“Stay authentic”

12.02.2021 | Author: Katalina Farkas

She’s your mentor: Bettina Fetzer on her career path and female leadership.
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Bettina Fetzer on her career path and female leadership.

Bettina Fetzer is not a fan of taboos. Not as Vice President Marketing at Mercedes-Benz AG and not as the mentor on the second “She’s Your Mentor” session either. “I have a zero-filter policy – on everything. So, ask me whatever you want. We can speak openly about anything!” was her rallying cry to the five participants one late December afternoon just before Christmas. She had retreated to her office in Stuttgart-Möhringen for the digital get-together, despite the fact that normally – like almost all the other members of her team right now – she works mainly from home. “But there’s no peace and quiet there in the afternoon, especially once my son gets home from daycare,” she laughs. She then spent the next one and a half hours undisturbed with the participants, so that they could ask her all those questions weighing heaviest on their minds. And the participants came well prepared. After all, they had applied to take part in the discussion not just because they wanted to meet the Mercedes-Benz marketing expert, but also because they were hoping for valuable advice – for their own career development as well as for presenting themselves as authentic leaders in their professional lives.

How do you find your role in a team, what’s the best way to deal with mistakes, how do you make your voice heard – as the only woman in a room full of men? Or, how do you make demands on your co-workers, how do you establish yourself as a leader while at the same time not neglecting your family? The questions posed by the participants were just as diverse as the spectrum of experience they brought to the table. Becky, for instance, lives in London, works for a PR agency in the automotive sector, and repeatedly has to battle with an assumed lack of knowledge based on her age and gender. Livia is responsible for launching a new piece of software within her company, a Berlin waste management firm, which is presenting her with a number of challenges within her team, despite her position as acting team leader. The questions from both women centre largely on how to assert their respective positions – and how to progress their careers in sectors that are still traditionally male-dominated. Lydia approaches the topic of career from a predominantly scientific perspective. As a PhD student, she is researching how the management team at a pharmaceutical company in southern Germany handles talent management. She is primarily interested in how Bettina Fetzer deals with mistakes – within her team, but also within herself. On this, the marketing boss not only advises against dwelling too long on one’s own mistakes, but also quotes an Oasis classic with earworm potential: Don’t look back in anger.

Bettina Fetzer and the participants of her “She’s your mentor” session

Then there’s Lisa, who works for the German branch of a U.S. fashion group, heading up an international team of more than 250; and Orsolya, who manages communication for a Hungarian automotive supplier. They don’t just absorb, but also willingly share their own experiences – how they motivate their team, handle time management and, in Orsolya’s case, have taken into consideration and integrated the matter of family planning.

Bettina Fetzer spoke enthusiastically about her own experiences, augmented with advice and suggestions. She spoke of her own career path, consistently focused, motivating, and encouraging the participants to talk amongst themselves – she wanted to make the most of the 90 minutes, give the participants as much as she possibly could. Just like she would always seek – as she explained herself – to extract the very best from every situation.

A glance at her resume tells the same story: while working in her first post as a Sales Planning Analyst for smart, she saw a position that appealed to her even more – in the company’s communication department: “So, I applied for it, despite the fact that, on paper, I had no experience at all in the field.” She managed to convince her then boss to let her give it a go. And seven days into the trial period – the job was hers. “My boss later admitted that he was a bit concerned about my commitment,” she says with a laugh. “Thankfully, his curiosity got the better of him!” Shortly thereafter she moved to Mercedes-Benz Cars, where her roles included Head of Mercedes-Benz Business Communication and Head of Global Communication for Mercedes-Benz Cars. Today, in her position as marketing boss, she is responsible for the global internal and external positioning of Mercedes-Benz and the company’s products. “It really wasn’t my stated aim to climb up the career ladder as fast as possible, it really wasn’t. I’ve always been very inquisitive, have sought out new challenges whenever I could, and then worked on them as hard as I could.”

That’s also what she impressed upon the participants in the second “She’s Your Mentor” session. “Take the opportunities when they present themselves. Put your heart and soul into it – and make sure others also see your hard work and appreciate it for what it is.” And Bettina Fetzer wanted to leave them all with one more thing: “It may sound trivial, but stay true to yourself. Be bold. Stay authentic and don’t be afraid to show attitude. It’ll pay off.”

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