Two years ago, I did an interview with Amelie & Alessa from “Pearls of Success”. Their blog is targeted towards young female professionals, providing inspiration and motivation from and for women in business. It’s an honor for me to be included in what’s going to be a group of women sharing their stories about how they started their career, the struggles they go through, how they stay true to themselves and what their goals are.
Now that time has passed, I have updated my answers to their questions according to the developments in my life. I am happy to share my experiences and background with you!
Lara, you are not a full-time blogger – your main career is in business. What do you do and where do you see yourself in the future?
I studied business and international management in Germany, Copenhagen and New York City. My Master’s degree was focused on strategy, corporate governance and leadership. During my internships, I was able to gain valuable insights and working experiences in different fields such as marketing, asset management and strategy consulting. In my first full-time job, I started working for a US corporate in the agricultural machinery business, specifically in their strategy department. I enjoy working at the pulse of the organization and gaining insights into different fields and projects. That’s why, after one year, I decided to move into consulting, where I have the opportunity to do various projects in the field of operational excellence. In this role, I am able to go much deeper into the operations side of producing industrial companies. Coming from an industrial family business myself, founded by my great-grandfather almost 100 years ago, my long-term goal is to succeed my father as the next-generation – and first female – leader of our company.
What experiences did you make during your education that you consider most important for your development?
Ever since I was little, I have been traveling a lot with my family, so moving abroad and gaining international experiences was very important for my personal development and, having chosen international business as my field of study, also for my career. When I was 15, I spent a high school year in New Zealand. During my B.Sc. and M.Sc., I studied at Copenhagen Business School and Columbia University in New York. In between my degrees, I volunteered in a South African township school for the summer. Lastly, after finishing university in 2013, I went to Malaga to learn Spanish before starting my job.
I strongly believe that these varied life experiences have shaped me and have given me a richer view on the world, as well as strengthening my intercultural communication skills. Moving outside your comfort zone can be tough at first, but in the end it is always worth it.
How does a typical day at the office look like for you now?
I don’t really have a typical day, it all depends on the project(s) I’m working on and the amount of travel required.
When I’m working from our headquarters in Zurich, I usually get up at 6am to walk our dog. By the time I get back, my fiancé has showered and is starting to make breakfast while I get ready. Even when we’re all stressed out, we like to have one quiet moment enjoying breakfast together (usually avocado toast with one poached egg, plus a fruit salad and a shot of espresso for me). I’m in the office at around 8am, where I drink my second espresso while answering emails. Then I dive right into meetings, calls and presentation preparations. At noon, I have lunch with the team or drive home to see Cookie for a quick walk. Whenever I’m not at our client’s offices, I leave work earlier (meaning 6pm) to run some errands, work out, have dinner with friends or just chill. On days when I’m working on-site, our days are usually packed with interviews, workshops and meetings. By the time our clients’ employees leave work, we sit together and wrap up the day, distribute to-do’s, brainstorm solutions. This can take up all evening sometimes, in which case we often stay at a hotel. One thing I really try to avoid is eating dinner after 8.30pm. I’d rather take a quick break at 7 and get back at it afterwards. I am useless when hungry!
Wow, your day seems pretty packed! How do you spend your weekday evenings?
Ever since we got engaged, we spend lots of time planning the wedding and, of course, I’m trying to get back into shape to fit into that dress… Our puppy keeps us moving though, which is positive, plus we are prepping for our wedding dance with regular lessons. And then there’s this blog!
One evening a week, we try to do a date night including a little “digital detox”. I think we all just get so carried away with our long to-do lists, we can never just enjoy the moment anymore and make room for real breaks. So while I think it’s great to have a “partner in crime” who shares your routine and your stress, sometimes you just need to force yourself to get back into romantic mode.
In the future, you could imagine yourself taking over the family business. When did that become a long-term perspective for you and what other goals do you want to realize?
My dad and I make a great team, and I’m already looking forward to working alongside of him and learning from his experience. The job is perfect for me, as it requires intercultural communication, strategic foresight and also creativity. Nonetheless, it’s a big challenge that I need to prepare well for. Before going there, I would like to do my Ph.D., for instance. Family planning is also on the agenda at some point, but I don’t see myself as a stay-at-home mum. I personally take it as my biggest goal to find a way to be successful in multiple areas of my life, so I strive to neglect neither my career, nor my family, my appearance and health, my friends or my personal interests.
Politicians and several feminist groups are promoting a minimum proportion of women in business. What is your view on this topic?
Personally, I’m not a big fan of this kind of intervention into the job market. The intention is good, because many companies could truly benefit from having more women in leadership positions, however in reality such a formal rule makes it more difficult for women to earn respect from male colleagues. Suddenly they have to fight against the notion of perhaps not having been the best candidate for the job, only the best woman. This should not be the case. Furthermore, it generally is in the best interest of companies anyhow to promote a diverse and heterogeneous mix of employees to create team synergies, which makes it sensible to hire people of different genders, ages and backgrounds. To be honest, I already see a positive trend in that area, which is why I perceive such a forced female quota as no longer necessary and even counter-productive.
Fashion and business careers were two interests that did not fit together very well for a long time. Now, female leaders are “allowed” to look feminine, and you give us countless examples of wearable but stylish office outfits. How did you come to start blogging about fashion?
My blog and my career are deliberately kept separately, so I don’t plan to ever become a full-time blogger or to earn significant amounts of money with my blog; I rather see it as a fulfillment of my private interests and a hobby. Nonetheless, I believe that any person’s job performance is positively influenced by a good balance in life. Sports, hobbies, leisure time and quality time with friends and family are strongly influential factors for this. I think even the fashion part of my blog benefits from the fact that I work in a world entirely outside of fashion. That way, my style and me remain more “real” and therefore more approachable to my readers. Of course, I also enjoy accompanying famous editors and bloggers via Instagram on their trips to Cannes or exciting events, but I cannot “watch and learn” from them when it comes to fashion, as those outfits are simply not wearable to a male-dominated office environment. Looking at the other side, I don’t believe my career is harmed by my stronger interest in fashion and style. Women have it harder in business for many reasons, whether they look particularly good or bad. I try to concentrate on my work and capabilities and don’t feel the necessity to make myself ugly or masculine in order to be taken seriously. I believe people are respected most if they are authentic, which is what I try to be. I recommend all women, especially to those following typically male career paths, to do the same.
What is your favorite clothing item or accessory for every day?
Without my jewelry, meaning primarily my watch, rings and earrings, I never leave the house. Without them, I feel like something is missing, almost like I’m naked. I also like to wear chunky necklaces (or larger earrings at night) to dress up simple outfits. For the office, I’m starting to appreciate the classic white button-down more and more – it just makes every outfit, even a colorful patterned skirt, look more professional. Pointy pumps are also great for an office look, so I bought lots of them recently. The best investment is a good business bag – my favorite is the Fendi 2jours!
And now, to you…
I hope that, through this interview, you could get to know me a little better. I want to know – do you feel the same about the things I talked about with Amelie and Alessa? What are the things you struggle with most, what are your success factors? Do you see things differently? I would love for you to add your perspective by commenting below.
Thank you for reading!