Hanna, you joined Fraunhofer FKIE in 2011 after three years of exciting research as a postdoc at the Bonn-Aachen International Center for Information Technology (b-it). How did that come about?
Hanna: My work at b-it already had an applied focus; it combined traditional university research and teaching with industry collaboration, but I wanted to do lean even more toward industry-focused research. And the fact of the matter is, when you're looking for application-oriented research, there's simply no getting around the name Fraunhofer.
In addition to your passion for applied research, you also have a big family and are a dedicated mom to four children. How do you balance these passions?
Hanna: Without the support of my colleagues, flexible part-time working arrangements, and the fact that my supervisors have embraced this without prejudice, it would not have been possible to manage the balancing act of caring for my children and doing such demanding scientific work. I'm really grateful for that. When my kids were very young, for instance, I was able to do most of my work in Wachtberg. For me, that meant having regular, predictable working hours while my colleagues did most of the business trips. But of course, you also have to have the will and the energy to combine family and career. That said, the exciting topics and creative opportunities that are open to all of the employees here have always made it easy for me to summon the necessary energy.
Before you took over as head of the Architecture of Distributed Command and Control Systems research group in 2016, you participated in the institute's own leadership academy for the development of next-generation leaders. What was your key takeaway from that experience?
Hanna: The Leadership Academy was an important opportunity for me and really helped me to advance – even though you don't realize how it will impact your day-to-day work until afterwards. For instance, the mentoring component was really vital in helping me to get a clear picture of my personality and aspirations and an understanding of the extensive seminar program for mastering leadership tools.
During your time at Fraunhofer FKIE, you have already worked on a wide range of projects. Is there anything that you can point to that best characterizes your work at the institute?
Hanna: Yes. At the top of the list is the advisory function that we assume for the client. The scientific work we do is for the customer, which means that we need a precise understanding of the problems they need to solve and of their requirements. On the other hand, Fraunhofer FKIE also offers you the opportunity to advance topics that you yourself enjoy working on and ideas that you are passionate about. The greatest reward is to see how your supposedly "craziest" ideas slowly unfold and finally take shape in the form of real-world prototypes, which in turn spark the interest of new customers and help them solve presumably unsolvable problems. That gives you a sense of pride.
What do you like most about your work at Fraunhofer FKIE?
Hanna: Here at the institute, the work is highly interdisciplinary. FKIE brings together experts from fields as diverse as ergonomics, linguistics, algorithms, and software development. Also, you have the opportunity to get up to speed on new topics in very short order. There is constant learning and taking new approaches. That's something I really value.