Professionals at Voith
Team lead of commercial project management, Voith Hydro
“I can have children and have an active career.”
For Tanja Böhringer, having children and a career go together extremely well. In an interview, the team leader in commercial project management at Voith Hydro and mother of two small children discusses the various challenges and how she masters them.
You’re a manager and the mother of two small children. How do you manage to balance work and Family?
Extremely well, actually! It already worked very well after my first child, a daughter, was born. I work part time and my husband and I share childcare duties. We worked it out so that I go into the office really early and he takes the children to the sitter or daycare. I take care of picking them up in the afternoon. We also have a lot of support from our families and have grown into a well-honed team. Of course it’s always a balancing act between husband, babysitter, family, and daycare. Besides having the right situation in the company, it also required good organization to keep my mind truly free for the job. That required more self discipline, time management, and priority-setting than ever before. Time is simply a limited resource. And of course when a child is sick or teething and the nights don’t go so well, it’s also more difficult. But overall the positive outweighs the negative. For me, that means I can have children and an active career.
That sounds like real enthusiasm for your job. . .
Absolutely! I’m a mother with all my heart and at the same time my job is also important to me. I earned a degree and built a career. I want to continue building that career. And as a team leader in commercial project management at Voith Hydro, I have a job that really excites me.
What exactly are your tasks and responsibilities?
I lead a team of up to nine employees. That means I’m responsible for technical and supervisory management. Our team has full responsibility for all the commercial aspects of generating offers and processing orders for electromechanical equipment for hydroelectric plants – specifically in Africa, Europe, and some in India and Asia. That means we take care of financial and legal issues, insurance aspects, cash matters, and setting up the payment conditions. Then we provide commercial support of the projects during contract fulfillment. We are the customer contact for commercial issues. So what I do is innovative, multifaceted, and extremely exciting – especially for me as a business economist. Production is always customized to customer requirements – it’s not series production.
How does Voith help you maintain work/life balance?
In several ways. For one thing, my job can be done part time, in combination with flexible working hours. I have great deal of support and respect from my superiors and from my team. As a team leader, I do have certain times that I need to be in the office for my employees. From the very beginning, I stated very clearly what times I would be on site. If something should happen outside those hours, I can always be reached by cell phone. One exception is in the evening before my children go to bed. Because they’re still very small, it’s important to me to have one or two hours quality time with them, time that I devote exclusively to them. Then I don’t answer the cell phone, for example. And that works very well. My employees and superiors handle it well. They call only when something is really urgent. Being able to work from home is also extremely helpful. For emergencies, Voith provides a parent-child room, a separate office so you can bring your child along on occasion. I haven’t had to use that so far. But it helps to know that it’s there if I need it. Voith also provides childcare in its “Kindervilla” kindergarten and its “Kinderwelt” daycare, with extremely flexible hours that are great help to families. Due to logistics, I ultimately placed my daughter in daycare where I live and my son with a sitter. I would also like to add that men can easily take parental leave at Voith. That has changed somewhat in the company over the years.
What advice would you offer young women?
The fact is that every woman must find her own path. I have found mine. What I have found very helpful is clear communication. I expressed my ideas and sought agreement. So my superiors and my team had an opportunity to consider my point of view and, together with me, find a way that works for everyone. I also think that it’s important to work out with your partner early on how family responsibilities will be shared to enable both of you to pursue your career goals. And my children benefit from my working. Their mom is just more balanced!
Thank you, Ms. Böhringer, and we wish you continued success and happiness.