“Female Talents Program” is a collaboration of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), with IBM and Bosch, with the objective of offering female talents more insights into our companies and help them plan their future career. In the recent years, our focus was on mentoring to connect the students with female role-models at IBM and to offer them guidance during their studies. One of the former participants of the program, Svenja Mauthe, was hired as a PhD in our Research Lab in IBM Switzerland. In this interview, Svenja shares her experience on the program.
What attracted you to join IBM?
After one intense day in an assessment center, IBM and Bosch, partners of KIT, decided which applicants they would like to mentor individually. I was very lucky to have been selected by IBM.
From my point of view, IBM offers an incredible work environment because IBM has pure, and famous research facilities and not only R&D. Hence, I got fascinated by pursuing research in an industrial environment. Moreover, IBM covers the entire spectrum from hardware to cognitive solutions. One can experience many different areas and realize how research can be the decisive differentiator for future businesses and technological developments.
Besides the different research activities, IBM’s international working environment and atmosphere made an excellent impression on me. From discussions with my mentor and visits to the different labs, I got insights into the values and culture of IBM and IBM Research.
How did you perceive IBM before joining the company?
Before joining IBM, I knew IBM – probably as most people – from the ThinkPad and the cashier system in our supermarket. Of course, I was aware of the scientific achievements the IBM labs were famous for (Nobel Prizes). I read online about the research IBM is pursuing and the areas IBM is active in. First, I was not sure what to expect from research in an industrial environment; however, I was more than pleasantly surprised when I first visited the laboratory in Zurich. I was impressed by the people, the infrastructure (have you heard of the state-of-the-art BRNC?), the equipment, and the unique capabilities.
How was your start at IBM?
My start at IBM was very good and I received a lot of support from the beginning. I got introduced to the team and we discussed current projects and what I would like to work on. In the end, I received the opportunity of working on an independent project which comprised many research steps. I was guided and mentored by my colleagues and we had many stimulating discussions. My colleagues were extremely open, friendly, and cooperative – a reason to stay longer and do a PhD here.
The onboarding procedure was fairly easy, however, of course, I also experienced the regulations and processes of a big company with many rules and detailed guidelines you have to follow.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My experience in the ‘Female Talents Program’ was exceptional and I highly recommend it to every woman who has the opportunity to participate. During one year of mentoring, many workshops, guided visits, and discussions with successful women in different fields and different management levels, I gained deep insights in company cultures and career possibilities, and received valuable advice for my daily work life. Moreover, personal discussions with my mentor – Martina (Tina) von dem Bussche (IBM Böblingen) – were extremely beneficial and inspiring.
The most valuable insight I received was the opportunity to talk to researchers in many different fields. Seeing how a career can evolve and develop in an industrial environment starting with a university degree was very motivating; learning about their daily research work was fascinating.
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