Strong Women at Mercedes-Benz Bank

Supermom plus supermanager

What makes a woman a superwoman — her career, her family, or the ability to simultaneously manage both? Verena Groß manages both of these aspects of her life, and that’s why we’re including her story in our series “Strong Women at Mercedes-Benz Bank.” As head of the Mercedes-Benz Bank Service Center in Berlin, she bears a great deal of responsibility. Her appointment calendar is bursting at the seams. Nonetheless, she runs her household in the time remaining and brings her daughter to school. Groß says the place where she recovers from her demanding job is her home in the pleasant little town of Wandlitz, far from the hustle and bustle of Berlin. 

Starke Frauen Groß_UT

I have a lot of great workdays, but also many stressful ones, as well as some very emotional moments. That’s why it’s very relaxing to sometimes enjoy a short moment alone on the eleventh floor of our office building after my workday is done — especially when it’s starting to get dark and the city center becomes a blaze of lights.

During the day there’s a lot going on, and my working day is fairly structured. As the head of the Individual Application Support department at the Mercedes-Benz Bank Service Center in Berlin, I’m responsible for making sure that our leasing and financing applications are processed and activated promptly and that our individual customers receive comprehensive support. I’ve been working at the company for a long time now. I started out as an administrator back in 1995, when the company was still called Mercedes-Benz Lease Finanz. Later on I was a sales assistant for key accounts at DaimlerChrysler Bank. After the company was renamed Mercedes-Benz Bank, I was successively a sales personnel trainer, a project leader, and a team leader. I had done my own training at another company, learning about bank processes from the bottom up.

What do I see as good leadership? In my opinion, you have to have a talent for it, because many of its aspects simply can’t be learned. You also have to trust the employees and believe in their ability to work independently and on their own responsibility. To these qualities I would also add openness, reliability, predictability and, last but not least, a healthy sense of humor.

My day usually begins at 5:30 a.m. I make breakfast for my husband, my seven-year-old daughter, and me. This morning time, when I sit with my family around the breakfast table, is important for me. We talk about what the day ahead will be like. My husband and I drink coffee, and my daughter Cosma’s favorite morning meal is a slice of bread with chocolate spread on it. Sometimes I bring her to school. On those days things usually get a little hectic, because children have a different sense of time than adults. I have to help her a bit so that we can leave on time and I can show up punctually for my appointments.

The drive from Wandlitz to the Mercedes-Benz Bank Service Center in Berlin-Mitte takes about 30 minutes, but it often takes a bit longer because of the morning traffic in Berlin. That might make you wonder why we don’t simply move to Berlin. I must say that the mix is extremely attractive. Berlin is a wonderful city. It’s vibrant and it reinvents itself practically every day. There’s so much you can do here after your workday is over. But I’m also happy to be able to leave the hustle and bustle behind me and return to our idyllic little town. It’s especially lovely here in the summer, because we’re surrounded by lakes, such as Lake Wandlitz. As often as we can, we pack our swimming things and off we go!

When I arrive at my office, it’s already time for my schedule of appointments and meetings to begin. Sometimes when things calm down — which doesn’t happen very often — I sit down at my computer and read and answer my e-mails. The best thing about our work at the Service Center is that my colleagues and I are the front line, so to speak. We’re in direct contact with the customers and the dealers, so we can help them directly and also receive direct feedback from them. That’s what our work is all about, and I think I’m speaking for most of us here when I say that our work is extremely valuable.

It’s not unusual for me to combine my lunch break with my work activities. Popping out to the Asian restaurant around the corner can quickly turn into a business lunch. Sometimes we also order take-out food to be delivered to the office.

Of course playing the dual role of mother and manager isn’t always easy. It requires lots of energy and a talent for organization — as well as an accommodating employer. Our company has always supported my efforts to combine my responsibilities to my family and my job. At Daimler we have many opportunities to combine the two areas smoothly. We can work from a home office, we benefit from a cooperative arrangement with a childcare center, and we’ve also got a parent-and-child office with a play area and an office desk.

People sometimes ask me whether as a woman I have to make a bigger effort and perform better than my male colleagues. But my answer is a definite “no.” Day after day, I see each one of my colleagues doing his or her full share of the work — and we’ve got quite a heavy workload. Gender is irrelevant here. You have to do your best on the job, and you are rewarded accordingly.

Click here to follow episode 1 of our series "Strong Women at the Mercedes-Benz Bank" with Ilka Fürstenberger. She is the sales manager, loves Spain and her terrier Malú, who keeps her mistress busy.