Nadine McBroom

Carola Wahl

Head of Business Management,
Volkswagen Consulting
Alumna since 2011

How to do things differently
Thinking strategically about how to get more women into leadership positions

“In a post-pandemic world,” says Nadine McBroom, head of business management at Volkswagen Consulting, “I don’t think people will work remotely 100 percent of the time. But I am sure the experiences we had during the recent months won’t be forgotten. We’ve all proven that we can work from home, even with kids around and schools or kindergarten being closed. We have good collaborative tools set up, and we’ve shown how they add value.”

Prior to taking her current leadership role, one that she shares with another manager, Nadine held a variety of management positions in brand strategy and sales and marketing at Volkswagen. Before that, she was a senior associate at Booz & Company*, for more than six years, largely focused on the automotive sector. Today, Nadine lives in Wolfsburg, in northern Germany, with her husband and two children, ages 5 and 7.

During a recent conversation from her home office, Nadine discussed her own career path, one that spans both strategy and operations, and shared her vision for how businesses can recruit more women into leadership positions.

What were your early years like?
In Bavaria, where I grew up, my family owns a heating and plumbing business, so we were always busy with the family business. As a child, I spent lots of time in my dad’s workshop, and that’s how I first got interested in machines, science, and engineering. Later at school, I had a strong affinity for both mathematics and architecture. I ultimately decided to study technical mathematics at university because I wanted to challenge myself and prove that women could do anything, even if it was different from the mainstream.

What drew you to consulting?
During my studies, I felt that something was missing. Studying mathematics or science is very theoretical, and I had grown up seeing my dad always fixing something, producing something, and helping people. I wanted that same notion of creating an immediate impact, and consulting gives a better opportunity to do that.

How was your experience at Strategy&*?
What always stood out to me most about my experience was the people. In fact, I met my husband at Booz, so that’s probably also one of my most important takeaways! Besides that, I was intellectually challenged from the very beginning, working on interesting projects with talented colleagues. The whole environment felt like the right fit. During the years I was with the firm, I worked in a variety of areas, including telecommunications, energy, industrials, and banking, before eventually focusing on the automotive practice.

Congratulations on your recent promotion at Volkswagen! What are you doing now?
About a year ago, I became a head of business management for Volkswagen Consulting, a role I share with another female manager. Together, we’re responsible for branding and marketing, employee recruiting and retention, and training programs. We also take care of financial planning and implementation of the strategic direction of the business.

How does the job share work?
We both work almost full time, at 80%, but we share one position. So together, we lead a team of 10 people, and one of us is always available for our team members. I think one of the most important advantages is that each of us brings different experiences to the role, so we can collaborate and exchange ideas, which helps us come up with better solutions. But we also have more flexibility to arrange our working hours with the needs of our families since we both have two young kids.

Was this a new opportunity?
Volkswagen introduced a job-sharing model about five years ago as a way to offer more flexible working models for managers and retain more women in management. There are a couple more job-sharing tandems at Volkswagen — for both genders — and the number is growing. I think it’s been especially valuable during the pandemic.

Do you think the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic could help bring more women into leadership positions?
Absolutely. Before the pandemic, a lot of women felt that asking for a little flexibility, like working from home one day a week, was the maximum possible. But my hope is that this will change. I am convinced that more men will also feel like they can ask for opportunities to work from home one or two days a week. And that can really make a difference for families. At Volkswagen in general, but also at Volkswagen Consulting, we’d like to see many more women in management roles, and flexibility or being able to work from home is one piece of that puzzle. But even more importantly, I think we need to create environments where women feel they’re heard and taken seriously. What are the potential barriers they’re facing? What do they need? In my personal experience, I’ve tried to gather as much information as possible before making a decision to change jobs. I’ve wanted to know that my manager and colleagues are open-minded and that we have a good connection. Networking with people, whether male or female, who care about promoting senior-level, experienced women is also crucial in order to advance personally and professionally.

Reflecting on your many achievements so far, what makes you most proud?
Integrating into a large corporation like the Volkswagen Group is a quite challenging transition, especially on a management level. I am proud of having achieved this with a lot of flexibility, openness, and willingness to learn and accept a totally different culture, and much more complex structures and processes. Volkswagen is undergoing one of the biggest and most exciting changes in the industry, and I take pride in being able to contribute to the company’s goal of accelerating its transformation into a software-driven mobility provider. Having learned the right set of skills and tools in consulting certainly helped a lot. Moreover, I am proud of having arranged and still arranging a successful management career with a family life and two little kids. And of being one of the few managers so far who’ve had the opportunity to work in a job-sharing model — which I believe is here to stay!

What’s the best advice you can offer to others?
Have the courage to do things differently and challenge conventions. If you really want something, you can make it happen.

*Independently operating as Booz Allen Hamilton (later Booz & Company) at that time

This interview was conducted and edited by Ina Fischer, Strategy& and Jen Swetzoff, founder of CLOSEUP, a creative studio in Brooklyn, New York. Jen was formerly the deputy managing editor at strategy+business magazine.

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