Having completed her apprenticeship as a certified insurance and finance agent, the 22-year-old Ilsabe Illemann is at the beginning of her career. At HDI she has already successfully taken responsibility for a subproject of her own in the role of Product Owner. In the following interview, she reveals why she enjoys being in charge and whether things are different for women embarking on their career.
Directly after my Abitur (German A-Levels), I wanted to start an apprenticeship and then decide which career path to pursue afterwards. As opposed to a university degree, this allowed me to get some hands-on experience right from the beginning. The HDI Group offered me extensive opportunities to specialise and grow after my apprenticeship as a certified insurance and financial agent. I was able to get to know a wide range of departments in the course of my apprenticeship. Now, I'm working in an IT-related project environment and I have started my bachelor’s degree as an extra-occupational study program. My hands-on experience as an apprentice helps me to understand the needs of the business departments and communicate them to the project teams.
Yes, with pleasure. I graduated from the vocational school as the best student of the year. I also passed The Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) exam very well. Alongside the in-company work and school education, I’ve invested the odd evening hour as well. As part of my apprenticeship, I also helped to develop an internal talent program called "Top11" together with another apprentice and two dual students. That’s why I’m pleased, that the effort paid off and I was included in the programme after my apprenticeship. Just like in a football team, the eleven best students and trainees of a year are selected from all around Germany. The programme is all about fostering young talent. Among other things, I was already able to take away several exciting ideas about digitalisation and management from the Top11 development programme. Additionally, the programme enabled me to do some good networking through mentors and other participants within the HDI Global.
I enjoy actively shaping my corporate environment and I am happy to take on responsibility. Freedom to act on my own initiative is very important to me. I am particularly proud when I can motivate and perhaps even inspire my colleagues through my work.
Why not do the same as a manager?
I admire people who come up with creative new problem-solving approaches and have the courage to act on them accordingly – even at the risk of failing from time to time. This is a trait that many successful CEOs in the tech sector have in common.
In addition, I’ve always looked up to strong women as role models.
Especially women who take responsibility and empower others to do the same.
After my apprenticeship I started at HDI Global, the HDI Group's industrial insurer. My work is exclusively focussed on different kinds of projects. Thanks to the agile approach of the projects, I can work in a self-directed manner and decide a lot autonomously – that's something I enjoy very much. In one project, I was responsible for a whole sub area by myself. In my role as a Product Owner, it's important for me to keep an eye on the bigger picture and bring together various people and competencies. The work in my team confirms that diverse and cross-functional teams produce better outcome because you can elaborate the best solution considering many different opinions and abilities. It fills me with pride when the project work carried out by my team is successful and we can accomplish the various small and large milestones together.
In our organisation I personally never had the feeling that the career start for women is different than for men. I rather have the impression that awareness of diversity is growing even stronger, not least thanks to the support from our management. But us women, we also must be confident and take initiative ourselves. Women are often described as more cautious and self-critical than men. I catch myself quite often presenting results only if I am 110% sure of them. That's why it is important to find mentors who share helpful tips and authentic feedback. Those who are prepared tend to be lucky: If I continuously make efforts to grow, I’m prepared to tackle every opportunity that comes my way. And it could also cause more opportunities to arise.