Project Manager, Key Account Manager and Feel Good Manager: Daniela Snyders fulfills a lot of different roles at Daimler. For the European lighthouse project "Future Living Berlin", she is currently developing and testing an innovative car-sharing concept with her colleagues in the so-called "smart lab". In an interview, the 40-year-old tells us how we want to see and develop mobility in the future, what she loves about rally driving, and why it is worth investing in plants for the office.
Ms. Snyders, you are involved in a lot of different areas at Daimler. How would you describe yourself?
I have a lot of different interests. Monotony is not my thing. At Daimler, I have the opportunity to do what I enjoy, to live in my job, and to share my inspiration with others. I have a passion for working on the mobility of tomorrow. Our current project, "Future Living Berlin" , is a good example of this. An innovative residential estate with 70 apartments, 20 boarding house studios and 11 commercial units has been built in Berlin-Adlershof. The digital solutions of various different project partners were used, from the building technology to mobility facilities. The first residents are already moving in in February. A highly diverse community of families, couples, singles and seniors is being created.
And one of these digital solutions is the car sharing concept that you and your team developed in the "smart lab"?
Exactly. Daimler is supplying the residents with five electric smart EQ fortwo and smart EQ forfour vehicles. Equipped with our commercial, station-based car sharing service "fleetshare by smart", the vehicles can be booked digitally and also opened and locked using a smart phone. We are particularly interested in how, when and why our car sharing vehicles are used. This information will allow us to research trends for the residents' future usage patterns and the mobility of tomorrow together with our colleagues in the Society & Mobility PIONEERING unit, who are also partners in the project.
If our job makes us happy and challenges us, we can develop and exploit our full potential.
And how do you think we will all get about in the future?
There will be a wide range of services on offer – with car sharing being just one solution among many. Mobility will become more diverse, and the services more customizable, I think. In the "smart lab", we mainly work on ideas to make urban life simpler and more convenient.
How do you work in your team?
The "smart lab" was launched in 2015 as a small, agile project group. We are now part of a larger department in which every employee is involved in one way or another with digital solutions for the smart and Mercedes-Benz brands. Digitization calls for completely new approaches and ways of working. The exciting thing is that everyone is responsible for their own topic, from the idea through to implementation. Depending on the project, this means that we can end up working with a wide range of internal and external units.
Who is on your team?
The colleagues who work here have a very wide range of professional backgrounds, such as sales and marketing, product management, design, and IT. When we are looking for new team members, attitude is often more important than professional background. This is an approach that Daimler will also put into practice throughout the company in the future with its "Best Fit" leadership initiative. We can only develop and perform at our best if we do a job that matches our strengths, makes us happy, and challenges us. It goes without saying that the person also has to fit in with the team. Anyone who has no sense of fun is in the wrong place here. [laughs]
When we are looking for new team members, attitude is often more important than professional background.
That fits well with the fact that, as a Feel Good Manager, you make sure that your colleagues are doing OK. What issues does this involve?
It varies a lot. Whether or not a person is happy in their job often depends on small things. It starts with extending a welcome to new team members, and continues with the working conditions. One of my projects involved redesigning our offices. For this I worked closely with our colleagues at me@work. This is a Daimler initiative that is about creating flexible workspaces that suit our employees' individual needs.
That's quite a challenge. What was your solution?
With more spaces for working as a team on the one hand, and places employees can withdraw to on the other. Everyone should be able to choose the right workplace for their current needs at all times. Not only does this boost satisfaction, but also performance. By the way, did you know that just having plants in an office increases productivity by 15 percent? That was the finding of a study conducted by a British team of researchers led by the scientist Marlon Nieuwenhuis from Cardiff University. Health in the workplace is another topic we work on that I am very interested in. I work with a colleague to organize and plan regular "mindfulness breaks" in the lunch break, with meditation and qi gong exercises. Interest in these kinds of services directly in the workplace is growing every year.
At Daimler, I have the opportunity to do what I enjoy, to live in my job, and to share my inspiration with others.
Why did you choose Daimler as your employer?
I have always found enjoyment in cars. I come from a family of car enthusiasts. My father worked in the automotive industry for many years, as did the family of my aunt and uncle, who run a car dealership. Daimler has a global reputation as a premium brand for vehicles and mobility. In 2008, when I received the offer to work in a central project management office at Daimler Trucks, I didn't need to think for long. I was given the opportunity to work in a wide range of areas – including internationally. I spent over a year, for example, working for Daimler Trucks in Portland,Oregon in the US. I just love the variety.
How did you come to take part in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles in 2012 with the Mercedes-Benz Team?
That was of course a particular highlight that I will never forget. The Aicha des Gazelles is a rally for women in Morocco that has been held for almost thirty years. It lasts nine days, and covers a 2,500-kilometer route through the Sahara desert. I was chosen from among just under 230 applicants at Daimler to be one of four participants. One of the challenges of the race is the navigation. Only a compass and black-and-white maps are allowed. The team that takes the shortest route between the checkpoints within the allotted time wins. Teamwork is essential, as is the ability to calmly plan your next move – for example if the car is stuck in sand or shingle, or if you need to repair a hole in the differential gear using soap and tape. I am truly grateful that Daimler gave me the chance me to have this incredibly exciting and informative experience.
And finally, a personal question: It's 8.30 p.m. on Saturday.Where can you be found?
I also love variety in my spare time. I can be found here in Stuttgart, in a good restaurant, at the theater, or practicing yoga. I also enjoy hiking, biking and skiing with my partner. The main thing is that it's always something different [laughs].
Personal details: Daniela Snyders (41) Joined Daimler in 2008, and has been involved with the set-up of the "smart lab" since 2015. The business management graduate grew up with the subject of mobility. Even as a child, her favorite thing to do was to play with her cousins in her relatives' car dealership. Today she is a project manager, often gives opening speeches and presentations at symposiums, and also privately is always looking for the next challenge. Whether it's traversing a mountain pass in Nepal, driving in a rally through the Moroccan desert, or mountain biking in South Tyrol: for Daniela Snyders, the most important thing is that what she is doing is exciting and fun.