Caroline Weber is both a world-class windsurfer and a project manager at umlaut. Her secret: giving 110 percent – and then simply going with the flow.
It's seven o'clock in the morning; a wetsuit protects her from the cool sea breeze. In the little Danish town of Klitmøller, Caroline Weber looks out at the blue-grey waves along the shore, which are rolling in towards her, roaring and crashing. Her hair is wet – just a few minutes ago, she was part of this natural spectacle, the sail of her equipment a bright splash of colour against the white spray. A last glance back at the sea, then she walks the short distance back to the car park: off to the office.
The windows of her campervan are still rather steamed up, fresh air is streaming in through the open tailgate. On the little table inside the van, her laptop, mouse and lamp share the small amount of available space –the power is provided by the solar panel on the roof. Caroline has combed the sand out of her hair, put on a headset and opened up her schedule. A customer is speaking in a window on the screen; she takes notes.
She no longer notices the slight movement of the van from the force of the roaring wind. Just as she maintains complete concentration to steer her body and her board over the waves, she is highly focused when she is working. 'I give 110 percent, whatever I’m doing.'
Because 100 percent is not enough, she simply gets better and better.
Since September 2019, this has also meant being 110 percent project manager and consultant at umlaut. Her time is largely divided between project work for a large defence customer – here she deals with the procurement of materials for hospitals – and strategic development. The task: transferring umlaut's industrial expertise from the automotive and aviation sectors into the healthcare sector to an even greater extent and creating synergies between the sectors. 'A topic for the future,' says Caroline.
I hardly manage to finish asking the question "Are you ambitious?" before getting an immediate answer: 'Yes!' Even as a child, she used to go surfing with her father, she tells us. 'But I wasn't actually that sporty and, at some point, I started to get frustrated that everyone was better than me.' That soon changed – as a teenager, she plays handball and swims competitively. While studying for her degree, she manages to squeeze in yoga, running and CrossFit into her weekly schedule – as well as her newly discovered love for watersports.
While studying for a master's degree in Molecular Life Sciences in Lübeck, she spends every spare moment down by the water. And because 100 percent is not enough, she simply gets better and better. She is approached by sponsors, and starts taking part in competitions, first in Germany and Denmark and later on in Spain. In 2011, she joins the German World Cup team for the first time, while simultaneously writing her master’s thesis.
Looking for the right wave to catch
'Being completely focused on the moment'
'Surfing means being completely focused on the moment,' says Caroline. It's important to use your intuition, but you also need to be able to correctly interpret the movement of the waves. When is it best to wait? When should you put all your energy into seizing the opportunity? This is a mindset, Caroline tells us, that now accompanies her in her everyday work – 'although I had to train my instincts first.'
'It might sound strange, but I didn't really have a plan with regard to my professional future.' After completing her master’s degree, her first job is with a biotechnology company. Initially, she works in research, then she is given the task of managing the SAP integration as a member of the finance department. As always, giving 110 percent – but without really knowing whether she is heading in the right direction. 'When I was at university, I had more of an affinity for communication,' Caroline remembers.
Sometimes it can be helpful to just go with the flow for a little while. Caroline works, Caroline goes surfing. 'I’m actually quite an impatient person,' she says, 'but we surfers always say that you can't take every wave.' She trains for ten to fifteen hours a week, on the water and on land. At the weekend, she takes her van and drives to the little resorts in the north of Denmark, and she always takesher surfboard with her when going on holiday. By 2019 she had won the Danish championship in Klitmøller three times and competed in World Cup championships on Tenerife and Sylt often ending up in Top 10 positions.
The beach is a meeting place for doctors, lawyers and board members
'When you do sport at this level, it requires a high degree of discipline,' says Caroline. Contrary to the common clichés, it’s therefore not unusual to find doctors, lawyers and board members down on the beach. And that’s how she meets her future employer – not at a job fair, but with sand between her toes: she is approached by a member of the umlaut team who also enjoys surfing and, not long afterwards, she joins the company.
And was the van office a condition for joining the company? 'No,' says Caroline and laughs, 'that's just an exception.' A little break from working from home. 'For me, the quality of my work has to be right first. Then I can pursue other interests.' However, the two can be combined very well. At least they can when you have Caroline's 220 percent energy reserves.
As a project manager, she also has to deal with figures, but what's more important is the people behind them, Caroline tells us. Her analytical skills really come to life in the field of Business Development: 'We ask ourselves: What can we do? What have we already done? And where do we want to get to?' This means maintaining a good overview and requires discipline – and an instinct for picking the right moment. In fact the same qualities that you need to be a good surfer.
Caroline conquers uncharted waters, at umlaut and on the surfboard