann, but engrained in our culture. Finally, my job is very varied, which means that it is never boring and I learn something new every day.
Has there ever been a fork in your career path? Which way did you take?
Well, there have been quite a few. One was when I completed my Ph.D. in Stockholm. I needed to decide whether to stay in academia or take up a job in the industry. I decided for the latter despite being worried that I might be far removed from the latest innovations and state-of-the-art technologies. But that is definitely not the case. The second fork came up recently when I had to decide whether I want to continue being an expert for something very specific or rather become a generalist and use my technical expertise in a broader sense. I chose the latter and I really enjoy it. I'm happy with the choices I made.
"The entrepreneurial culture of Bertelsmann provides us with the freedom to implement the ideas that we come up with in the creative process while it encourages us to make decisions and be ready to be held accountable for the respective outcome."
Entrepreneurship and creativity are the core values of Bertelsmann. What do they mean to you?
For me, creativity means thinking outside the box, combining traditional with new approaches to generate new ideas. I work in the IT sector, and digital transformation is a major issue everywhere. The entrepreneurial culture of Bertelsmann provides us with the freedom to implement the ideas that we come up with in the creative process while it encourages us to make decisions and be ready to be held accountable for the respective outcome.
What makes a company truly responsible?
They have to be accountable for their social responsibility with respect to their employees as well as their customers. Closely related to that are inclusion and diversity, these should be given high priority. Last but not least, the responsible use of the environment is also critical.
What is something people wouldn’t assume about you?
People are often surprised when they hear that my team and I are working fully remotely on a highly complex project, which requires the interaction and expertise of many different professionals. Although we rarely meet in person, we still have an open and supportive team culture. I am very grateful for the flexibility that remote work offers, especially during the pandemic. At the same time, I am also much looking forward to our next team event as there are things that virtual meetings cannot replace.
What matters to you as you create your own career?
As we live in a world where technology is improving very fast and businesses undergo rapid changes, it's very important to have an agile mindset, be open and learn continuously. I want to have an idea where I am going, but at the same time, I would like to be open for any opportunity coming my way. Another important thing is to see failure as a way to learn and improve. I also want to support women in taking up tech jobs because I strongly believe that a diverse workforce brings the best results.
"The remote setting poses an additional challenge when it comes to leadership. Therefore, I want to focus on creating transparency and building trust as well as empowering my team to be self-organizing."
Is there a positive trend regarding women in tech?
I have a lot of female friends with STEM degrees and tech jobs, but then I suspect they are just part of my bubble. At work, we could definitely do with more female developers in terms of diversity. That is why I want to encourage women to join the tech profession. Unfortunately, there are still quite a few stereotypes about women in tech, and with my work I aim to contribute to breaking down at least some of them.
What comes to your mind when you think of your future career?
Hybrid work, working remotely, making an effort to keep up the personal relationships within teams. Leading agile and diverse teams, innovation projects, AI and health. Working on meaningful projects that have an impact and improve people’s lives.
Which skills will be essential to you personally in the future and how are you planning to develop/enhance these?
I lead an agile software development team, and the remote setting poses an additional challenge when it comes to leadership. Therefore, I want to focus on creating transparency and building trust as well as empowering my team to be self-organizing. I am also working on ways in which to motivate my team for a project so that every member can thrive. I am very thankful to be employed by a company that actively supports me in achieving those goals through an encouraging management and many great professional training opportunities.