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May 28, 2020

Laura: Operations at Roland Berger

Hello, my name is Laura and I'm a Senior Consultant in Roland Berger's Berlin office. I started at Roland Berger, after my PhD.

For the last 3.5 years, I've had the pleasure to work on projects across industries in various fields of Operations. That led me to Automotive OEMs and suppliers, the rail sector, machinery building, as well as the agriculture industry . This cross-industrial view is extremely interesting as you can see the differences and communalities across sectors in terms of their chances, challenges and cultures.

Functionally, I am specialized in the field of product development and engineering. To me, product development is where the magic happens in industrial firms. It's the heart and soul of innovation and beautiful craftsmanship. Also, it is a place that defines a lot in terms of the products' market potential, customer value and cost. Hence, it is the nucleus of efficiency and effectiveness in many regards.

That makes projects in the area of product development so challenging and exiting. Let's take my latest project as an example: It was my first one in the agriculture industry – a quite special sector. My team and I had the pleasure to rearrange the Swedish client's engineering department. We transformed it from a historically grown organizational structure into one which enables innovativeness, efficiency and high-speed agile development. In a participative approach, we conducted many interviews and workshop, with intense analyses, in order to find an organizational structure that really fitted their needs. There is never one single solution for that. It was imperative to thoroughly iterate the possible options and balance their pros and cons. Even more important though, was starting from a solid core, focusing on a clear purpose and guiding principles for the organization.

To complete the picture, we rearranged the governance structure to clarify, facilitate, and hasten decision making across the landscape of development projects. To facilitate, we had to get various stakeholders from all kinds of functions such as sourcing, marketing, sales and product management on board.

While the project was originated in product development, you cannot operate in a silo; furthermore, we aligned with stakeholders to ensure this was a solution everybody can tune into. From time to time, that makes the job as a consultant in this field almost like being an interpreter: You must understand the needs of other functions and sometimes translate between the different languages and bridge borders between them.

I had the great pleasure of leading a team of two bright-minded consultants, Josefin and Lisa. Josefin is from the Stockholm office and Lisa, like me, is from Berlin. It was a great experience to work in this intercultural setting in the lovely outskirts of Stockholm. Also, we had the pleasure to visit the Polish site of the company in beautiful Wroclaw – yet again, another cross-cultural experience that I very much enjoyed. Virtually, we connected with the sites in the US and China. Finding calendar slots to cover all time zones is quite a challenge to begin with!

Seeing the differences in working cultures between all those locations was simply fascinating. Even before the Corona pandemic hit, I learned a lot about virtual teams and leadership from our client. Some of their development teams literally range over the whole planet and they make it work! Here you can see clearly that it's not only us consulting our clients, but that it is a two-sided learning journey – one that continues every single day and makes me love my job so much!

At some point in the project, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us into our home offices across the globe. I was worried about continuing to effectively lead my team and the client project. We had quite some work ahead of us including some workshops that were meant to happen in the client's beautiful conference location on their farm (yes, they have a farm!) with face to face interaction, sketching ideas on a physical whiteboard and sociable coffee breaks – things that were suddenly out of reach. But it turned out: With this great group of people we could make it work! With clear workshop rules, disciplined time keeping, regular coffee breaks, digital whiteboards, effective presentation material and mindful listening we got to reach our goals no matter from where.

My team and I stuck together strongly across the project duration – always looking out for one another. That's one of the things I like most about my job; asides, the challenging, stimulating work, you have a strong and reliable team. For instance, we all tried to balance work between us as evenly as possible, jumping in when one of us had to shoulder more than others. Treating ourselves with some dedicated team time in wonderful Stockholm and – guilty as charged – some good ol' IKEA hot dogs on the way home (when in Sweden…) were the pleasures of the time on site. From remote, some virtual aperitif and regular video conferencing kept us close.

To conclude, my final remark to the obvious particularity of this project: a women-only project in engineering. I do admit that this is not the most ordinary staffing in technical assignments like this. But, the three of us were clearly the most fitting, qualified team for the project and the gender was only a side effect. This project was a wonderful opportunity for me to engage and contribute to the development of strong, bright female consultants as well – among countless other great things. Do not hesitate to contact me if you'd like to know more about the life as a consultant at Roland Berger, no matter which gender, origin and background, I'm happy to get to know you!

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