- Experience report
Mathematician and managing consultant, Dr. Christian Löffelsend,
describes his path from graduate to project manager.
"I enjoy putting plans into action and not only achieving results, but also seeing employees develop."
After receiving my doctorate in mathematics, I joined ifb because I realized I needed more excitement in my life than I would have if I were to spend my time just contemplating theories. That's one of the reasons I wanted to work at a management consultancy. In the end, I chose the company that seemed friendliest to me. I had to learn about the models and mindset of banks, but my studies had prepared me well for the analysis and further development of various subjects, albeit on a much more abstract level.
I am quite well organized and therefore always delivered my work on time. Later on, I managed to inspire my co-workers with my suggested solutions and was soon scheduling the processes for small teams due to my natural organization and coordination skills. I gradually assumed more and more responsibility for others as well. When asked if I would like to take on bigger management tasks, I switched from being a software engineer to working as a project manager. In this role I work closely with clients and am the initial point of contact for both praise and criticism. Working in projects, one clearly sees how different people can be. The job is a dream for anyone who enjoys discussions that can be engaging, both professionally and emotionally. Ultimately, my work consists of a perfect mixture of collaborating with others and solving complex technical issues. I am currently working with my team to help a client in the banking sector implement the pending legal requirements associated with international accounting standards in an SAP system. As a Scrum team, we are assigned new tasks every four weeks. I coordinate who is responsible for implementing each work package and maintain an overview so that none of the issues are forgotten along the way. As such, my work is almost equally divided between management tasks and technical conceptualization.
As a project manager, I enjoy putting larger plans into action. It is also great to not only achieve results, but also see employees developing - from young co-workers who become experienced consultants with the right amount of support to team members who increasingly gain expertise in their specialization by being provided the right mixture of freedom and guidance. Years ago, I couldn't have imagined working in the business world. Some of my friends are still surprised by my decision. But I can say with conviction that I really enjoy it and that I continue to be amazed by how interesting my job is. I've never regretted choosing this career instead of an academic one.
Physicist and managing consultant, Esther Pfuhl,
describes corporate culture and her experience at ifb.
"From physicist to techie and networking pro"
In my work with the ifb group, I am most thankful for my co-workers and the opportunity to continually take on new tasks and subject areas. In all truth, working together with my colleagues simply tops all else. They are extremely good at what they do, provide constant support and are always open for questions. This solidarity is, of course, especially helpful in the beginning. When I joined ifb after completing my studies in physics, I really wasn't familiar with ifb's specializations. The in-house training phase at the beginning provided me with an initial general impression, but you actually learn the most through working with clients. This sometimes involves just jumping in at the deep end, for example, when taking on responsibility in the first client project and having to prove oneself on one's own. The basic knowledge of programming that I gained in college helped a bit, but the most important factor consists of a certain will power and fascination for solving problems independently. One of my main tasks at the moment consists of feeding data into the Bank Analyzer, processing this data for technical testing and ensuring that the computer programs run smoothly. In addition to this, I am responsible for further development of the IT systems within the framework of data provision and modeling. In light of my training as a physicist, I've actually become a real techie and networking pro at ifb. Many industries are said to be male dominated. This can sometimes also be heard with reference to the world of consulting. But, as a woman, I think it is important to just do what interests you. As it turns out, I've always been in male dominated spheres and never had the feeling that I was at a disadvantage as a woman. Most of all, it helps to be oneself and not let anyone get you down. One of the most interesting experiences for me at ifb group was my project in Canada, where I spent one and a half years. It was extremely exciting to work in a non-German environment while at the same time getting to know new people and a new culture.
Economist and ifb partner, Daniel Pott,
describes his professional development and his job as a partner, project manager and competence center manager at ifb.
"Ensuring the best results for our clients with enthusiasm and commitment.
I joined ifb twelve years ago and went through the same training phase that graduates go through today. As such, I truly "grew up" with ifb. Following a relatively short stint at SAP, I spent several years abroad at various banks in the Basel-II landscape and then assumed the role of project manager for a bank in the north of Germany. After five years at ifb, I was given responsibility for a team and worked with numerous brilliant graduates over the next few years. My team grew over time, thus resulting in the formation of new groups. At the same time, I had the opportunity to prove myself in the role of software developer within the framework of a project for a new client and soon once again took on a project management position in this context. After being promoted to Head of Competence Center in the ifb group, I managed not only my own team, but several others as well. Based on my experience in management positions within the company and successful work at clients, I was ultimately named partner and have since taken an active role in company management.
My superiors played a big role in my professional development by serving as both role models and mentors. I have always been impressed by their ability to address issues and motivate their co-workers. I hope I'm also such a good role model for my employees. In addition to this, two characteristics have been particularly helpful, namely enthusiasm and an empathy for the needs of my co-workers and clients. Empathy is an important part of the leadership role when it comes to assigning employees tasks that match their strengths and promote their individual development. And enthusiasm is an absolute necessity when it comes to putting commitment into action and truly impressing our clients. Today I am responsible for a wide variety of tasks. I manage several projects and teams at clients in the area of regulatory and reporting. This includes being on location three or four days a week as a contact person not only for the clients, but also for internal and external members of our team. I manage several team leaders and my Competence Center consisting of 45 employees. Within this framework, I organize the teamwork, plan hiring of new co-workers and promote new topics and products together with my employees and other team leaders. We work together closely and engage in a regular exchange with regard to new challenges.
As always, I am still impressed with how entirely committed my colleagues are to our clients. This commitment and the culture of collaboration, respect and performance are impressive and characteristic of the entire ifb group. The atmosphere in the team and with clients is friendly and cooperative. It is distinguished by a strong sense of community. Colleagues are accepted and involved, regardless of where they currently stand on the career ladder. We all work together and learn from one another no matter how experienced or how young the individuals are. We support and help each other even it requires extra effort and time. It continues to amaze me how quickly our younger team members excel as experts in their field and pass on their knowledge in internal workshops and projects. The variety of ifb specializations provides ample space for this. Development with regard to specific content then happens almost automatically in the project and in the exchange with colleagues. And this is a continuous process. I learn something new every day and am inspired by young and experienced colleagues alike.
International business graduate and director, Juliana Müller,
describes her responsibilities as a team leader and how she achieves a balance between her work and her personal interests.
International business graduate and director, Juliana Müller, describes her responsibilities as a team leader and how she achieves a balance between her work and her personal interests. Banks are subject to special supervision, obligations and regulations due to their central importance to the economy. The primary focus of my work consists of advising our clients in the banking sector with regard to these regulatory issues. This includes inspecting legal texts such as the Capital Requirements Regulation (CRR), which serves to implement Basel III in EU law, to be able to tell our clients what is relevant to them. Then we work out how the requirements can be implemented in their systems. The defined measures are subsequently put into practice by the client themselves or by our own implementation team.
Aside from my work with clients, I lead a team within the ifb group and therefore have additional responsibilities. I work with my team, for example, to examine new legal publications that could be relevant to our clients. We summarize our findings in presentations, provide the pertinent information and decide how the new regulations could affect our clients and what we can do to support them. I became a team leader because I love to share my knowledge and enjoy seeing my colleagues continue to develop their soft skills both professionally and personally. And I'm always happy to help them out.
As a team leader, I closely interact with my team members and am available for technical questions and discussions. I find it particularly rewarding to develop things together with this team of people from such diverse fields of study and with such a wide range of skills and characters.
My personal interests, which include staying fit and traveling abroad, are also very important to me and I am able to balance these interests with my work. The project-based work varies in intensity depending on the phase, and therefore I can even take longer vacations to travel to other continents with a little planning. I try to complete my triathlon training during the workweek whenever possible. There is always room in my suitcase for my running shoes and, if possible, I book a hotel with a pool and go swimming in the mornings.
Physicist and consultant, Dr. Milan den Heijer,
describes the application process and his start at ifb
"I was seeking an employer that would allow me to pursue my own goals and include me in decisions regarding my development."
I am currently involved in a large project that consists of setting up a central database for a banking group. My job consists of entering data models and requirements using a tool to make connections transparent.
After college, I was looking for an employer in the financial sector, who would give me a lot of space for my own goals and needs, who was modern instead of conservative and who allowed me to continue to develop in a direction of my own choosing. The information on the ifb website and the interview gave me the impression that the ifb group might just be the employer I had been looking for. In the eighteen months that I've been working for ifb since, my initial impression has been confirmed on numerous occasions. I was most excited about having the opportunity as a physicist to wrap my head around banking issues. I also experienced the application process to be very positive. I quickly received a response after submitting my written application and gained an excellent impression of ifb in a phone call with an employee in the HR department. The job interview involved a talk with HR as well as a detailed discussion of issues related to the actual content of the job. Both of these meetings were with enthusiastic, likable, competent employees.
My first couple of months at ifb consisted of a project-independent introduction phase in the form of workshops. This familiarized me with the ifb group's fields of expertise. I'm not a very big fan of lectures, but these events were interactive with a lot of room for discussion, so they remained interesting. This phase was particularly important to me because I had little practical banking knowledge, being a non-banker myself. It helped me properly sort through the topics and terminology. In addition to this, the experienced instructors could tell me a lot about how projects are organized, which I truly appreciated. The first project followed right after the introduction phase. At the beginning, I found it difficult to get used to the dynamic nature of the project. It wasn't easy to fully understand the processes and responsibilities all at once. With the help of my colleagues, however, I was gradually able to manage this so it should be less of a challenge in the future. In addition to dealing with clients, communication among co-workers is very important at ifb. Interactions with members of the ifb team are very open and natural. In my experience, the hierarchies are flat in this regard. The exchange of information within the company is also extremely instructional. Issues are discussed intensively – in internal seminars, on the phone, via internet or by email – and when I have questions, I can always rely on my colleagues for help. All employees are also encouraged to participate in further training and even organize their own professional development activities. For example, I have already participated in training for a software tool that I use in the project.
Business economist, director and team leader at ifb, Heike Wilken,
describes her projects abroad and her experience in Colombia and South Africa.
"Openness, curiosity and acceptance help you learn the best traits of each culture."
I work in the area of risk and compliance in the ifb group's "Solution Implementation" division and am currently working for a client as a business analyst for "BCBS 239" in IT. I handle a variety of issues and thoroughly enjoy my work as a team leader. At ifb, I particularly value the team spirit and business mindset as well as the solidarity in the company or, as one of my co-workers put it, "the high density of friendly individuals". Although the company is made up of many academics, I immediately got off to a good start at ifb in 2008 as a business economist with training in banking and an affinity for IT, and quickly managed to gain an understanding of a wide variety of topics. The two-month in-house training phase provided me with additional preparation and I developed my knowledge in seminars and projects. Someone is also always willing to help out with specific issues.
So far, I've had the opportunity to contribute to two projects abroad. I spent almost a year each in South Africa and Colombia. In each project, I learn something new about topics, people, company environments, other cultures and myself. Each project presents its own challenges. Language was a hurdle in Colombia. Meetings, in which I talked to an interpreter in English and hoped he actually communicated what I meant, were a bit daunting. Later on in the project, I could more often understand what he was saying and at least intervene or specify in case of misunderstandings. In the end, I held the meetings myself in imperfect Spanish. Being able to communicate with people directly makes it possible to develop a more solid relationship. It helps to be open and approach people proactively when working in a different culture. In the projects abroad, I gained new perspectives on certain situations. What may seem self-evident to us, is not so at all in other cultures. A good sense of humor is always helpful in case of doubt. In South Africa, for example, the men are much more gentlemanly and would never forget to hold the door open for a lady. On the other hand, women have to enter and leave the elevators before the men. This is not always very practical and can really be quite funny. In my opinion, the colleagues in Colombia were better at separating between the people and the subject matter during contentious discussions. Ultimately, it is always helpful to observe people's behavior and remain curious, accepting and non-judgmental. In this way, you can learn the best traits of each culture.
The ifb group has an open-door policy and not all processes are pre-defined down to the smallest details. Therefore everyone here has the opportunity to find and define their own path and make a real difference. This is very rewarding. I've always had co-workers and superiors, who I could share with, and a good network with the required support even in difficult situations. Of course, not everything is picture-perfect, even here. But I would always choose ifb again because of the wonderful colleagues, the friendly working environment and the wide variety of projects and experiences.