Sandra Sonnleitner is Technology Expert at Zielpuls. In this interview, she explains how she ended up in engineering, why she advocates for diverse teams and how her project work in the technology field of electrics/electronics is structured.
Sandra, your career so far is rather extraordinary. How did it come that you are now working as an expert in a technology consultancy?
I completed my training as a media designer with a focus on design and technology 10 years ago at a large semiconductor distributor. There I designed campaigns, product information and trade fair stands for semiconductor solutions, among other things. Right from the start it annoyed me when I didn't understand the technology behind it. Even in my second job as a graphic designer this was always a pain point in my work. My task was to describe technologies that were partly unknown to me in advertising. To design really good products, however, I was dependent on the explanations of the engineers.
In order to understand the technologies, I then studied mechatronics at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich with a focus on medical technology. In this rather generalistic course of studies all major engineering subjects are covered. With this knowledge I was finally able to unterstand, for example, what is special about semiconductors and how a microcontroller is programmed. During my studies I joined the Zielpulsbande and quickly realized how I could use my experience and know-how in many different ways. For me, consulting is often about preparing complex issues so individually that my counterpart can easily understand them. It is important to me to understand technologies in depth and to pass on my knowledge. This fits perfectly with my role as a technology expert at Zielpuls.
Why do you think there are still so few women in technical professions, and why do you advocate more women in technology?
I think one of the most important reasons is a fairy tale. For generations, children in Germany have been told at school and at home that boys are better at math and science and girls better at languages, art and music. Studies prove, however, that it is precisely the resulting self-assessment of children that makes for a self-fulfilling prophecy. This means that a girl will also be worse in mathematics or science if she actually believes this. It is not due to gender.
In many other countries this myth does not exist. Here there is no significant difference between the sexes in mathematics and science. If one assumes that in Germany many girls are still growing up, believing how extraordinary a study of engineering sciences is for a woman, it is only logical that fewer women are taking this path. If this myth is cracked and not passed on to future generations, more women will also believe in their success in engineering.
To the second part of the question:
I particularly plead for diverse teams. It is important, for example, that in a development team in the automotive industry the strengths of all genders work together just as well as in a daycare center. The more different strengths and weaknesses are brought into a project, the more places the potential grows and with it the success of the whole team. If a team is filled unilaterally, whether by gender, age, origin, etc., blind spots can develop more easily and further development becomes more difficult.
What does your collaboration as an expert with your customers look like in concrete terms?
As an expert for electrics/electronics, I am a central contact person for technologies from the automotive environment across projects. I use my expertise to advise our customers on the correct implementation of existing technologies and the integration or further development of new technologies. An important component of this is consulting in the field of AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture). In doing so, I use the synergies with other experts and work with several teams. I follow the latest technological developments by continuously educating myself at congresses, training courses and trade fairs. In cooperation with customers, I offer external and internal training and clarify technical questions regarding electrics/electronics.
How did COVID-19 change your cooperation in the project?
I am very thankful that we have such an excellent IT, which enabled a smooth transition to mobile workplaces. In the project we can have internal meetings as well as customer appointments virtually. The exchange with colleagues from other projects no longer functions as automatically as in the corridor. So I'm focusing more actively on this than before. Especially in times when we don't see each other in person as often as before, it is important to me to maintain the personal connection to our customers and the Zielpulsbande.
Which technological development in the field of electrics/electronics do you personally find the most exciting at the moment?
Alternative drives, autonomous driving and the ever-increasing networking in the automobile are causing a sharp increase in complexity in the vehicle. The amount of data to be transmitted is constantly increasing and must be correspondingly secure. On the one hand, it must be guaranteed that a brake signal has absolute priority, on the other hand, even a hacker attack must not disclose, for example, the driver's home address. At the same time, there is not infinite space in the installation space for new cables and control units. The transmission technologies must therefore be adapted and further developed to cope with the increasing complexity. For me, it is particularly exciting to find solutions for these new systems that are also up to future challenges.
Thank you Sandra for the exciting interview, the insight into technological development in electrics/electronics and your commitment to diversity in the company.
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