My greatest challenge at RKW ...

was one of my most valuable experiences of my previous career path. I was Product Manager for our biggest client. My area of focus was the technical key accounts, and then later increasingly in the commercial area. Being responsible for an important client, that is the brightest side of every company. Whatever I needed was made possible internally.

I had to travel to Spain to our RKW site at Iter in Zaragoza because of a client project. Shortly afterwards, I was asked whether I wanted to take over Change Management as the site manager.

I couldn’t even speak Spanish. I agreed and took a three-week Spanish crash course. That was just about enough to order food at the local restaurant, but nowhere near enough for the job.

The amount of English that the work colleagues on the site could speak varied greatly. One of my strengths is my ability to persuade people. However, I couldn’t do that if I had to use an interpreter in order to make myself understood. You have to be able to communicate with people in their own language!

We worked with a consultancy firm to introduce a process of change and fundamentally improved the company culture. We were able to negotiate a severance scheme without any resulting strike action – almost unheard of in Spain.

Our work began bearing fruit. In 2011, we had our first positive result. And I was able to speak Spanish well enough to communicate in the language of the people I worked with.

Off to China!

At the beginning of 2012 I returned to Germany for personal reasons. I became Director of Business Development. And, once again, it was pure chance that determined my career path. Our main client came to us because he wanted a local supply of film for his production site in China. That meant that there was an RKW location to be built in Guangzhou in China.

Ground was broken at the end of 2013 and mid-2014 we were able to set up the machines for the film printing. I had only known China as a holiday location. Clearly, there is more similarity between the German and the Spanish mentality than between the European and the Asian mentality. There are obviously more pitfalls lurking there. But the principles are the same. Every employee wants to be respected and valued for their work. For me that means involving them in the decision process, and giving them the freedom and space to make decisions. This open management culture connects RKW around the globe. We believe in the concept of teamwork instead of a patriarchal managerial level.

Desire for change. And no fear.

The employees have always felt a strong sense of identity with RKW. Before, when RKW was smaller, we did things in a “straightforward way.” With our current growth, we have to define and describe structures. We want to continue to strengthen personal responsibility from top to bottom.

Small sites can only work with big clients because they are backed by the RKW Group. Otherwise we would have neither the financial potential nor the confidence of the clients. In this way, we are able to combine the advantages of a medium-sized company with those of a larger corporate group.

What drives me? I am not afraid of failure. And I need variety. Just shuffling files around in the office would drive me mad. The opportunity in China came at the right time!