"Never underestimate the potential power of contacts" - Sibylle May - The Jury Member at the RAHM Contests in Berlin 2019

Sibylle May is Head of Service Infrastructure for the service line HR in the Global Shared Service Center of thyssenkrupp. Currently, she is responsible for standards, processes, KPIs/measurements, internal control system. For almost 4 years, as Head of the Human Resources Shared Service she has managed various expert teams. Sibylle is the founding member of the thyssenkrupp LGBTI network.



Laura: Sibylle, thank you again for joining us as a jury member at the RAHM Contest Berlin 2019. A few weeks have passed since the contest took place, what particular moments are standing out for you when you think back to the day?

Sibylle: For me it is not one single moment but the overall feeling and atmosphere of the event. The whole day was good natured, competitive yet collaborative and in an overall mood of fun and good spirit. Even fierce competition in the discussions “on stage” I did not perceive as adversarial. Everybody was eager and soaking up the feedback and atmosphere. We created more energy overall than the sum of our energy would have been without the contest.

You have a really cool hobby next to your job at ThyssenKrupp: ,,Equality - Dance’’! Can you tell us a little bit about what it is and how it has an impact on your everyday life?

Equality dance is when two people of the same gender dance as a couple. One thing that, at least until now, is unique in equality dancing is the role change. Meaning it is not always the same person leading and following, the person leading might change during the dance.
Many dance couples with the usual distribution of roles (male leading/female following) ask if it is not very difficult to have to deal with both roles. I don’t see it that way. For me it enriches the experience to know what the challenge in both roles is. It makes me appreciate the other role more and helps  to understand that usually both sides have played a part if a problem occurs.
Which is just the same in leading and following at the work place. A leader not being precise or early enough in giving direction or a follower not being attentive to the directive given or not trained to carry out a move. As a leader I have to not hinder a follower to shine, as a follower I have to want to show my very best in a given situation. Then the dance will look effortless and the couple harmonious. And it just is a real great hobby to have and one of the best things to get your head free of work and be in the moment.

As I mentioned you work at ThyssenKrupp and are actually one of the founding members of the company’s LGBT+ network. What is it like to work as an out LGBT+ woman in a large German industrial company which focuses on steel processing? Spontaneously it doesn’t sound like the most, let’s say, modern and diverse environment. 

Just to set this straight (;-)  pun intended) thyssenkrupp is not focusing on steel processing. Steel is one of our 5 so called business areas and of course our root. Today  we are a technology group with traditional strengths in materials.
But you are right, diversity in some dimensions has potential. Not so much diversity regarding ethnical heritage, nationality or religion (we operate in 78 countries worldwide) but starting with gender. We only have 15% female employees and even less female leaders. Regarding the dimension of sexual orientation, working close to the headquarter and in a service organization surely has its advantages. In plants, with rougher working environment it is tougher for sure. The network has its challenges to reach the shop floors and support the LGBT+ community at those sites.
Anybody who can give us a hint as to how to tackle that particular challenge is highly welcome to get into contact with me.

Get connected and never underestimate the potential power of contacts.

Do you have some advice for our young female RAHMers when it comes to working in the more traditional (German) manufacturing industry? Being a woman in this field can be tough but being a lesbian woman can be even tougher.

I believe there is no such thing as one advice that fits all. Training to be a coach I have learned that everybody has to evaluate their specific environment and what is feasible there. However, from my experience I would say, the first thing to consider is: am I happy with myself and confident in the way I deal with the topic (also of being a woman)? Or do I see myself as lacking something or in the defensive? If there are still some issues in that department that would be the first thing to work on. Find someone who coaches and mentors you and helps you find your worth. Then find allies, people who will speak for you. Often antagonistic people don’t address you directly but people around you and it always helps if others have your back or stand up for you. Get connected and never underestimate the potential power of contacts.

Finally, let’s talk about your future plans. You are thinking about starting a seminar especially for LGBT+. What lies behind this idea? Which particular direction do you want it to go?

Together with an experienced trainer and coach we are still in the phase of planning the specific content and logistics. This trainer was inspired by a story I shared in his training about a certain coming out story and how that changed my way of leading and dealing with the topic at my workplace overall. With LGBT+ as target group to create a unique learning environment, we were discussing to go for the topic of “role modeling”. In the training we would like to help the participants to turn anxiety into courage (which was actually what happened for me during the training I had with him), how to find their own purpose and vision and how to become more influential by leading from behind. Anybody reading this interview who has an interest in some additional focus around this topic can contact me. Perhaps it can be integrated in the concept. We aim for a 2 days format starting with a weekend next spring and are looking into locations that can be reached without much hassle but provide nurturing environment such as beach or nature trails. Any tip regarding those logistic challenges is highly welcome as well.




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