VP R&D International at The Kraft Heinz Company, formerly R&D at Unilever
What do you look for in food tech entrepreneurs?
In general, I am looking for the “spark”. Which is the idea and insight in an area of opportunity, paired with a solid thinking on how to bring this great idea to life and what impact it should create. Mindset plays a large role here – a “can do” attitude, an open mind towards partnerships, and a clear view onto priorities is key. I am absolutely impressed by the new generation of entrepreneurs, who seem to be so rounded and mature. I get a lot of energy from talking to Startups and young business founders.
How do you balance your family life and professional career?
I believe in an integrated model with flexibility on all ends. There are a few non-negotiables for me: having breakfast with my sons before they go to school and having dinner together at least 2 – 3 times during the week (unless I travel, which did not happen in the recent period due to Covid). These meal occasions with my family are very important to me, as these are moments to talk and reflect on the day. For the rest, I juggle like any other full-time working parent. Being organized and planning in advance and being flexible when the unexpected things happen like a child being sick, a last-minute presentation to be done, or the kitchen stove breaking down and preventing that the kids have to live off pizza for days and days…. I don’t mind turning on my laptop in the evenings and have learned over the years to protect my “me-time”. Which basically means I try to do sports on a regular basis, read a few pages in one of the 4-5 books I am usually reading in parallel, and take care of my social network. Key is that I make choices on what I want to spend my time on, and where my impact can be biggest – our world if full of opportunities!
What was a unique place you lived in? How did it shape you?
I had the benefit of having lived in a number of amazing places. For example, for 1.5 years I was based in Moscow with regular trips to Yekaterinburg. There I worked with wonderful people who have taught me many things – one being that discipline and hard work pays off. The R&D team I was working with did not speak any English when we first started collaborating, and I had to rely on the skills of a translator, which was challenging at times. Within 12 months, the full team of 40+ individuals managed to become fluent in English, based on commitments and time dedicated in their evenings. And my level of Russian stayed at very basic, which left me feeling uneasy in comparison to my colleagues’ achievements. Another truly shaping experience was the 3 years we have spent in Turkey / Istanbul as a family. Turkish hospitality paired with the food and culture is something I try to embrace in my German culture – truly something to learn from.