IT Portfolio Manager Interview with Sabine Harder

Sabine Harder came to the IT unit as the result of a career change. In this interview, the mother of two talks about the variety of tasks within the IT unit and how she manages both a family and her career.

Hello Ms. Harder, please introduce yourself briefly to our readers.

My name is Sabine Harder. I trained as an office communication assistant at a company with a workforce of six people. After two brief interim steps I ended up at Daimler in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, where I am now responsible for the portfolio management of the finance controlling projects in IT.

Why did you choose Daimler as your employer?
I always say that I'm a “child of Daimler”. My grandparents, uncle, aunts and my father all work or worked at Daimler, and so I've more or less grown up with the three-pointed star. For me personally, it was a decision in favor of a secure job and a tangible product.

Please describe your career at Daimler – from the first day in the company until today.
I joined the company on December 1, 2000 as secretary to a head of department in IT at the Mettingen plant. After having my first child and taking a year off work I had the opportunity to take on a colleague's position, which was my first step toward the field of performance management/departmental controlling. Since (almost) my entire career had been spent working in IT or IT-related functions, child number 2 was followed by two years spent doing something completely different. Together with a small project team, I implemented a system to support our departmental controlling function. Our department was restructured in 2010. This change gave me the opportunity to shape the structure of the new department from a controlling perspective, and put the experience I had gained to good use. Last year, after four years, I applied for a newly created position within our department, and since then I have held overall, unit-wide responsibility for the planning of processes including system support for the prioritization of the specialist departments' demands on us as an IT function. December marked my 15th anniversary of working at Daimler, and I am still learning something new every day.

Please tell us more about your team and your current position.

As the Center of Competence for Business Intelligence and Big Data, our department is the point of contact for the Finance & Controlling specialist units for all matters relating to reporting, analysis and planning. Our applications are generally based on transactional systems. Although I'm not a "true" IT person, I have become familiar with the jargon and the demands placed on IT at our company. Mine is a conventional cross-divisional function that is primarily aimed at creating transparency regarding the projects planned at the individual Finance & Controlling units, and lays the groundwork for the essential prioritization work due to limited IT capacity. There are currently plans to introduce a new process, which adds to the challenge of my function. There are a lot of interfaces with other processes and Business Partners that need to be coordinated. Of course the various specialist units and IT experts also contribute their perspectives and have to be brought on board. Every day is different. What I like about my job is that I work with a lot of different people, gain insights into different projects, and learn a lot about the structures at our company in the process.

How do you manage to juggle both your family and your career? How does Daimler help you?
This is a difficult subject every now and then, and working full time with two children (aged 11 and 8) means it is often a challenge to do right by everyone – and also meet my own expectations. On the one hand there is my career, which I enjoy and in which I would like to do my best. But at the same time I would like to take part in a school trip once in a while, or see the joy on my kids' faces when mom is already home at midday. Based on my own experience, all I can say is that Daimler is an employer that makes a lot of things possible. The flexitime system allows for a lot of leeway, and my managers have also always been very understanding if I only stay in the office until midday on a Friday or come in later on a Monday. But part-time arrangements and working from home also offer a lot of options. This meant that I was able to start back again after the birth of my second daughter working ten hours a week, two of which were from home. These hours, and getting a taste of the various subject areas, made me eager for more. Before I could never have imagined working full-time with children. Of course my family has to take a back seat when things get hectic at work, but I also know that it can work the other way around as well. It's a matter of give and take.

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