Telse Tschamon and Maren John show that family and career not only works, but even harmonises – and that in teamwork. Working in tandem, the two engineers lead the Powertrain Integration 4 Cylinder Spark-Ignition Engines department at Mercedes-Benz and ensure that the latest models from Mercedes-Benz combine the best performance with a pleasant driving experience while being as environmentally friendly as possible. In their double interview the two colleagues tell us, how they met and why more women should discover the engineering profession for themselves.
Ms. John and Ms. Tschamon, you jointly lead the Powertrain Integration department for Mercedes-Benz`s new generation of engines. How are team leadership and project management handled in a job tandem?
Telse Tschamon: I think it certainly helps that Maren and I think alike about many things. For example, very open communication in the team is important for both of us. There are twelve colleagues working in our department. When we work on the integration of a new powertrain for our vehicle models, we even have an overall team of up to 200 people from the various units working on our project. It's important that we are well coordinated and that we can rely on each other.
Maren John: Yes, and that works really well for us. We often pass the balls to each other in our projects. This is pleasant and efficient at the same time. In addition, each of us is in charge of her own thematic area. Telse is more responsible for the hardware, i.e. for all the technical components, and I look after the software. Of course, it is important that we get along well personally.
How did it come about that the two of you took over the department together?
Telse Tschamon: Given my family situation, I could not imagine myself in a full-time position. Two years ago, my daughter started school after kindergarten. Before that she was with the Rennmäuse, AMG's childcare. That was a great re-entry because I always had my little girl close by even while I was at work. With school, a whole new phase of life began for her and I want to accompany her through it. That would not have been possible with the 40-hour job. I then approached my supervisor and he supported me in finding a solution. And Maren, it was similar for you.
Maren John: Yes, because families are very well supported at Mercedes-Benz. That is very special. After the birth of our first son, I was able to switch to part-time and then took over the development team for the electronics platform of our new powertrain together with a colleague. Later, my supervisor approached me and asked me if I could imagine leading the drive development department with a tandem partner.
And what happened next?
Telse Tschamon: It was interesting that the two of us didn't know each other before. When Maren and I first met, we had good chemistry from the start. After our very first meeting, we immediately decided that we would take up the position together. So, our bosses had the right feeling that we were a good match (laughs).
What are the topics in the area of powertrain integration?
Maren John: We are the interface between the development teams of our various vehicle series and our colleagues from drive development The drive systems are used in various model series, for example in the C-Class, E-Class or GLE, depending on the equipment. Our task is to integrate the drives into the various models. This means that we are also responsible for how our vehicles feel later on.
Telse Tschamon: One of our goals is to offer a driving experience and comfort. Many factors play a role in this: The comfort and agility of the powertrain - and of course we have the ambition to keep fuel consumption and emissions low. For example, we coordinate with our development teams on how we can make gearshifts smoother or eliminate annoying noises while driving. Often we also go directly to the test track. That is what I personally enjoy the most.
What makes your team special in your opinion?
Telse Tschamon: It's great to see how colleagues work together to find solutions to develop state-of-the-art drives. Everyone does their best. There is a lot of passion there...
Maren John: ... and the team spirit is really great. Everyone supports each other, for example when the rollout for a development project is coming up. We also have team events, which additionally promote team spirit.
How did you two actually come to Mercedes-Benz?
Maren John: While I was studying for my mechanical engineering degree in Aachen, I was a research assistant at the Fraunhofer Institute. The focus was on quality management and how complex production processes can be optimised. Then, by chance, I came across a job advertisemen in process management here. It was a great fit. And later I worked at various stations in the field of electrics and drive electronics.
And you, Ms. Tschamon?
Telse Tschamon: I studied automotive engineering at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. The topic of engine development appealed to me. So I decided to take my first holiday job at the Mercedes-Benz site in Untertürkheim. The team and the environment were a positive 'aha' experience for me. That is why I joined the Group right after graduating. After a while, I moved to the development department at Mercedes AMG in Affalterbach. That was great, because as a young engineer I had a lot of freedom in the development area.
Even today, there are still few women in engineering. Do you have any advice for women who can imagine a career in a technical profession?
Telse Tschamon: Do not be intimidated. In my youth, I had friends who identified cars from afar by their rear lights. And I said to myself: "You don't know anything about cars. Do you really want to study automotive engineering?" During my studies, I realised that skills like analytical thinking and working in a team are important - and of course some interest in technology (laughs).
Maren John: I can only recommend that you try your hand in the technical field. In our department, we often have the opportunity for an internship, working student activities or final theses . These are excellent opportunities to form your own opinion.
One last personal question: What should not be missing in your dream office?
Maren John: Actually, we mostly still work in home office because of COVID-19. This is also a kind of dream office (laughs), because being close to the family while working is a huge advantage...
Telse Tschamon: ... and it is often also more efficient. That is why we want to keep this in our team in the long term. But of course it is also important to meet colleagues in person.
Maren John's (47) enthusiasm for technology runs in the family. The fact that her two older brothers studied civil engineering and physics motivated the Sauerland native from Germany to study mechanical engineering at the RWTH in Aachen. In 2002, she started at the company in process management. Later, she worked in the powertrain electronics division, with responsibility for software applications and scheduling for the powertrain projects. After the birth of her two sons, she took over as team leader in E/E platform technology development. Today, when she is not ensuring the perfect driving experience as Head of Powertrain Integration, she loves to relax with her family, in her own garden or hiking in the Alps.
Growing up on a farm, Telse Tschamon (47) was already impressed by large machines. She later trained as an agricultural machinery mechanic and completed her studies in automotive engineering at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (today HAW). In 2000, she joined the development department at Mercedes-Benz through an exchange group and then moved to Mercedes-AMG. Here, she gained her first management experience as assistant to CEO Volker Mornhinweg and then took over, among other things, project management for the naturally aspirated V8 engine. The head of the Powertrain Integration department relaxes best with her family - or in the sports pool.