On 6 October 2022, WE SHAPE TECH and ETH Zurich had the pleasure of co-hosting a fireside chat with one of the most prominent and charismatic executives of Germany, Janina Kugel.
An Exceptional Leader
Janina Kugel is one of the most prominent and charismatic executives of Germany. She not only was the youngest executive of Siemens, but also had tremendous personnel responsibility for a workforce of over 350,000 employees, being the Chief HR Officer at Siemens. She currently serves as non-executive board member at TUI (travel and tourism company), New York-based Kyndryl, publicly listed Konecranes and as a senior advisor at BCG and the EQT Group (a purpose-driven global investment group). She was nominated as “prima inter pares” of the Top 100 most influential women in Germany by Manager Magazin (2018). She leads with courage, passion and optimism and is strongly convinced that it is time to change the workplace, our career paths and the speed of technology adoption.
Janina is a truly remarkable person with just one goal in mind: equal opportunities. One wouldn’t expect such an exceptional leader to be as open and approachable about her experiences and hard-gained insights. The atmosphere in the room was energized yet relaxed, the chat with Janina so easy and fluid, that one was tempted to just join in. While we could easily fill pages and pages with all the shared insights, ideas and experiences, we would like to point out what we think are the most important take aways:
Get ready for your career
Building up hard and soft skills will ensure that you are ready to advance in your career – whenever the moment is right. Life is unpredictable, yes, but set yourself up with a solid foundation.
Take opportunities when they arise
If you want to move up the ladder quickly, you have to take the opportunities when they arise. They might not be what and when you expected them to be and they might even come at the most inconvenient moments. So, be flexible or you will miss out.
Being respected is more important than being liked
You should always aim to be respeced, not liked. If you’re looking to be liked by everyone, you end up compromizing where you should not.
Choose when to show vulnerability
Showing vulnerability is not a bad thing. But you have to choose carefully with whom and in what situation you show vulnerability. Some people might be unsure about how to respond.
Advanced leadership is key
Great leaders are not only the ones who reach their quotas, but those who follow a greater mission and leave a lasting impact on others. The beginning of advanced leadership is not easy and can start off quite lonely. At first, you might be seen as weird, but if you keep at it, more and more will join in. And in the end, it will seem totally normal and only those not leading like this will be seen as weird.
Check out the video „First Follower: Leadership Lessons from a dancing guy“:
High workload vs. social media presence: No pressure, but relevance
There is absolutely no need to post constantly, unless it is your source of income. Just post when you can, but ensure it has relevance for your audience. And, when you do become influential, be prepared for colleagues (or other people) that cannot handle your popularity.
Don’t miss Janina’s book “It’s Now” (German) in which she shares her personal experiences, points out what we need to address, and encourages her readers to believe in themselves and assert themselves in the rapidly changing world of work.
We owe a great “Thank you” to our co-host ETH Zurich for making this great event possible.