Interview – 17. Aug 2019
HERE YOU DON'T GET THROWN IN THE DEEP END AS A CONSULTANT.
Mrs. Wipplinger, may I ask what you studied? And would you study something else today?

I did my bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration and Marketing at WU Vienna and my Master’s degree in Marketing. That’s probably not typical if you want a job in an industrial consulting firm.
An interesting question is whether I would study something else now. In retrospect, of course, you’re smarter. Looking back, I’d probably go in the direction of supply chain or do something completely different.

Sociology, for example?

Probably not! (laughs) For me, it’s always been languages that interest me much more and they‘re a lot of fun. I would probably go in that direction. In any case, the international context was and is very important to me in my profession.

How many languages do you speak?

German, English, French, Italian, Spanish.

Sounds good. But how did the desire to go into consulting come about? What appealed to you about the industry?

After my studies, which involved a lot of theory, I just wanted to get out into practice, into project management. I wanted to develop myself further, acquire skills, deal with completely different things and gain insights into different companies and functions. Consulting gives you the chance to dive into many areas in a short period of time.

And why Syngroup? How did you get here - and what convinced you?

It was through a friend who had already worked for Syngroup. Syngroup is definitely different from a lot of consultancies I’ve heard about. That appealed to me immediately, because we don’t fulfill this typical consulting cliché that everyone talks about.

Elisabeth Wipplinger, Consultant
And what did you think about our approach?

I found it exciting that everything was focused on industry. The focus on customer contact also felt right to me: to engage immediately with people in production instead of sitting there and creating presentations. I liked all this so much because it‘s what I’d hoped for.

What exactly do you do for Syngroup now?

Something very different. I’ve been with Syngroup for a year and a half. In the first few months I worked for a client in France at three different production sites. The topic was efficiency – in this case improving productivity. It was about improving production processes, interviewing the people involved, carrying out observations, doing lots of analysis and developing new tools. You need very, very good knowledge of Excel, but fortunately you can learn a lot from your colleagues in a short time.
Another project involves standardization of locations. For this client, the focus is not on production, but on internal sales. It involves a lot of interviewing and data analysis to compare performance here, with performance in other locations and how to take things down to a common denominator. In other words, a great deal of customer contact, which is focussed on developing solutions.

But of course there is a briefing, a target.

Absolutely, yes, you’re not thrown in at the deep-end as a consultant. But in both cases, a lot of things were very new and challenging: particularly working with the customer on my own, taking responsibility at an early stage. Of course the planning and briefing in advance were important, it worked very well.

And what does such a working day or week look like? I suppose that's not easy to define?

You ask yourself the question: How do I do it? I’ve never done it before. Even so, you still accept the challenge, grow with the opportunity, because you learn so many new things and see many new places in a short time. But I think you have to be a certain type of individual.

I can well imagine that.

Yes, although I can’t say – I’m now in my mid-20s – whether I want to continue doing this for many years. Of course, there is sometimes a point where you long for routine. But it’s possible at Syngroup to find yourself back in Vienna in between projects. And then, how do I say, to catch up again with your social contacts, because travelling isn’t always easy.

What distinguishes a good team for you? How important is diversity - and are diverse teams at an advantage per se?

By “diverse” you do not mean different activities, but rather –

Gender, nationality, age difference.

So with regard to nationalities I can answer that. So far, my projects have all been international – in my work I never really communicate in German – perhaps only with my colleagues. Cultural diversity can sometimes be a challenge and you shouldn’t underestimate it.
In any case, I think diversity is very important in teamwork. Different points of view are often critical in the solution process and a huge advantage. I think it makes no difference to me whether it’s a man or woman in front of me.

Consulting is obviously male dominated. How were you received by Syngroup?

Very well. I never experienced anything negative or anything like that. On the contrary, the atmosphere has always been pleasant and relaxed. But I can’t make any comparisons with other consultancies.

Why do you think there are still so few women in consulting?

I believe that despite everything, the thought of the biological clock always plays a role. Or: Do I really want to commit myself knowing that I may not be able to progress because I don’t see myself as a partner in the company? But I also think there are very different career paths today.

But they don‘t seem to be as attractive for many women as they are for men?

Maybe that’s what some people think. I think to myself: Why not me too? For me it is simply a good idea to travel and be in a position to apply everything I have studied. That is completely clear to me.

I wish for Syngroup:

The opportunity to continue to achieve my personal goals. That I won‘t be treated as an assistant, but as a colleague and of equal status, that I will be listened to. That is what I want to continue to see.That was perhaps not so short. (laughs) I’ll try the next point.

To be a Consultant means:

A lot of variety. And in my case also a lot of travel.

The most important quality of a good consultant is:

The ability to focus on the most important things, but nevertheless to identify the important details when looking at things in depth.

My greatest strength is:

My social competence and language skills.

My colleagues appreciate me most of all:

I’m almost always in a good mood.

The most exciting thing about international projects is:

To come across things again and again that you didn’t realise could be a challenge.

The Syngroup claim "The Efficiency Consultants" is for me:

For me, it’s unique.