Dear Renate, you have been with Faktor Zehn for 15 years now, co-founded the company and are currently the only female Managing Partner. We are delighted to be able to interview you today.
Let’s start at the beginning: What made you decide to study computer science and start working in IT?
After high school I actually wanted to study computer science straight away. What motivated me to do so was above all the fascination for new things and basically the interest in mathematical and scientific questions. At that time, studying computer science was still a very fresh subject. It was to take years before home computers became widespread and decades before the Internet was introduced.
Since my parents’ financial means were limited and their image of women was still based on the assumption that their daughter, as a future wife, would not be working for long, I did not receive any support for my wish to study computer science. Therefore, I first completed my training as a qualified legal clerk at the Bavarian Civil Service University of Applied Sciences and then started to work in this profession. But I quickly realized that this was not mine and then I started to study computer science. To finance it, I was able to earn money during the semester breaks with the programming skills I had acquired.
What do you like about computer science?
On the one hand, computer science includes tasks that require logical thinking and the ability to think abstractly. On the other hand, it also produces concrete results for practical use. I also like the fact that it is always necessary to think “outside the box” and to deal with the users’ technical subject matter.
In addition, computer science never stands still. New developments require lifelong learning and always bring new possibilities and challenges. One example: I entered my first program – I admit it was a long time ago – on punched cards on the mainframe when I started my computer science studies, but today we are moving towards running the development infrastructure in the cloud.
Here’s a little jump in your story: What was it like to create the Faktor Zehn? How did it come about?
The original idea came from three colleagues who asked me if I wanted to participate. It was quite a leap. At the beginning it was of course not clear whether the project would be successful. We started from scratch. It took me a long time to think about it, but now I’m totally happy that I did it. The starting phase was definitely an experience – on the one hand the daring (we made some very provisional arrangements to get ahead), on the other hand the strong team spirit.
Were there any particular turning points in your career that shaped you and from which you learned especially?
One major turning point was, of course, as I just mentioned, moving from employment to founding a company, the factor ten. At Faktor Zehn there were also some profound changes afterwards, e.g. the merger with ConVista. In my project work I had some nice successes, but I also look back on difficult phases.
For your career, these turning points mean that you are challenged to accept and help shape change. Especially when developments do not go according to plan, it is important to look ahead and tackle them in order to develop a new role that fits and in which you can be successful.
What experiences have you had as a woman in the IT world and software development?
From the beginning of my professional life I have experienced that there are relatively few women in the IT sector. At Faktor Zehn there were even phases from time to time when I was the only one. Fortunately, we are far from that today, but we women are still clearly in the minority. At Faktor Zehn we would like to employ more women, but unfortunately there are relatively few applicants.
To be honest, in times of shortage of skilled workers, the entire IT industry in this country urgently needs the skills of women. Moreover, interruptions in working life to bring up children are no longer reserved for women alone. Even if we then miss the colleagues in the project, I am therefore pleased when a (male) colleague takes parental leave.
Personally, I am very satisfied with my career, so I cannot complain of any disadvantages as a woman. In the meantime I am also open about the fact that I have a partner without having experienced negative reactions.
Thank you for your frankness – Now for the last question: What can you give young women on their way into the IT world?
IT suits women! If you enjoy it, then do it! An exciting, challenging and varied professional life awaits you.
To all women who are already working in IT, and those who are on their way: be confident and demanding and let’s work together to make the IT industry more feminine.
Thank you very much for the interview!