Hannah Szynal studied Communications and German as a Foreign Language at TU Dresden and received her master’s degree in 2009. Following her graduation, she went on to work as a Freelance Marketing Consultant. During her time of self-employment, she was able to gain a broad range of professional experience and developed the ability to adapt and adjust to different customer expectation and needs.
After several years as a successful Freelancer, Hannah felt the urge to focus on one customer and one product to gain deeper insight into the development stages and be involved in a long-term project. By that time, she had also developed a keen interest for complex technologies that were novel to the market. This curiosity led her to join Senorics in October 2019 and to support them on their journey to make Material Sensing available to the masses.
Hannah now leads the Marketing and Sales team at Senorics and in this article she will share her experiences and the lessons she has learned over the past three years.
Hannah Szynal, Marketing and Sales Manger
What have been the most important practices and skills for leading your team?
“Throughout my professional life, it has helped me that I studied German as a foreign language alongside Marketing and Communications. It taught me to understand my own culture and consider other people’s cultural background as well. And I’m not just talking about culture in terms of where a person was born and raised, I’m also referring to other forms of culture that each person experiences, for example group and company culture.
I find that that’s very important to consider as a team leader, because you deal with different personalities and each person brings a different set of characteristics and cultural experiences to the table. Each person has to be managed in a different way and with each employee joining or leaving the team, the dynamic changes and you have to be able to adapt to it over and over again.
So, in my opinion, adaptability and viewing each team member as an individual with their own cultural background, strengths, and weaknesses, are two of the most important skills as a team leader.”
How do you approach mistakes that have been made within your team?
"The only mistake is the one from which you don't learn.” – Henry Ford
“We have very open and trusting communication at Senorics, which is helpful when addressing mistakes. No one simply sweeps their mistake under the carpet, instead everyone is willing to talk about it and learn from the situation. Neither I, nor my team, nor anyone else at the company, sees mistakes as a bad thing, but rather as something very human. When a mistake happens, we don’t blame anyone, but instead we focus on how it happened, how we can deal with it in the best possible way, and what we can do as a team to prevent it from happening again."
In your opinion, what are values and characteristics that make a good team player?
“The Marketing and Sales team at Senorics has always been shaped by many different cultures and languages. So, it’s very important that everyone is open-minded. We all work very independently, so honesty, reliability, and trust are also extremely important. Most of my team works either remote or in a hybrid model, so it’s crucial for people to be flexible and to consider everyone’s circumstances when making plans that concern the whole team.
Another thing that is important to me is to make sure that there is no competition within the team. Unfortunately, that's often the case within Sales teams. Instead, we motivate each other through mutual support, so that everyone can achieve their goals.
I also value a fun work environment. I don’t like it when the environment feels too grimly determined. Efficiency is obviously important, and we strive to achieve our goals, but we are also making sure not to lose our joy and our motivation in the process.”
Hannah giving a presentation on agility in a non-software process
In your opinion, are there any differences in leading a team in a startup compared to in an established company?
“You definitely have to be more flexible and adaptable in a startup compared to a large corporation, especially if the startup is still in an early stage. But apart from that, the leading style depends much more on the company culture than the size or stage of the company. So no, I don’t think that there is really a difference in leading a team based on how established a company is.”
What have been your biggest learning from leading the Marketing and Sales team at Senorics?
“My biggest learning has been to listen to my experience and intuition more often, because that has proven very reliable. The other big learning has been, that in a small team, where people work remotely and in a flexible environment, it is very important that all team members cooperate and can rely on each other. The smaller the team, the more obvious it becomes if there is a person who isn’t a team player. I’ve learned to pay more attention to whether the personality of a potential new team member fits the existing team, rather than just considering their professional skills.”
If you had to share one piece of advice with emerging team leaders, what would it be?
“As a team leader, one’s professional blind spots become quite obvious at times. You have so much responsibility when leading others, which makes it crucial to keep developing your skills and attitudes. So, this is one piece of advice I would share: there is always more to learn, and you are never finished developing your skills.
I would also give them the advice to be aware of and trust in their own strengths. If you were chosen to lead a team in a company, then there are reasons for that, and it’s important to remind yourself of your abilities rather than to doubt yourself.”
If you would like to join the team at Senorics and work with Hannah and other inspiring leaders, take a look at our current vacancies and send us your application today.