“YOU DO NOT NEED TO WEAR A SUIT TO LOOK
PROFESSIONAL IN BUSINESS”
Dr. Vera Geisel, very close, direct and very personal.
Can you tell us a bit about your profession and what drives you every day?
I am Head of Personnel Services at thyssenkrupp AG. thyssenkrupp AG is the holding company of thyssenkrupp group, a conglomerate with the segments Elevator, Steel, Materials, Industrials and Automotive. Currently, thyssenkrupp is undergoing a restructuring program as you may well have read in the news. Part of this is an IPO or sale of the Elevator Business. The HR Department of thyssenkrupp is also part of a big transformation programme. I lead a team of 20 employees that provides personnel service for about 1000 employees every day. What drives me on every day – I think having the right people in the right positions is essential to succeeding in business. My position is key to this aim, since apart from the administrative personnel service tasks, my team and I are responsible for recruitment and placements as well as development, apprenticeships and on-going training of the employees at all levels below top management.
What was your dream job once you were a child?
I studied Law and before I changed to the HR department I worked for about eight years in the law department at thyssenkrupp. My dream jobs, when I was a child, were very different from what I do now. When I was very little I wanted to become a teacher like my mother. When I became older I very much liked music and art. I also really liked sewing and knitting clothes for me and my dolls. So when I was a teenager I dreamt of becoming a designer or an architect. Then I started to study Law. During my studies I spent one year in the US where I thought about becoming a photo-journalist. In the end, I finished my studies and became a lawyer.
Do you have any creative hobbies today?
Well honestly, with a family and kids I don’t have much time for hobbies. If I had more free time I would take up piano lessons again. However, on the positive side, I think creativity is something you can always use in your job, even as a lawyer. Human resources managers, need to have creative ideas too, to be able to think differently and experiment with new solutions.
What does fashion means to you? How would you describe your style?
I like fashion which underlines the beauty of a women. I like elegant dresses and always look for an outfit that is somehow unique or special. The most important thing for me is that I feel good when I am wearing a piece and it gives me the feeling that it highlights my personality and makes me more beautiful.
What role fashion plays in your professional life? Are there any cliché when it comes to the dress code?
Of course, the dress culture used to be very traditional in the company I work for. When I started, everybody was wearing business suits. Women always wore white blouses, black tights and dark trouser suits. Nowadays things are different and the dress culture offers much more variety. That’s good for me, because the classic black business suit is not my favorite. In fact, I don’t have a different wardrobe for business or official events in Düsseldorf. However, I do decide every morning what to wear depending on the events that are going to take place. In general, I don’t have the time to change after my working day when I accompany my husband to an evening event in Düsseldorf.
I’m convinced that you can look very professional without wearing a business suit. I like fashion and if I find an outfit, which helps me to express myself – how I feel, what I stand for, and it makes me feel good – I will wear it for business as well. This saves time and money, because you don’t need to have a separate wardrobe for business and for your personal life.
I’m convinced that you can look professional without wearing a business suit. I like fashion and if I find an outfit, which helps me to express myself – how I feel and what I stand for- I will wear it for business as well.Vera Geisel
Do you follow trends and how do you inform yourself about them?
I guess trends sometimes influence you subconsciously. So, I probably can’t say that I don’t follow trends. But I don’t really focus on following any trends. Instead – as I said before- what’s important to me is that an outfit makes me more beautiful and that I feel good wearing it. I’m also always looking out for German designers and especially designers from Düsseldorf, e.g. Dorothee Schumacher, Thomas Rath, Norman Icking, Stephanie Pothen and Marion Strehlow. I’m always keen to find new designers and luckily I’m in the position of being invited to many events where I often meet someone new.
I’ve stopped buying the same piece of clothing in different colours. I noticed that you have only one favourite colour, and you just don’t really wear the other ones.”Vera Geisel
What is your favourite colour?
My favourite colour is blue. But I also like different tones of burgundy red, like a mixture of dark pink and violet.
Biggest shopping regrets?
No major regrets, really. But, sometimes I used to buy something which wasn’t really necessary. What I’ve stopped doing is buying the same piece of clothing in different colours. I noticed that you have only one favourite colour, and you just don’t really wear the other ones.
Is there one piece of clothing which you particularly love, which has a special story?
I have a black silk ball gown, which I wore just a few weeks ago. I bought it more than 20 years ago in Thailand. We were staying at a very cosy resort right at the beach. That was also at the time when I had already started to work at with thyssenkrupp but had not yet finished my PhD thesis. So I used the time in Thailand to work on my PhD. The dress was sewn by one of the tailors you can find in those small shops close to the resorts where we were staying. Indeed, I have many dresses, which I have kept for years and which seem to be timeless, just like the black ball gown from Thailand.
With the “sharing economy” and the sort of Airbnb for Fashion startups popping up, could you imagine renting clothes?
Oh yes, it would be great to rent clothing for certain events. I could well imagine renting dresses. It´s much more efficient when you have one special event, like a ball for example. It would also be great, if you could rent costumes for Carnival.
Do you have any advice when it comes to sustainable living?
What I think is very dangerous, is if people only follow and hype one solution. When it comes to sustainability in fashion, mobility or other aspects of life, we need to stay open to diverse options and not blindly follow one market innovation. So, my sustainability tip would be: Don’t just follow the zeitgeist. Keep driving your efficient diesel car.
What is your New Year’s resolution?
I am so busy and sometimes late. So, my New Year´s resolution is being on time.
What is your connection to the city of Düsseldorf? What are you favourite places?
I was born in Essen but have spent the last 18 years living in Düsseldorf. One of the places I like best in Düsseldorf is the river Rhine. Our family lives close to the river and we enjoy running on the riverbank. Also, there is a great photo of us there, taken by the photographer, Katarina Mayer. If our children could choose a favourite location, they would choose the riverbank. It is very special to all of us.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
Well, I have three lives. I am a mother, a business professional and a wife to my husband. I think having variety in life is important. So if something isn’t running perfectly the other activities can offset this. Not focusing on one thing too much is something which helps me keep the balance and stay happy.
Recommendation for career seeking women?
Seek your career but make sure you never appear like a career seeking woman.
What make you angry?
Lies, I hate lies. Once words or lies have been said out loud, they are there and you cannot take them back.
What is the best present to yourself?
What is the nicest thing that we have on the planet Earth?
If you were an animal, which one would you be?
Dolphin. They are just so bright!