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Created on 17.03.2021

“I realized I wanted to be involved in decision-making at strategic level”

We are profiling women who work in management positions at PostFinance. Taru Koch is the Head of Communications & Branding. In this interview, she explains what motivated her to embark on a management career and how she manages to combine her working and family life.

How do you manage your employees?

It is important to me that we have a common, overarching understanding of where we want to go. My job is to create the perfect conditions and to guide and support the employees. In return, I expect everyone to participate, accept the tasks and implement them independently – always with a view to ensuring that our performance contributes to the purpose and ambition of the company as a whole.

Did you deliberately seek out a management position?

I was always ambitious and had my own goals. However, I wasn't necessarily determined to seek a management career right from the start, but I did see myself in a specialist career. I always progressed in areas that appealed to me: digitization, marketing and communication, HR and change management. In these highly charged areas, I wanted to make a difference in my respective roles and develop things further,  while focusing on the needs of the customers and the challenges of employees. This is still an important motivator for me. Two factors finally pushed me towards my decision to pursue a management career: firstly, I realized that I wanted to be involved in decision-making at a strategic level and that I would need to climb the ladder to get to a place where strategic decisions were actually made. And secondly, it was the joy of guiding employees on their professional path and creating a framework in which they could develop professionally and personally, achieve their goals, and enjoy their successes.

What are your tips for other women who aspire to management positions?

On the one hand, it takes courage and a willingness to leave your comfort zone and take on new challenges. On the other hand, it is important to proactively position yourself. Some women find it difficult to position themselves and see it as being obsequious. I advise them to focus on their expertise by showing what they can do and, above all, expressing clearly what they want. And when the opportunity arises, you must seize it – even if the moment doesn't seem ideal.

And when the opportunity arises, you must seize it – even if the moment doesn't seem ideal.

When you got your first management position, did you have doubts about the timing?

My first opportunity for a management position came up at IBM shortly after I got back on board after my first maternity leave. It was for a position as a team leader. My son was a year old at the time. I asked myself whether this career step with a small child and an 80% workload was even possible, whether I had the confidence, and how I would manage to balance my family and working life. Then I realized: there would never be the “perfect time”. Just as there is never the perfect time to have children, there is never the perfect time to take on your first managerial position. But I decided to seize the opportunity and just see how things went. And it worked out well.

What specifically helps you to balance your family and working life?

On employer side, it is all about providing options that make working more flexible, such as part-time models, flexible working hours or working from home. But also a culture in which people meet as equals, where problems can be addressed and solutions can be found by working together. In particular, it requires managers who understand that it is not always easy to balance career and family life. And, of course, you also have to be able to rely on certain things in your private life. My partner and I were always very sure that we both wanted children and both wanted to look after them. And it was also clear that we both wanted to keep working. In a partnership, this should be discussed before you have children – to avoid surprises later on due to false expectations, but also to be able to remind each other of what you agreed on. And last but not least, it helps us a lot to be able to rely on strong childcare networks, in our case grandparents as well as daycare centers and day schools.

Is there such a thing as the perfect balance between family, career and personal needs?

For me personally, it is neither possible nor realistic to always maintain a perfect balance between work, family and my own needs. Ideally, each side of that triangle should be equally balanced; in reality, however, it is often distorted. For example, if I'm under a lot of pressure at work, as is currently the case, it comes at the expense of the family and of my own needs or the needs within my partnership. So what do I do? Even in these unbalanced periods, I try to schedule a free evening for myself, a family weekend or a small break for my partner and me. And I make sure that things don't stay unbalanced for too long. As I said, I have no experience of a consistent, long-term work/life balance. It's more a case of constantly managing that triangle.

How do you encourage other women to take the next step in their careers?

On the one hand, I suppose by serving as a role model as a woman and mother in a management position. This proves to other women that it really is possible to balance a management position and motherhood. And as a direct supervisor in specific cases, I seek out discussions early on in order to work out possible career scenarios together. I also offer employees internal platforms where they can demonstrate their expertise on an important committee, for example. Or I nominate them to work on strategically important projects that benefit from increased attention from senior management or the level below. This gives employees a presence on committees that ultimately help decide on the allocation of management positions. I have also benefited greatly from such platforms.

Will we still need to talk about women in management positions for much longer or is it finally becoming normal?

Women and men view and assess things differently. And that's a good thing. However, it is equally important to have a good mix of women and men at all levels in a company, be it on the board of directors, in management, in top management or at executive level. Personally, I have had the experience of being more challenged as a young woman than my colleagues. Especially when I had my first child, there were questions like “Can she handle it?”, “Does she even want to?”, “Won't she decide to get pregnant again right away?” Certainly, we've come some way since then. But I do hear from others that this is still an issue – depending on the company and the culture within that company. Especially when it comes to young women in management positions. So this is something we still need to talk about and act on.

Is there something you have learned in your management role that you also apply to your private life?

The principle of “choosing your battles” wisely. Because you can't fight on a hundred fronts, but maybe on five. I also pick my “battles” in my private life. I decide which ones are worthy of my energy because it is important to me that things work out the way I want them to. Equally, there are also times where I drop all five battles.


Taru Koch studied economics at the University of St. Gallen and holds a master's degree in Marketing, Services and Communication Management. She has also completed various further training courses in the field of HR. She has worked at IBM and PostFinance, among others, in various strategic and operational functions in marketing, communications and HR, consistently focusing on the question of how digitalization affected her respective areas of responsibility. Since March 2021, she has been Head of Communications & Branding at PostFinance. She is married and has two children (born in 2013 and 2016).

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