Head of the organics department, in charge of marketing, a mother of three children and, in her spare time, coach of a junior volleyball team: Kathrin Knötzsch from Berghof Analytik successfully manages to juggle with quite a bunch of things. In this interview, the graduate chemist and passionate hobby gardener tells us why clear structures are the be all and end all for both her work and her private life, why team sports, from her point of view, teach important life lessons and why Berghof Analytik is a very special laboratory – for the customers and the team.
1) Usually, a person who studies chemistry is interested in that subject early on at school. Does this fit the description of your career, too?
Yes and no. I have always been very interested in chemistry, but unfortunately chemistry lessons in middle school were very dull and boring, which rather extinguished the fire for chemistry in me. That’s why I signed up only for the basic chemistry course at high school. In retrospect, however, that turned out to be a wonderful stroke of luck, because our chemistry teacher was really great and covered a lot of interesting, practice-oriented topics with us – such as dyeing jeans or making cosmetics. After graduating from high school, when it came to deciding on a course of study, I as a basic course graduate chose not to take chemistry exclusively but instead studied industrial engineering with a specialization in chemistry. However, after my first internships during my studies and an internship in a brewery at the latest, it was clear to me that chemistry and working in the lab was right up my alley. So I changed my mind and switched my major to chemistry with a focus on food chemistry/life sciences and toxicology. I havn’t ever regretted this decision. I wish that more young women in particular would take an interest in natural sciences and have the confidence to do so. There are great career opportunities and you definitely won’t ever get bored. That's why I was very happy to report on my school and professional careers for the “Komm mach MINT“ campaign, in order to get more young women interested in natural sciences, especially chemistry.
2) You work 35 hours a week, that’s almost full time, and you are a mother of three. Even before the Corona pandemic, that must have been an organizational challenge, but in the last year with Corona, home schooling and alternate teaching, it was in a whole different league altogether. How do you manage all these tasks?
To make this scheme a success you got to be very well structured and you have to stick together as a family. For example, our children have to lend a hand with the daily household chores. We also have fixed routines in other areas. Since, to make things even more difficult, my husband and me moved to this region because of our jobs, we live here without any family to support. That's why it's so important and valuable for us that I can schedule my work at Berghof Analytik with a certain degree of flexibility. Of course, my work in the laboratory cannot be shifted to the home office. But whenever there is a chance for temporal or spatial flexibility, I can make use of it – and we are very grateful for that. The Berghof Group is not only an innovative family business, it is also a company where family-friendly work conditions are an important issue. This is something that not only we benefit from, but also very many other families with one or sometimes even both parents working for the Berghof Group.
3) Speaking of very clear structures, the Berghof Group had an absolute lean management specialist in its ranks for many years. He ensured even more satisfied customers in many areas at Berghof by consistently optimizing processes according to “lean“ criteria. Is this also an issue at Berghof Analytik?
Yes, definitely. Last year in particular, we again put all of our internal workflows and technical infrastructure to the test with the entire team as part of a major project – and were surprised how much potential for increasing efficiency we discovered in our laboratory, mind you, without compromising on the quality of the analyses. Much to the delight of our customers. As a result, we were able to significantly improve our delivery times, reinforced by investments in supporting technology. This was a very important step, because customer demand for express analytics is growing steadily at our two laboratories in Tübingen and Chemnitz. We will therefore continue to pursue this path consistently - because our goal is quite clear to become better for our customers every day.