Article about Porsche

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Barbara Frenkel's path to Porsche

Barbara Frenkel never wanted to work for one of the big carmakers. Porsche, however, appealed to her – not least because she has a soft spot for sports cars from Stuttgart. Her start in 2001 was no walk in the park – but now the native of Franconia is the first woman on the company’s Executive Board.

Barbara Frenkel has achieved something that no woman before her at the Stuttgart carmaker had accomplished: she became the first woman to join the luxury brand’s seven-member Executive Board, climbing to the highest echelons of the company’s management. After serving as head of European sales, Barbara Frenkel has been in charge of procurement since June. This is particularly important at Porsche because the in-house share of production has always been small.

Changes to Porsche AG’s Executive Board

But since chips have been in very short supply throughout the automotive industry, buyers have had to manage crises and cope with shortages. There are an average of 5,000 different variants of semiconductors in every car, explains the manager in her first interview after being promoted to the board. “We’ve actually come through the semiconductor crisis quite well so far,” the 58-year-old manager reports.

Office at the development centre in Weissach

The office of Porsche’s first female executive is not at the company’s headquarters in Zuffenhausen, but at the carmaker’s development centre in Weissach. “Procurement and development work closely together when new projects are awarded. The short distances facilitate communication,” explains Frenkel, whose slightly trilling “r” gives away where she grew up. The native of Franconia comes from the city of Hof and, after graduating from secondary school, studied chemistry in Bayreuth and rubber technology in Hanover. This medium-sized company describes itself as the “world market leader in components such as shoulder pads and interlinings for the international fashion industry.”

“I had not attended a leadership seminar or staff development programme. I saw the opportunities and jumped in at the deep end,” she says in retrospect.

“We should meet”

Then one day a headhunter called, saying: “A major company in southern Germany is looking for a quality manager,” and asked if she was interested. “I replied: ’The only company I’m interested in is Porsche. If it’s not Porsche, there’s nothing to discuss,” Frenkel recalls.

“I enjoyed the high dynamics at the suppliers. As a supplier, you constantly have to overcome challenges, continuously evolve.” In contrast, from the supplier’s perspective she had viewed the large carmakers as rather sluggish.

Personal motive for the switch to Porsche

I wanted to keep the dynamism that I knew from the supplier industry. Porsche is constantly reinventing itself and is never satisfied with what it has achieved so far. So I thought to myself: I could fit in quite well there. Moreover, the brand was already highly respected and extremely sought-after at the time. “I once took a ride in my brother’s Porsche, a silver 993 Carrera 2 with an air-cooled engine. The driving dynamics were incredible.” After that ride, she said to herself: “at some point in my life, I want to drive a car like that.” Today, she drives a red 911 Turbo as her company car.

Starting out as a quality manager at Porsche in 2001 wasn’t exactly easy, however. As quality manager, the newcomer was charged the task of moving Porsche into one of the top three slots.

Career tips from Barbara Frenkel

Text first published in Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.

Original article

Dec 20, 2021 at 09:51


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