Especially, as the working society evolves, the needs, concerns, and fears of employees have been changing. For DEKRA DIGITAL safety is part of our DNA. Historically given, we have a deep understanding of safety and security on a wide range of levels. So naturally, our team’s health is particularly close to our hearts, too. For that reason, since 2021 we’ve been part of the global business-led initiative of “the Leadership Pledge”. Part of that commitment is to empower employees to prioritize mental health, develop an open culture around it and take preventive steps to create a positive work environment.
But since the pandemic, some things have changed, and we all can still feel the impact. Managing work, and family, being always online, in a constantly changing work environment, and all paired with remote work, can be exhausting. That’s why for us it comes naturally, that we want to destigmatize the underrated topic of mental health and that’s why we have taken further steps to increase the awareness of mental health in our company. But first of all, let’s have a look at how mental health is defined and which role it plays in our life.
The WHO defines good mental health as follows:
According to the WHO definition, mental health, along with physical health, also becomes a prerequisite for one’s productivity. Especially in the fast-paced work environment, we find ourselves in, it is often mental health that is not defined as a core factor of productivity. So, the first step companies need to take, is to create awareness of the potential disruptors to mental health. We have therefore developed a multi-layered program that supports and promotes each DEKRA DIGITAL employee individually. This consists of various sub-areas which, taken as a whole, provide a comprehensive insight into one’s own health. All this is supported by our mental health partner: Open Up.
Finding ourselves in a fast-moving world where we are surrounded by stimuli. Therefore, it is more about taking a step back, being aware of the world, and letting the moment take effect.
With Open Up, we get the opportunity to access one-on-one coaching, group sessions, and mindfulness exercises in more than 17 languages with certified psychologists – within 24 hours! This provides a protected environment to discuss both work-related and personal issues. As part of the program, various topics such as stress, anxiety, relationships, self-awareness, and overall health, but also areas such as mindfulness and sense-making can be discussed and sharpened.
Our CEO Kerim is a strong supporter of our mental health program, and in his interview, he provides a more detailed view of how Open Up promotes mindfulness and a sense of purpose at DEKRA DIGITAL.
Of course, it’s not the easiest decision to admit to oneself that you are overwhelmed right now, but with increasing awareness of mental health, the barriers to searching for support should be diminished. Let’s start taking care of our mental well-being. What is your secret to reducing stress and busy days? Share your experience on LinkedIn with us.
Under the motto “Corporations on the trail of startups,” the business magazine Capital – together with Infront Consulting GmbH – this year again honored the best innovation units of German corporations. Around 300 labs across Germany were included in the study. We are proud to be ranked as one of the best Digital Innovation Units in the industry! With our vision of “Innovating Safety and Security” we develop new, innovative solutions in the field of digital safety – for international customers and together with partners and start-ups. In the interview with our CEO Kerim, we talk about his vision of innovation, the transformation of established corporations, and a little bit of green pastures.
Dr. Kerim Galal (CEO DEKRA DIGITAL)
Innovation is part of the DNA of every innovation unit. For me, innovation is not a one-dimensional state, but a way of behaving that is characterized by proactive action, “out-of-the-box” thinking and a willingness to change. The environment created plays the most important role here.
This is possibly the secret of DEKRA DIGITAL’s success. In my dual role as CEO DEKRA DIGITAL and Executive Vice President Corporate Strategy & Innovation at DEKRA, it was important for me to create an innovation unit that fosters a start-up mentality, yet does not lose touch with corporate. It’s about using innovative approaches to create added value in symbiosis with the Group’s core business and for customers who already rely on our established services. DEKRA DIGITAL has already demonstrated this many times in the past by developing various products in the areas of Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Functional Safety, Future Mobility and Big Data. This was confirmed for us by the award as “Best Innovation Lab”.
I like to compare the establishment of an innovation unit with a green field that has been marked out. Thematically, you move in a certain field, but you still have every opportunity to plant this meadow the way you want. This means that corporate culture, structures, and processes can be established in an agile and flexible manner, which promotes innovative thinking immensely. Nevertheless, we always have the possibility to fall back on DEKRA’s existing processes, which are enormously important, especially at the beginning of establishing an innovation area.
To come back to why innovation is easier to drive in dedicated areas, speed plays a big role. Labs and corporations move at two speeds. Corporations move more consistently but steadily, whereas innovation units move faster but have a higher margin of error. As a result, it can be harder for corporations to find innovative approaches to tried-and-true problems. With units, you consciously separate yourself from these structures to enable more agile working. You create a place for talent for whom new work and modern working conditions are indispensable elements of the corporate culture. A diverse, inclusive, and sustainable work environment are no longer just nice-to-haves for many employees but are becoming a requirements. At the same time, digital entities are focused on working as efficiently as possible with their limited resources, which is an absolute advantage in the current economic climate.
The key to this is the corporate culture. The question to ask here is: How do we act when someone makes a mistake? Do we let the “fear of making a mistake” hover over us or do we create a corporate culture in which mistakes are part of the discovery process. The secret recipe is to create a culture where the team feels empowered and confident to try new approaches. History has shown that great things can come from mistakes, whether it’s the Post-It or the microwave, even vaccination is based on a mistake. Without such a mindset, innovation cannot work.
Of course, innovation units also continue to develop. There are also significant differences in our case when you compare today’s state with that of four years ago. We have gone from being a baby to a toddler that can now talk and walk. It is important that the digital innovation units always stick to the idea of innovation during development and drive it forward. In addition, the corporate and innovation units should not only meet again at a fixed point in time. I am therefore particularly concerned about collaboration and cooperation between the unit and the corporate group. This results in a variety of benefits for both parties. One example would be young talent attracted to the innovation unit developing new approaches to solutions together with the in-depth expertise of industry experts. The points of contact and opportunities are endless.
If you look at the world of 10 years ago, you can see how much has already happened in the area of digitization. Even more of the same can be expected in the next 10 years. I see the challenge more in security. In an increasingly digital world, people’s lives increasingly take place in the virtual world or are strongly influenced by digital technologies. Because at the end of the day, everything digital has a direct impact on people’s physical well-being. When I think of a world 15 years from now in which my daughters are learning to drive, I want to be sure that the artificial intelligence in the car ensures that nothing happens to my girls. This means that completely new demands are being placed on safety, and there is a corresponding need for solutions. What sets us apart is our ability to combine areas such as AI, Internet of Things, Big Data, Cyber Security, Functional Safety and Future Mobility to develop innovative security and safety solutions. We are therefore well equipped for the coming years.
Noelia Díaz Bernal’s career is impressive proof that women can make it to the top in the tech industry. As Head of Big Data Hub at DEKRA DIGITAL in Málaga, she has been successfully leading a 34-strong team for two years. Ms. Bernal has been loyal to DEKRA for more than two decades, even starting her career there as an intern after graduating.
Noelia is a role model in “Women in Tech”.
In this interview, she talks about her job, her role as a leader, women in the tech world, and today’s recruiting and retention challenges.
I have been strategically and operationally responsible for managing DEKRA DIGITAL’s Big Data Hub for just over two years. However, DEKRA has accompanied me my entire professional life since I started here 23 years ago as an intern after studying software engineering. Up to my current job as Head of Big Data Hub, I held various positions in the company in software development, project management, and as an analyst. All this experience and the knowledge I have gained help me do my job as well as possible together with my team.
Currently, there are 34 people in the team – by the end of 2022, there are expected to be 40 – divided into the three areas of sales, operations and development. We want to position ourselves as a data-driven tech center serving companies worldwide. To achieve this and meet the high standards we set for ourselves and our customers, we have built a team of top experts in big data, data science and machine learning here in Málaga, which enables us to create innovative state-of-the-art software solutions for our customers.
We are very proud of what we have achieved so far. Last year we were able to increase our EBIT by around 70%. In the future, we want to grow even more and open up new business areas for ourselves.
DEKRA has always been a company that has offered its customers a diverse range of analog & digital products and services. The creation of DEKRA DIGITAL has made it possible to plug digital services into DEKRA’s portfolio even faster, while creating an environment where today’s tech talent wants to work. At the same time, we’re thinking big: as a tech center, we want to become a globally recognized address for software development, digitalization and automation with special expertise in the application and scaling of big data solutions in the TIC sector, and to be perceived internally and externally as a competent technology partner.
I think the two are mutually dependent. On the one hand, you need the right mindset: you have to be motivated, show initiative, be creative, not be afraid of new challenges and take risks. You have to be strong to handle stress and lead teams. On the other hand, experience in this sector helps you handle many situations better. It enables you to have different perspectives and to know how to tackle each challenge, and it also makes you well equipped for a leadership position where you have to take risks without being afraid of them.
My personal aspiration is to help my employees to be their best selves by supporting them professionally and mentally as they progress in their careers, and by motivating them.
“You cannot grow alone; you need to lift your team first.”– Noelia Díaz Bernal
Competition for talent in the tech industry is fierce. People today, especially young people, attach great importance to combining family and career and having more free time – this is very important for women in particular. That’s why at DEKRA DIGITAL we offer proven benefits such as mobile working, flexible working hours, individual solutions for maternity and paternity leave, and Málaga-specific half-day working when it gets too hot in the summer.
Working in a good environment and feeling comfortable at work are just as important to people. The location of the office is also very important in this context. Here in Málaga, our office was still outside the city a few years ago and you could only get there by car. We deliberately changed that. Today we are in a central location and have new and modern premises. Of course, this also makes it easier to connect to public infrastructure, with short distances to daycare centers, buses and trains. Apart from the work/life balance, DEKRA DIGITAL is also a good employer because we see people, we respond flexibly to them, and our employees have the opportunity to work on exciting and innovative technology projects every day.
Unfortunately, there are still far too few women opting for the IT sector in Spain. Maybe our traditional structures are the reason why women find it harder to imagine themselves in tech jobs. As far as DEKRA DIGITAL is concerned, we are fortunate to have some very valuable female talent on our team.
Regrettably, I believe that we will have to fight for years in Spain to increase the presence of women in IT professions and also to get them into positions of responsibility. Likewise, the salary gap between men and women in our sector must disappear. As a female manager, I also see myself acting as a role model. In negotiations, for example, I support female employees in correctly assessing their salary or their value.
I would say to them that they should be brave! Don’t be afraid to take risks, make decisions and take responsibility. It is human to make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, you won’t learn anything, which means you won’t develop personally or be successful in your career. At DEKRA DIGITAL, we have the motto “fail fast, learn fast”. Not every idea has the potential to be followed up. Occasionally, unprofitable projects or ideas are abandoned. However, what may seem like a professional failure at the time is actually an important step in your personal development and should not be underestimated.
As a second piece of advice, I would like to offer the following: Seek out role models! Women in the tech industry often lack role models and mentors with whom they can talk as equals. Women who want to pursue a career deliberately do not address their questions and ‘concerns’ to male superiors so that they are not classified as ‘weak’. A mentorship can help here. Women can benefit from the experience of others, which can help them steer the right course both professionally and privately.
This is precisely why I would like to use my pioneering role and share my many years of experience with other women. To reduce women’s reservations about IT jobs, we are currently working on a mentorship program to appeal to female tech talent and give them insights into the world of DEKRA DIGITAL. I will be on hand as a mentor to provide advice and support for further career planning and, with a bit of luck, we will help some talented people enter the company directly, as I was able to do back then.