5 Tips for Career Changers in the Digital Sector

Annika Kohrs started her career in the luxury hotel industry and worked as a club concierge at the Ritz-Carlton in Bahrain. She joined Volkswagen in 2010, initially as project manager in catering for international events. Since 2018, she has been an ambassador at Volkswagen Digital Lab, responsible for communication channels and supporting the project team in creating an agile working environment

Look Behind the Scenes!

Not only the knowledge about the product or technical know-how is crucial. Take the time to really get to know the company and what it offers. The understanding of digitalization is often built up automatically on the job. Don’t take the word ‘digitalization’ too literally. For example, when you work in an automotive company, you don’t necessarily have to know how an engine works in every detail. The same goes for digitalization. You don’t have to know how to code to find your place in the digital industry. My passion was and is to inspire people. And I still get to do that every day.

Be Curious and Trust Your Abilities!

Don’t be frightened by new and unknown terms and methods. I have read a lot (also on social media) and talked to people to develop a better understanding of certain topics. If you then become aware of your strengths and abilities and look back on what you have already experienced, you will come to a conclusion that you have already done or can do this. In my time at The Ritz-Carlton 14 years ago, for example, things such as flat hierarchies, daily standup meetings and employee engagement were taken for granted. It just wasn’t called New Work yet and our Agile Coach was a Quality Manager.

Be Prepared for Setbacks!

Of course there are sleepless nights and doubts. I was very self-assured in my previous jobs – the hospitality and event industry was my home, my comfort zone. I had great expertise, a large network, I was being appreciated and praised as a competent colleague, I travelled the world. In my new job in digital business I had to rebuild all that from scratch. This requires strength and perseverance, a tremendous willingness to learn new things and openness to the unknown. But for me it is a great enrichment and expansion of my horizons and my competence.

Give It Time!

One of my greatest lessons is to be patient with yourself. Especially when you want to develop in a new field, it takes time to begin and to get a new perspective of the subject. I was sometimes angry and disappointed with myself when something didn’t work out or I didn’t understand it immediately. The important thing is: every day in the new job you grow and you learn many small things. Regular conversations with mentors have helped me to realize how far I have already come. One and a half years ago, even in my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have thought to stand at a conference as a speaker on the stage.

Questions? Ask!

Never feel bad if you don’t understand something the first time. Keep asking and you will see that it is usually regarded as an appreciation when a newbie shows interest and wants to acquire knowledge. I was allowed to support one of our product teams for five weeks. It was very valuable – for me, because I could understand the work of a software development team much better. But also for the team, because I was able to look at and question topics from different angles and suggest other approaches. A colleague of mine also offers programming courses for beginners, which helped me a lot!


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