People at Krones: Michaela Sperl – women in top managerial positions

They’ve set themselves ambitious goals. With courage and self-confidence, they’re climbing the career ladder. They have senior positions, they manage staff, they organise, they lead: women who’ve made it to the top. Among all your friends and acquaintances, are there any women who are top managers? Perhaps a few – but certainly more than just 20 or 30 years ago.

The issue of equal opportunities for men and women is more socially and politically relevant than ever. In politics, of course, women at the top are no longer a rarity. After all, Germany is ruled by a woman in her third term of office. In the workplace world, too, the debate is ongoing. In the business community and company boardrooms, things are starting to move as well: the proportion of women in top jobs is rising. In 2010, it was 27.70 per cent. By way of comparison: in 1996, the proportion of women in top managerial positions was 21.8 per cent.

At Krones AG, too, there are some women who’ve carved out a high-flying career for themselves. One of them is Michaela Sperl, who in 2004 took overall charge of training at Human Resources Management. In this interview, she explains how her career developed and what she sees as important in this context.

Michaela Sperl, as a child you presumably had some other kind of job in mind?

Sure! As a child, I always wanted to be a policewoman. My father’s a policeman and I was always fascinated by the patrol car. I also associated the job with non-stop action. That’s what attracted me.

And what makes your present job a dream career?

It’s precisely this action. I’ve got that here as well, and that’s what makes it a dream career. I get to encounter an enormously disparate spectrum of career profiles and people. There are always huge new, complex challenges to meet and master. What I find particularly exciting is the strategic part of things. After all, when it comes to human resources, I have to be looking about five years ahead. So my job is very varied, and never gets boring. That’s exactly what I want, because I don’t like the idea of doing the same thing every day.

You’ve been with Krones for a long time now. So how did your career actually start?

I started off by training as an industrial clerk. I worked in the human resources department. But I realised quite early on that this by itself wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more. So I did some advanced training, and invested a lot of effort in advancing my career. Now, since 2004, I’ve had overall responsibility for training at Krones.

What do you think makes a good manager?

I think it’s important for your colleagues not to perceive you as their “boss”. We’re a closely-knit team here, and everyone is encouraged to contribute. I have to take the decisions, naturally, when it’s necessary. But then, of course, I also have to take responsibility for the consequences. I couldn’t manage my job all by myself; I need the whole team to help me.

What’s your advice to women who are targeting a top managerial job?

The most important thing is this: you have to genuinely want it! That’s why I’m totally against the idea of token women: if as a woman you want one of the top jobs, you must never lose heart and always have confidence in yourself. Success comes from being true to yourself. Being authentic. Affirming your identity as a women. Women have a lot to contribute that men don’t: they’re much better at putting themselves in other people’s places, for example. It’s important to recognise both your strengths and your weaknesses, no doubt about it.

As far as the work/life balance goes: well, I’m a mother too. Admittedly, that sometimes doesn’t make things any easier. My husband has to help out: we share the child-rearing and the housework. But I manage to stay on top of things both at work and at home!

And what is your advice for the trainees and interns at Krones in particular?

Actually, I see Krones as a kind of playing field. There are innumerable opportunities and remits here. What’s important is to embrace them, and keep your motivation levels high. Today, too, it’s vital that you keep on re-inventing yourself and never stop learning. And even more crucial: you have to enjoy what you’re doing!