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The technological transition demands a great deal from companies and employees. To ensure the transformation to Industry 4.0 is a success, consultants now need to create a balance between the present and future. Katja Neuthe feels right at home in both the old and the new digital world – and is thus a pioneer in a new type of consulting.

Text: Jens Rospek

Scientists tend to be solitary people – there’s no shortage of clichés like this. It only takes Katja Neuthe, who has a PhD in chemistry, a few minutes to discredit stereotypes like these, beginning with her casual look. Any remaining doubts vanish with the ensuing conversation. “It’s important to me not to conform with any clichés,” she explains smiling. A Berlin resident by choice, she has been part of the T.A. Cook consulting team since summer 2018, supporting her customers through the digital transformation in the area of change management and in issues of corporate communication.

Communication is becoming increasingly important, as digitization doesn’t always meet with approval everywhere, despite the many new (communication) opportunities in different channels. “While just about everyone has a smartphone, many employees are initially skeptical of modern technology at work and worry about being replaced.” Getting people like this on board and persuading them of the benefits of digitization are both a challenge and motivation for the jack of all trades. In addition to employee communication, she’s also in charge of project coordination. Project team, Management Board, internal and external stakeholders: many partners and interests need to be taken into account.

The 37-year-old also tackles this challenge with her openness and positive charisma: “I listen carefully and willingly and take people seriously. And then I put my analytical skills to use and develop solution concepts that get everyone on board if at all possible,” she says, explaining her method of working. Her résumé as a qualified chemist also comes in handy in this area. On the one hand, Katja Neuthe’s familiar with the “old,” meaning the paper-based, analog, business world due to her degree course
and PhD. On the other, she feels right at home in the digital world and is interested in new technologies. Thanks to this background and plenty of confidence and tact, she’s able to win over even skeptical employees and colleagues with different points of view.

Communication Talent at Second Glance

Bringing together viewpoints that may be conflicting or difficult to reconcile, accommodating the needs of everyone involved, breaking down complex developments so that everyone can understand them, formulating clear messages, and striking the right note: corporate communication is a very multifaceted discipline. Katja Neuthe, who was born in Mecklenburg, has many of these characteristics. But consulting wasn’t originally her career goal. It wasn’t until her PhD program that she realized she could also put her communication skills to use full time: “I spent my days in the laboratory and evenings working in service for a company that takes photos for marathon events. A short time later, I was managing the service department and supporting event management, and that’s when I realized: ‘I’m simply a people person,’” she says.

After acquiring her PhD (title: “Synthesis and characterization of transition metal-based dyes for application in dye-sensitized solar cells”), Neuthe began searching for a job that would combine both of her career interests. And she achieved her goal the moment she was hired by T.A. Cook: “I don’t work as a chemist, but I spend a lot of time in the industry, can contribute my knowledge, and still do what I’m good at: speaking, coordinating, and developing concepts.”

Prototype of Modern Consulting?

She’s been working as a consultant since 2018. Her rather unusual life journey has even helped her with her career tasks, as the challenges facing consulting are increasing at lightning speed in the age of the digital transformation. “Classic consulting is out” was the heading on the cover of the Capital business magazine nearly two years ago. But Katja Neuthe differentiates between old and new consultants: “For me, an old consultant means: you go to your customer and look at a project from the outside before making your recommendations. New consultant means: you understand the customer’s needs and actively assist with implementation. It’s no longer just about recommendations – the service concept has become much more important. Customers not ‘only’ want to be advised, but also understood.” She fully believes that this trend will continue.

“I can put myself in the shoes of an engineer who may have been working with certain processes for 20 years as well as a new department head who thinks digitally and would like to modernize these processes in particular. As a result, it’s easier for me to understand both positions and their different points of view and find common ground.”

“More and more customers require this type of advice, as digitization is far from over. So there need to be more people like me,” she says and laughs. But for her it’s important to be able to do this with others. Katja Neuthe is not a lone wolf, but a team player, which she also demonstrates in her free time when she’s playing beach volleyball. “My life motto is ‘Together we can change the world.’ I try to do my part to make the world a little better, but not on my own. As in my projects – working together towards the goal
one step at a time.”