Cinderella has big dark eyes and long, flowing blonde hair that has a shimmering red tint – she could easily advertise hair shampoo. She is 37 years old and when she starts running, the whole earth trembles. Although she measures only 1.37 meters, she knows exactly how to get what she wants. “Stubborn” would be a possible adjective to describe her, but also “strong-willed.” It probably depends on the perspective.
The best perspective and all-round view has probably VAIVA function developer Sylvia Pancritius, who has known the lady for about 31 years – we are talking about Sylvia’s pony, from whom she and with whom she has learned a lot. For example, Sylvia had a pretty good perspective when she still rode her pony a few years ago. Stubborn? No, Cinderella is the prototype of automated riding and sometimes acted without the influence of the rider.
Automated riding in leisure time, automated driving in professional life: Sylvia has been developing functions at VAVIA for several years – currently for proactive occupant protection in the ‘Safety Cluster’ project. “First and foremost, it’s about proactively activating occupant protection measures before the crash in order to reduce the consequences of the accident.” To do this, Sylvia needs imagination and the ability to think analytically – she has to deduce all the scenarios that could happen. For example, that the occupants could tip forward when braking hard and be held in position by tightening the belt – or that a vehicle could roll over and stones, traffic signs or other objects could penetrate the vehicle interior through the open window and seriously injure the driver. In function development, competence in the subjunctive is required, so to speak.
Thinking clearly and analytically and being able to argue with it also helps the 43-year-old after work: namely, when she has to explain to her four or eight-year-old son – who currently wants to become a DJ – why the two are not allowed to play at the digital DJ booth any longer. “It is also important to explain well why the two are not allowed to do something,” explains Sylvia laughing and in the deepest Bavarian accent. The woman from Freising radiates warmth with every syllable. Even when she talks about projects or technical details. She packs technology and knowledge in a grounded language – the electrical engineer shows her knowledge, but never shows off.
Especially because her family is important to Sylvia, she loves the freedom she experiences at VAIVA. Not only the remote work helps her, but also the trust of her boss to distribute the work in such a way that it fits well for her everyday family life. As much as Sylvia appreciates working remotely from home or on the road, she eventually missed social contact. “With children you are clocked through – especially if you work part-time, you have to be very careful to get everything done in time.” Sylvia therefore had no time for a short chat in the office – especially since the corona pandemic, when collaboration suddenly took place mainly in digital space. A solution had to be found, the pragmatic engineer thought. That’s why she volunteered for “PartiPro” – the “participation process” – in which VAIVA employees are given the opportunity to actively shape the company. “Change happens more from the workforce and not when things are only dictated from above.” Problem identified, problem solved: As part of PartiPro, Sylvia and a colleague designed new dialogue formats – the parents’ breakfast and the coffee roulette, which is currently being implemented at VAIVA. Chapeau, café networking instead of café latte. All digitally.
“Even if some of the measures from PartiPro don’t work, the opportunity to get involved is so important,” explains Sylvia. “That didn’t exist in the past.” Sometimes Sylvia’s Bavarian receives a slight pinch of sarcasm: For example, when she talks about what her ‘favourite sentence’: “We’ve always done it this way.” Sylvia laughs. She doesn’t like every change, she explains, but the world keeps turning. For her, it is important to try things out and experiment. And, more importantly, “failure is part of it.” She also knows this from dealing with her headstrong Cinderella: “If you own such a pony and it just don’t feel like it one day…” – followed by a Bavarian “Ja Mei” – “… then you have to try a lot until you find a solution that works.” Solutions don’t just fall from the tree, even if there is a real Cinderella in Sylvia’s life.
In addition to the Bavarian with a pinch of sarcasm, it is also Sylvia’s humor that pops up charmingly and steadily. Not always obvious, rather dry-elegant and somehow incidental. What other dreams she has? “World domination,” Sylvia replies in a tone as if she were announcing the need to order new pens. Actually, she is living her dream, she adds seriously. She is happy with family, her job – and her pony. Sylvia has always loved animals. To this day, she learns a lot from her “pensioner pony”, as she affectionately calls Cinderella: “You can learn a lot in dealing with horses – because the animals react very sensitively to the voice or body language,” explains Sylvia and her eyes smile. In general: The function developer not only speaks vividly, with many accents and multifaceted subtones that leave a colorful image for the listener – but she also has the ability to emphasize with her eyes and facial expressions. Nuanced, fine and always subtle. “Learning is also important in our team,” says Sylvia. In the team rounds with team leader Alexandru, there is no frontal teaching, but a lot of discussion. Colleagues are allowed to give their team insights into what they are currently working on. “This is important, because we know what topics the others in the team are working on – and also know who could help us if you have a specific problem,” explains Sylvia. Even at her job start Sylvia was fascinated by the cohesion in the team. She had previously worked in a different industry – on her first day at work she didn’t understand anything about the many technical abbreviations: “I hadn’t understood anything about the subject matter yet.” She shakes her head and you can see how she loses herself briefly in the memory. “The team helped me, supported me – without me even having to ask. No one had ever made me feel annoyed. It was just a cool collaboration.” Sylvia knows cool cooperation not only from her own team members, but also from her department head, Hendrik, whom she describes as an “veteran” in function development. “He’s younger than me, but I feel like he’s always been here. I don’t know how he does it,” she says laughing and you ask yourself how the electrical engineer has just succeded in bringing together Cinderella, a veteran, an 8-year-old DJ and a lot of passion for functional development in a conversation – in Bavarian.