Interview with Quality Manager Stefanie Limbach

HDI Group ,
Female power in communal catering: Stefanie Limbach is a quality manager in Cologne. She describes the qualities and tenets that make it easier to pursue a career in a male domain.

As a quality manager in the catering universe, Stefanie Limbach does not herself carry any responsibility for other personnel. Yet the qualified nutritionist, whose executive staff position was created 20 years ago, does have the power to issue instructions to the kitchen staff. The disciplinary supervisor of the roughly 20 cooks, housekeepers and the QM expert is the kitchen manager. Before the pandemic the department had produced a good 1,200 lunches every day; the food options currently available are severely limited. As the 51-year-old sees it, managing quality means always keeping close tabs on everything – making sure that requirements are met to the letter, pointing out mistakes, requiring adjustments to be made and implementing new standards: "Even without all the strict conditions associated with the coronavirus, this role has the potential for more than a little conflict."


"It pays off to venture outside of your comfort zone!“

The first year, in particular, was "really tough", she explains. "Although I was able to shape the newly created position as I wanted, I (really) had to fight for my standing." One of the first lessons learned back then in her early thirties: through clear and concise messaging you get a lot further than with impeccable courtesy. The male employees were especially likely to give the newly minted graduate the run-around at times in the early days. When members of staff are testing just how far they can push things, a love of harmony is most definitely misplaced. "After all, asserting oneself also means confronting, dealing with conflicts and standing up to them." Swallowing one's feelings or keeping quiet is not an option, adds Stefanie Limbach, because it poisons the work environment. "Men have an easier time of it in my experience. While they often say what they're thinking bluntly and directly, women tend to be reticent about voicing criticism."

You have to learn to deal with both. "In the final analysis, the necessary mental toolkit is every bit as important as specialist qualifications." Another thing that helps: being open to and curious about new things – and following through with drive and discipline in equal measure. It goes without saying that you can and should be happy about what you have accomplished, but it would be counterproductive to rest on your laurels. "Because if you do, you lose the desire to achieve", comments Stefanie Limbach. Another tenet: Courage pays off! If you want to march in the vanguard, the QM expert explains, you have to be ready to leave your comfort zone. And please don’t be so self-critical. "In this respect there are still things we can learn from men."

More female power in communal catering: "That really would be great", believes Stefanie Limbach, who's also been on the go as an organic mentor for four years and in this role too has mostly male colleagues. Despite this, she doesn’t approve of imposing a women's quota. "Can something that's forced on people really work?", she floats the question. "It would be much better for us to make ourselves a lot more appealing in the eyes of young women professionals – and thereby also tackle the skills shortage at the same time. After all, this has long since become the reality."