Judith, site manager in Düsseldorf
Judith, you've been with the company since 2013. Tell us how it all began for you.
"I made a conscious decision to join a family business after completing my studies in industrial engineering with a focus on logistics. I could hardly imagine being one of many in a large corporation and therefore started the trainee program at Schnellecke. The various stations of the program took me from Wolfsburg to Duisburg to Hamburg. After the assignment in Hamburg, I left the trainee program early because I was offered a good position in Duisburg. So I went back and became head of packaging planning. Looking back, I am very grateful for this opportunity and that the site manager at the time recognized my potential. After all, I was fresh out of university, so to speak."
There were certainly big challenges coming your way. What happened next?
"Over the course of the next few months, the site manager gave me the confidence I needed and supported me. And then, after only six months, I was promoted to administrative lead. At no point was there any discussion about whether I might be too young or too inexperienced, or that I was a woman who might have a harder time in a male-dominated logistics industry. On the contrary, I had my supporter who was fully behind me from the start and communicated that quite openly."
You didn't stay in Duisburg, how did the journey continue?
"One evening I got a call from my site manager. He said, "Judith, as of tomorrow, you're taking over the management of the Cologne site as a sick leave replacement for an indefinite period." No sooner said than done. That's how I made it from trainee to business unit manager within two years."
That's an impressive achievement. What was your first impression when you came to Cologne and how did the employees at the site react?
"I didn't bang the door down, but first approached the new situation cautiously. The employees at the site knew better than I did what needed to be done in detail, so I depended on their close cooperation. Cologne was a small location, which was very advantageous for me. I was able to quickly get an overview and learn about the individual processes through my coworkers.
A year after I started in Cologne, I was drawn back to Duisburg and took over as site manager there. That wasn't easy, since many employees still knew me as a trainee or department manager. Now I was the supervisor of everyone at a very large site. That and a few cultural aspects were challenging.
However, I was only here for one year, because in 2018 the new Düsseldorf site was opened, which I have been managing ever since. It was always a wish of mine to help build up a site from second zero, and I now got that chance."
When you see a location "grow up," you must feel proud. What do you particularly like about Düsseldorf?
"Düsseldorf is a location where neither gender nor origin or culture play a role. We've been meeting as equals since the beginning, and I'm very proud of that. I can fortunately say of this location that I don't encounter any particular challenges here because I'm a woman."
Now you're not only the site manager, but you've also been a mother for a few months. How do you combine family and career?
"I have to admit that being a mother has shifted my priorities somewhat. Overall, I've become more relaxed and at ease and put less pressure on myself. Anyone who has children knows that it can take longer in the morning or that you have to spontaneously pick up your child because he or she gets sick. My flexible working hours and the option of working from home really help me in these moments. And of course my team at the site, which keeps the store under control even without my presence. I think that's the only way we manage to be attractive as an employer for women in management positions."
What do you particularly appreciate about Schnellecke as an employer?
"Despite its size, Schnellecke is still a family business. You have various freedoms within your department and, if you show the commitment, you get the chance to develop professionally, regardless of your level of education. I also really appreciate the fact that Schnellecke faces up to the challenges of modern times, whether it's digitalization, climate neutrality or the topic of women@schnellecke."