Women in tech – part 2

Meet Kim-Canan and Sarah from our tech department

Source: iStock.com/metamorworks

Women in tech: This is one of the most discussed topics these days. Currently, most IT-departments are dominated by men – for now. We want to counteract this: Our goal is to make IT professions even more attractive for girls and women. One step we need for that: creating role models. We think that among others, Sarah Schuldner and Kim-Canan Borstell from our Tech department are ideally suited to be these kinds of role models and thus interviewed them about their work with us.

Sarah Schuldner started with us as a UX research working student at two days a week, while studying UX Design. At that time, her team consisted of two people – but Sarah and her colleague Lydia worked hard to establish and steadily expand the importance of user research within the company. And they were successful: The team now consists of four full-time researchers and continues to grow. Sarah not only uses her interest in UX research, but is also speaking up for more accessibility in our online marketplace – a topic she also wrote her master’s thesis about.

Kim-Canan Borstell has been part of our company for a little over two and a half years. She started as a product designer and was part of the former team Checkout. To be able to carry out quantitative tests better, Kim-Canan quickly helped to form a new team, which was called Checkout Vision. The main task here was to use design thinking to rethink the usability of the checkout process and fully adapt it to the needs of our customers. The cross-functional team, consisting of backend and frontend engineers, product managers and designers, ultimately came up with a multistep checkout that would prove itself to be particularly user-friendly. Subsequently, Kim-Canan mainly helped with the redesign of the website from real.de to Kaufland.de. During this process, she had the opportunity to build a completely new team that focused solely on the shopping cart – this is how Kim-Canan made the step from Product Designer to Product Manager: an episodic goal she worked hard for and even wrote a motivation letter for her internal application as a part of our flex model.

What are your tasks at our company?

Sarah: My job is to find out what our users’ needs are and how we can meet them in the best way possible. On the one hand, of course, we have our customers who want to enjoy a smooth and joyful shopping experience and on the other hand, we have the merchants who sell on our platform and want to increase their sales with our help. Only by understanding the two different needs and motivators of each user and making the right adjustments, a successful product can be created.

Kim-Canan: As Product Manager in team Cart, my role is defined as a collaborative lead. True to the motto: “Only a happy team is a functional team”, it is very important to me to keep a healthy and warm atmosphere within the team. This was especially relevant during the recruiting phase: I was not only looking for experts in professional terms, but also for team members who match as human beings. My position involves two levels: the interpersonal one and the product and business-related work. I try to help the team by

– being motivated and committed – and staying that way,

– actively seeking dialog

– and keeping the jointly created team philosophy alive by communicating it.

I really love this part of my job because I have so much fun making people feel good.

In terms of products and business, my tasks are of course a bit more factual and organizational. For me, it’s all about making sure that my team, as the experts in their fields, can concentrate on their tasks in the best way possible.

To ensure this, I’m taking care of:

– the definition of high-level solutions

– the exchange with stakeholders, senior managers as well as possible supporters,

– the periodization of upcoming tasks,

– the planning and managing of testing strategies,

– external communication with other product teams and stakeholders,

– and maintaining dialogue in all directions to bring all colleagues to the same level of knowledge.

I’ve also learned not to think of our team as a closed static model, but rather to always treat stakeholders, senior managers and supporters of a topic as part of the team for the existing project.

What makes our company special?

Sarah: I’m sure to say: the working environment and my colleagues. The family-like environment at our company and the resulting open exchange about various topics not only bring me joy, but also create an encouraging atmosphere in which every opinion and idea is taken seriously and considered.

Kim-Canan: The people. Entering the office is always a bit like coming home. I feel very comfortable here and, for the first time, I have the feeling that I am allowed to be who I am in a company. I’m accepted with my strengths, but also with my weaknesses, and I find support from my superiors and colleagues – especially in my team, which I can always rely on, no matter what’s going on. At the same time, we are also growing very quickly: We are now thinking even bigger than we did back in our start-up days. As a result, processes and structures are being adapted piece by piece to our growth. However, the teams carry on the start-up spirit as far as possible thanks to a lot of initiative.

You work in a field that is (unfortunately) currently still dominated by men. Do you have the feeling that you have encountered any obstacles because of this?

Sarah: No. Both in my studies and at work, only my personality and my skills were relevant. My gender has never played a role – and it shouldn’t!

Kim-Canan: No. I think you can always look at the issue of “women in a male-dominated profession” as a two-sided coin. It depends on the person and their attitude, no matter if it’s a man or a woman. I feel well taken care of as a person in our company. Valued, equal to everyone and in no way as if something was blocking the path I want to take only because of my gender. On the contrary, I even feel very supported by my team, my colleagues, and know that they are always there to help and advise me. Personally, I believe that we are a very sensitive company which pays strong attention to equal opportunities. Sure, there’s always room for improvement – that’s what we should strive for, but I think that our company embraces the current zeitgeist and is constantly optimizing our corporate culture. That’s why I also see a partial responsibility for each individual: you always have to work on your image and constantly improve yourself.

Do you have any tips for other women who are interested in a career in tech?

Sarah: At the risk of sounding like a typical calendar saying: “Know your worth!” However, this applies to both women and men. The gender of a person has nothing to do with their skill set!

Kim-Canan: Do it. The more qualified women apply in tech, the more will be hired. Don’t undersell yourself, know your worth! This is not measured by gender, background or outward appearances, but by your own attitude, performance and authenticity. Furthermore, I think that you should be honest with yourself and with your fellow human beings by standing by your strengths and weaknesses and also asking yourself whether your weaknesses cannot also be seen as strengths. For example, sensitivity can be transformed into helpfulness, impulsiveness into passion, comfort into efficiency. I sold myself short for years and treated myself that way – so my tip is to be confident, to stand up for yourself. Your weaknesses are there for a reason: find them, ask for help, and work on them when you feel or get feedback that it’s worth changing. 🙂