The entire HARMAN family is honored to be recognizing the achievements of women around the world during International Women’s Week with a special Insights Series, featuring interviews with five dynamic women working at HARMAN. I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet and interview Ann-Sophie Schwarzkopf, Director of Accounting and Reporting, Finance for HARMAN’s Connected Car Division. I enjoyed getting to know Ann-Sophie and welcome you to join me in celebrating her accomplishments by reading her story.
Q: You have been nominated for being an outstanding woman employee. Please tell us your story.
A: I studied economics at the University of Hohenheim, and after finalizing my degree I decided to stay on to obtain my PhD. I remember thinking “do I really want to spend another three years at University”, but I really loved it and never regretted that decision. After obtaining my PhD I worked with a public audit company, and then came to HARMAN five years ago. Before taking this position I was told I would be bored working just for one company instead of working with several clients in Accounting Advisory, but honestly with HARMAN there has not been a single day of boredom. Things are constantly changing, expectations are high, I love the team that I work with. My experience at HARMAN has been really positive. I’ve been offered projects, opportunities and tasks that allow me to show my potential while still challenging me to learn and grow so I can further my career. HARMAN is a really supportive environment. I was able to gradually take on more responsibility and more senior roles over time. I was honored to be part of the Hungry Cub Program in 2016.
Q: Did you have a role model that attracted you to a career in finance?
A: My mother was actually my inspiration. I remember her working as an accountant from home. From the early days, I saw her translating business transactions into debits and credits. It felt like a natural way to work and support my family. Then, working to obtain my PhD I was invigorated. Here in Germany, earning my PhD path was not a continuous stream of courses, I got to teach. I love sharing knowledge, I love educating, helping people grow and broaden their horizon. It’s really an exciting thing working on shared projects with students. That was a very good experience being a team leader. In the end, it is the challenges that attract me to finance.
Q: What is one thing that you think contributes to a great leader?
A: You absolutely have to have certain capabilities relevant to your respective field on top of it and even more so, it’s vitally important to understand your own limitations and seek support when you need to. Try to build a team that can contribute in ways that you cannot with capabilities outside of your own, and expertise outside of your own. Beyond that, reach out to other departments when you need to. Know your limitations and build a dynamic cross-departmental knowledge base to produce an outstanding outcome.
Q: Can you give us an example how your work in Finance/Accounting and that of your group has been important to HARMAN?
A: My team and I took key roles in the preparation and aftermath of the Samsung acquisition from a finance side. We have been supporting converting HARMAN’s financials from US-GAAP to IFRS and such as preparing Closing and Opening Balances in a very short time window, while facing various challenges. I was very proud of everyone participating and finalizing it successfully against all odds. We have been able to accelerate the month-end close significantly, comply with additional reporting requirements and still work on further improvements.
Q: Is there any advice you would give to someone just entering Finance?
A: You need to understand that Finance is a support function. We need to team up with our business partners and help them to make the best possible decisions. It is about helping other functions understand what goes right and what goes wrong with regards to profitability, etc. Don’t use a lot of technical terms and hide behind fancy graphs and extensive spreadsheets but instead, ensure that you convey the message in a way that Non-Finance people understand it and find it useful. And if I could address young women specifically: speak up about your observations and ideas and don’t stand back and let others take the limelight.
Thank you for reading Ann-Sophie’s story. If you would like to share your thoughts on the celebration of the accomplishments of women at HARMAN, please feel free to share below in Leave a Reply. And be sure to check back tomorrow for another profile as we continue to celebrate International Women’s Week.