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«Women have to be proactive»

Former detective constable, Katrin Tännler, has been working as a project manager in the Command and Control and Reconnaissance Systems specialist department since the beginning of the year. In this interview, she explains what she likes about mixed teams and how she established herself in a male-dominated environment.

HR Management, Irene Amacker

Brief profile

Portrait of Katrin Tännler.

Katrin Tännler is project leader in the Command and Control and Reconnaissance Systems specialist department.

Women at armasuisse

Last name

First name

Highest academic qualification

Joined armasuisse in

Working in current function since

Tännler

Katrin

Executive MBA

January 2020

January 2020

Katrin Tännler studying the modelling tool Enterprise Architect Modelling.
Katrin Tännler studying the modelling tool Enterprise Architect Modelling.

Ms Tännler, what motivated you to become a detective constable?

I have an identical twin that encouraged me to follow her in her dream career of being a police officer. We both started the training programme with the Baden-Württemberg riot police when we were 16. Later on, we specialised in different fields and pursued different career paths.

How did your career proceed afterwards?

I worked for a number of years as a police officer and detective constable, before completing a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and subsequently a Master’s degree in European Studies. These qualifications gave me the opportunity to work in such roles as a Security Expert at NATO and as an Investigator and Auditor for the European Commission in Brussels.

You have already had a number of great professional experiences…

My career is a good example that you no longer have to train for just one job. You start off in one area and then spend your entire life improving yourself and learning. I have always been interested in new things and was always looking for new challenges and doing the further training to overcome these challenges. I don’t have just one profession, but instead numerous different qualifications that together provide me with opportunities that were not apparent at the start of my career.

As a child and teenager, were you given special support in maths, IT, natural sciences and technology (MINT subjects)?

(laughs) My father – who has a degree in natural sciences – spent a countless number of evenings trying to help me better understand maths and natural sciences! I have to say “no” here, as I was more interested in history, languages and arts and design at school. My weakness in terms of figures first came to the fore in my professional life, particularly when I worked as an Investigator and Auditor. I am now no longer scared of numbers – in the Executive MBA degree program I recently completed, statistics was even one of my favourite subjects.

As a woman, what do you need to do to fit in in a male-dominated area such as defence equipment procurement?

Defence equipment procurement is a man’s world in many areas and is characterised by power games, fights over ranking in the hierarchy and territorial behaviour. I think that if women want to make themselves heard or position themselves professionally in this environment, they have to be able to understand the way in which men present themselves and communicate and be able to counter these by displaying competency, the willingness to learn, flexibility, a healthy amount of self-confidence and a great deal of strength. Personally, I find constantly acquiring new knowledge to be rewarding, be it technological, strategic or legal. 

How many women do you work together with?

I work in a male-dominated environment. We have a female colleague in the Project Management Office who provides our team with a great deal of support. There is also a female colleague from the Commercial Services specialist area in the project team. I am lucky to have these two. I really appreciate an encouraging smile on an exhausting day, the honest feedback and also the woman-to-woman conversations we have in passing – I won't reveal any secrets here.

Portrait of Katrin Tännler.
Portrait of Katrin Tännler.

And what do you think about mixed teams?

Do you mean “mixed” in terms of men and women, young and old, or perhaps between different cultures?

All of the above

The experience that I have gained working in different teams has shown me that teams containing both men and women are usually more considerate in the way in which they deal with one another and the mood is often more balanced than in groups solely consisting of men or women. And when you work in a team that is made up of people of many different ages, the young people and new hires benefit from the wisdom and professional experience of the older members of the team, while the “old hands” profit from the up-to-date knowledge and the verve of the younger team members.

I was lucky enough to be able to work for a long time on teams where some of my colleagues came from wide-ranging cultural backgrounds – this was definitely a big plus for me. You develop new ways of thinking, come up with different approaches and even become more creative. This has helped me in both my professional and personal lives.

What advice would you like to give to other women in terms of their careers?

All good things come in threes:

1.    Having a career as well as fulfilling your family and personal obligations

I am happily married and have three young children. Nevertheless, my family situation has not impeded my career. My organisational and planning skills allow me to carry out my job properly at all times.

2.    Proactivity is a trait in huge demand

It is past time that women do away with the traditional patterns of thought. “I have to be excellent so someone will notice me”. No, it is not enough to simply be excellent. In order to be successful in your professional life and show that you are a suitable candidate for promotion, women have to be proactive.

3.    Maintain networks with like-minded people

Women tend to try to be lone wolves. However, in order to ensure that you don’t fail as a result of setting too high expectations for yourself, it is extremely important that you discuss your experiences with others. It is important that you look for allies to achieve your personal career goals and build up a strategic network.