A warning light flickers on behind the steering wheel: the water needs topping up. Few know how much expertise and regulations go into this notification. Sandra Hofmeister and Dr. Vanessa Luetkebohmert manage these warnings at Mercedes-Benz. In an interview, they told us how they do it, and why they always look forward to Thursdays.
Hello you two, please introduce yourselves briefly to our readers.
Sandra: My name is Sandra Hofmeister. I studied Sociology and Empirical Cultural Studies in Tuebingen. I have been working for Daimler since 2001. I started in a two-year trainee program, before transferring to the team working on the operation and display concepts and HMI (Human Machine Interaction) for the instrument clusters. Before Daimler I worked for a software company.
Vanessa: Hello everyone, my name is Vanessa Luetkebohmert. I studied mathematics for business in Ulm. I then spent a year working as a software developer in the UK, before joining Daimler in August 2007 where I gained my doctorate in test technology. My doctorate related to the automated generation of test scripts. I worked in test management for ten years, and have spent the last year working in warning and information management.
What happens in Warning and Information Management (WIM)?
Sandra: You know the tank reserve indicator that tells you to refuel soon? That's the exact kind of warning and information that I deal with. At WIM it's all about displaying warning indicators at the right time, for the right length of time, and in the right sequence. That means that I clear up questions such as: Does it make sense for a warning indicator to light up, is a warning even necessary, and what priority should be given to the warning indicator? Or what color should the indicator be? These decisions require a set of rules for the display of warnings to be based on.
Vanessa: And that's exactly what I do. In the rules, I describe the properties of the indicators. We draw a distinction between operation feedback, which shows the customer that the system has recognized that a button has been pressed, and conventional warning indicators such as the water level indicator. There are of course also special cases, such as the well-known acoustic seat belt warning.
What do you like about working for Daimler?
I think it's great how Daimler never stops evolving. We appreciate the modern work culture. It feels good to come into the office in the morning because we have great colleagues, and we work interactively, independently and creatively. It is a huge privilege to work on the latest technologies. It is a proud feeling to see the results of your work in the vehicle and be able to say "I did that". We have to say in all honesty that we think our vehicles are just great!
And now could you please tell us why you always look forward to Thursdays?
Because that's when we see each other! [Both laugh]. We both work part-time. Daimler offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to part-time work and working from home, which allows us to strike a balance between our families and careers. Thursday is the day when we sit together in the office and talk to each other. We always look forward to it a lot.
So how does it work if you only see each other one day a week?
We have to be well-organized. We have learned to work transparently and plan well. A structured approach helps, supported by Daimler's very good IT function.