Interview with Ann Kaufmann-de Smet

A Role Model in Tech at Siemens Switzerland

Ann Kaufmann-de Smet, Product Manager at Siemens

Please introduce yourself!

My name is Ann Kaufmann and I am working for Siemens Switzerland. I’m already part of the company for more than 10 years actually and I have had several roles over these years. There I started working as a product manager in the area of Siemens that takes care of buildings. So everything, which is related to building technologies. I started with fire detectors, so all these devices that you see on the ceiling. There I started in the software area, so the software that overlooks basically the fire detectors or all other appliances in the building. For the last couple of years, I’m working more within digitalization, where we take software, put it in the cloud and sell it as a service to our customers.

Why have you chosen a career in tech?

That’s a very good question, and it’s not always so easy to answer exactly. But what I still remember from so many years back is that I wanted to understand how things worked. So, why is a car driving forward and how do things really work? Therefore it was quite obvious for me to go for engineering studies. And that’s how I’ve then basically landed a career in tech and started my job in this area.

So you studied engineering and you stick to it throughout your career.

Exactly, I studied engineering and I actually started working as an R&D person in a company that developed so these wafer chips.

And what do you like about your job today?

Of course, there are several aspects that I like about my job.

So the first thing that I really want to highlight is digitalization. Because everybody talks about digitalization, but what does it exactly mean? So in my job, I feel that digitalization has an impact on everything. It’s not only about cloud, it’s not only about IoT that we talk about. But it’s really how we do things differently in our daily work. So it might be a tool that we get to make our work more efficient. Or, it’s how our salespeople approach the customer in the end, how they sell the products and services. It is very interesting to see this journey and also to be part of this journey.

So that’s the first thing, the digitalization, the buzzword and at the same time being able to be part of it and see this transformation.

The second thing, as I said at the beginning, I have had several roles within Siemens Switzerland. In all roles I really have the feeling that I can work on products and services that make an impact. All products and applications or services are used globally, so that’s also very interesting to see, the things that you are doing, they are moving and it’s not only here in this small nitty gritty Switzerland. In the end, it’s used all across the globe, and that’s really attractive.

So this empowerment to feel that I can do the things that I like to do the way I do it, and the trust of the management in me is really helpful and empowering.

Why should other women choose a career in tech from your point of view?

For me, a career in tech does not necessarily mean that you are coding or programming. And that’s often what people understand when we talk about careers in tech. Or when you ask what it means when someone is working with computers. But that’s not the case. So careers in tech are very, very diverse, and there are so many different options open. Of course, it can be programming, but it can also mean having a management position in a tech company. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are only coding. You can also take care of people and you have all the other options that you have in a non-tech company. And the second aspect, which is very important to take into account, is when we talk about tech, people tend to think it’s very male-dominated. It is male-dominated, but it does not mean that we women can’t do it. We can achieve exactly the same as men, we might do it differently, that’s another aspect, but we can do it, there is no doubt about it.

And that brings me to the next topic! Why is it so important to have diversity in tech?

When you work, you hardly do things alone. So most of the time it’s teamwork. Even if it’s a management position you will do it together with someone you will do it as a team. And this team should be diverse.

Because the best ideas are generated by a diverse team. One person might generate an idea, but it will be improved with the visions and inputs from all the other people in the team. And these inputs they should be divergent. They should come from different types of people, introverted, extroverted, analytical and creative minds. And that’s why it’s so important to have diverse teams. To take ideas and improve these ideas as a team. That’s how you get the best out of solutions for problems. The final result will be much better than when everybody is the same within the team.

What makes it so exciting to work at Siemens?

I am working on a global level, so that means it’s a very international environment and it’s very enriching for me to get in touch with so many interesting and different personalities.

The second thing is empowerment. I really feel empowered by my colleagues and by my management. I have the responsibility to make sure that the work that I have to do is done, but it is my choice to decide how I do it, and with whom I do it when I do it. So I can decide upon my working schedule. I can work from home. Either, I can work in the company or from somewhere else where I think I’m most productive. I can do it early mornings or late evenings. The flexibility and this empowerment are something I treasure a lot.

And of course, working for a big company means that you can develop your opportunities at any time. You will definitely have different opportunities to take your next career step. And you will find many opportunities in such a big company.

Last question, what is your best career advice?

I try to phrase it in just one statement, which is very challenging. So I have chosen this statement:

Choose a job that suits your own purpose and give your best in that job. Tell your network about your achievements and actively network. This will bring the next opportunity to you.

Thank you Ann for this insightful interview!

Siemens Switzerland is committed to walk the diversity talk. They have taken action to reach tangible results to increase diversity in their tech teams. Learn more about their commitments here.

*The interview has been recorded and transcribed.