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“Diversity, Courage and Ambassadors” – Interview with Tijen Onaran

© Hendrik Lüders

Tijen Onaran is a businesswoman, presenter and speaker. With startup affairs, she advises companies on PR and publicity, as well as on building and maintaining communities, and, with her Global Digital Women initiative, is committed to the networking and visibility of women in the digital industry. In addition, Tijen Onaran regularly publishes as a member of the Handelsblatt Expert Council, as well as a columnist for Lead Digital. She has been appointed to the Faculty Board for Digital Leadership of the Management School St. Gallen and to the jury of the Digital Leader, Corporate Culture and PR Report Awards. Before becoming self-employed, Tijen Onaran worked for members of the European parliament and the Bundestag, the Federal President’s Office, and for associations and a university in leading positions. In the interview, we talked about New Work, “tomorrow’s world of work” and the key skills needed in a digital and connected world.

Tijen, it seems like you are present everywhere when it comes to digital transformation. So, you can call yourself an expert on digitalization, work 4.0, etc. What does New Work mean to you personally?

To me, New Work means freedom. On the one hand, companies must give their talented employees the freedom to make their own decisions, and on the other hand, these very employees must also exercise their freedom – that is, take responsibility!

What does a company prepared for the “working world of tomorrow” or the digital workplace look like to you?

To me, such a company is characterized by three things: diversity, courage and ambassadors who make this courage and diversity visible internally and externally. Never before has it been so important for companies to pin down where the heart of innovation lies: in people themselves. More than ever, companies that want to be prepared for the future need to be able to communicate transparently and openly. It’s not just about the “what,” but more about the “how.” How are work processes digitalized? How is artificial intelligence used? The “how” needs multipliers who act as ambassadors to network internally and create visibility externally.

Collaborative work, agility, flexibility – what are the most important topics at the moment?

The most important topic, in my opinion, is: which values ​​form the basis for our digital work environment? The topics of collaboration, flexibility and agility are at the root of the question as to whether the values ​​that have shaped our working world so far are still up to date. I believe that in some places they are more important than ever, while others have to be completely redefined or even discussed for the first time.

What does sustainable work look like to you? And which skills are becoming more and more important?

To me, the future of work is above all one thing: networked. The IT department needs to understand the language of the marketing department and vice versa. Therefore, one competency is more important than ever to me: storytelling. Only those who are able to present complexity in such a way that it is tangible and understandable will inspire teams and thus be fit for the future.

You are also engaged in female leadership. Do you have the feeling that something is currently happening for women in the workplace? And what role does digitalization play in this?

Without diversity, there is no digitalization. Diverse companies are more innovative, successful and, most of all, competitive. I definitely notice a greater awareness among companies focusing on diversity. However, this awareness must also be followed by actions; mere lip service does not help. More than ever, Chief Digital Officers need to be Chief Diversity Officers as well – digitalization is therefore the momentum that makes it clear how diversified an organization is. It is all the more important to fill these positions with a variety of profiles, and this is where I see a great opportunity for women!

Thank you for your time and the exciting interview!

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