Rebranding companies for success, redefining portfolios based on market needs and reshaping corporate culture for the better, Isabella Drolz, Vice President of Product Marketing at Comet Yxlon, is out to change the world with her expertise. Her experience ranges from mid-tier to global companies, and she is a master in navigating operational and cultural challenges in the industry. Isabella is currently making waves in the tech industry with her adept handling of the market and empowerment of fellow women in the industry.
Comet Yxlon is driven by the belief that ‘good solutions start with good questions.’ Its strong curiosity and passion for technology are the drivers behind the company’s collaborative approach to product development. Based on customer feedback, it develops high-end X-ray and CT system solutions that enable non-destructive testing in the semiconductor/electronics, automotive, and aerospace industries – from R&D labs to production settings.
In an exclusive interview with CIOLook, Isabella Drolz shares the inspirational support that she received in her journey to the top and how she continues to make an effort to pass it on.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief us about your career path as a staunch woman leader up until your current position at Comet Yxlon. What were the challenges that you had to overcome to scale your progress?
There is a saying in German stating that “The first job chooses you, not the other way around.” I started as Business Developer at Siemens Mobility, for railway systems such as metro & light rail systems. Getting the opportunity to work on strategic projects, such as introducing a platform approach for metro & passenger coaches systems at an early stage in my professional career was an exceptional experience.
Next to the professional experience, I had strong female leaders who shaped and taught me how to navigate a conservative industry, belief in myself and be resilient. Quickly adapting to new environments, task settings, teams, and business cultures are just a few things you encounter in strategic consulting. You need to be quick on your feet.
When I moved to Jenoptik Advanced Systems, Jenoptik’s former defense business unit, the industry was in a state of upheaval and my task was to transform the project-oriented product business into a modular platform to be prepared for future requirements.
Basically, we had to break with old habits, advance technologically and open our minds to the new way ahead.
When you switch from corporations to medium-sized companies, you enter a different world. At a food machinery manufacturer, I took on the role of Vice President of Product Management & Marketing. positioning three different product brands from three different countries and cultures under one roof while facing a conservative management approach. It was an intense time, but I am very grateful for the experience, and it has made me a stronger leader when faced with headwinds and a very risk-averse environment.
Now, at Comet Yxlon, I am the Vice President in charge of Product Marketing, which includes Product Management, Marketing and Global Application Solution Centers. We also just rebranded, and it is always a unique experience strategically repositioning a company, bringing different cultures closer together, empowering teamwork and preparing for the road ahead.
Tell us something more about Comet Yxlon and its mission and vision.
Comet Yxlon is one of three divisions of Comet AG, a leading tech company in radio frequency and x-ray technology. Comet Yxlon designs manufactures, and markets high-end X-ray and CT systems, including data-driven services for non-destructive testing to assure product quality in labs, speed up ramp-ups, and enhance process stability in production environments for the semiconductor, electronics, automotive, and aerospace industries.
Our X-Ray and CT systems support our global customers to increase their productivity and sustainability by reducing product waste and, thereby, enhancing yield. In a nutshell, we provide our customers with the key to efficiency and innovation by seeing better, faster, more.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.
We put our customers at the center of everything we do. We strive to understand their needs and expectations and to exceed them by deeply understanding the market, its requirements, trends, and challenges to build long-lasting relationships. To succeed, we challenge ourselves to continuously improve by empowering our employees to take ownership of their work and to make decisions that will drive the company’s success.
All this can only be achieved through trustful collaboration: We believe that by working together as a team, we can accomplish more. Through our “Above and Beyond program,” we foster a culture of trustful collaboration and mutual support by sharing cross-divisional knowledge and resources. By embracing these values, we believe that we can create a positive and productive work environment that helps us achieve our business objectives. And by the way, it is fun to work at.
What do you believe is the significant factor for women in the tech industry, and what is the most important aspect of your success in adhering to these fundamentals?
It is tough to nail it down to one. However, one critical success factor is to believe in yourself and your abilities. Confidence is key to success in any field, and it’s especially important for women in male-dominated industries. In addition, building up a strong network of professional contacts and among your colleagues are crucial success factors to me, as also staying informed and educated.
I am trying to keep up to date with the latest industry trends, technologies, and best practices by reading relevant literature, attending conferences and workshops. But most and for all, I do not let stereotypes or biases affect me. Everyone and especially women, encounter stereotypes and unconscious biases in their careers. The key is not to get discouraged by them or let them doubt yourself. Instead, use them to your advantage and as motivation to excel in your field.
What strategies do you implement as a leader to promote gender diversity for various positions at Comet Yxlon?
As leader but also as a management team at Comet Yxlon, we seek out a number of strategies to promote gender diversity for various positions within the company, starting with recruitment. I actively ensure to recruit from a diverse pool of potential candidates, as well as encourage our recruitment team to do the same.
In addition, our recruitment team works to create a diverse pipeline of potential candidates by reaching out to universities and organizations that focus on diversity. Furthermore, we established a more flexible work environment that allows for different working styles and schedules. In our mobile working program, we established that our employees could flexibly arrange where they want to conduct their work and when. Through this program, we ensure a healthy work-life balance. Transparency and open dialogue are key to success.
Therefore, we are reviewing and monitoring our progress on a quarterly basis. We review our diversity and inclusion efforts, establish metrics to track our progress and adjust as needed. It is important to make diversity and inclusion a transparent topic and part of the management agenda.
Finally, one topic and the most important topic to me is offering mentorship to women. When starting my career, I greatly benefited from having female mentors.
They shaped me into the leader I am today by teaching me how to navigate in a male-dominant industry, stay true to my beliefs, and see it through. Therefore, I also mentor female potentials across the industry to provide them with the support and guidance they need to advance in their careers.
What change would you like to bring to your industry if given a chance?
There are several factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in the tech & machine-building industries, including unconscious bias, lack of role models and mentorship, and a culture that may not be inclusive or welcoming to all. To increase gender diversity, it is important to openly address these issues and thereby create a more inclusive culture. This can be achieved through initiatives such as diversity and inclusion panel discussions at exhibitions and conferences and actively recruiting and promoting women in the field.
As mentioned before, mentorship programs are key to success for women in the tech & machine-building industries by providing guidance, giving networking opportunities, providing support on career development, helping break unconscious bias, and encouraging and offering exposure to new opportunities. Therefore, implementing sustainable female mentorship across the industry would bring tremendous change and potential.
What, according to you, could be the next significant change for women in Tech? How is Comet Yxlon preparing to be a part of that change?
A potential change could be a greater emphasis on actively creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture. This includes not only addressing issues such as unconscious bias and discrimination but also actively working to create a culture that supports and values diversity and provides opportunities for the growth and development of all employees.
Starting with active diverse and international recruitment: Actively seeking out and recruiting from diverse backgrounds and countries for leadership and technical positions, including those from underrepresented groups.
In addition, providing training and education on intersectionality and inclusivity: To ensure that all employees are aware of and understand the importance of intersectionality and inclusivity in the workplace.
But all starts by making diversity and inclusion a priority: Making sure that diversity and inclusion are a priority for the company and that the leadership team is committed to these values, policies, and practices and reflect this commitment.
Comet has now put this on top of its agenda by launching a diversity program that will prepare all divisions, including Comet Yxlon, to foster a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture that values and supports the contributions of all employees, including those from diverse backgrounds.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Comet Yxlon?
It’s always hard to predict the future, but what I know for sure is that I want to continue working in a challenging international environment. Preparing companies for the future by taking business structures, products and teams to the next level, breaking old habits and prejudices, and shaping mindsets to drive continuous improvement – that’s what excites me.
Therefore, I want to shape Comet Yxlon in a way that we are not only ready but are the driver for the coming trends and challenges in our industry, especially when it comes to data analytics and artificial intelligence. In a nutshell, taking the next step to accelerate the market and our customers by fostering and empowering diverse teams to drive our business forward.
What advice would you give to the next generation of women leaders willing to venture into the modern business arena?
Believe in yourself and your abilities: Confidence is key to success in any field, and it’s especially important for women in male-dominated industries. Believe that you have the skills and experience to succeed, and don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas. Network and seek out mentorship: Building a strong network of professional contacts and finding mentors can be incredibly valuable in helping you navigate the business world and advance your career. Speak up and advocate for yourself: Don’t be afraid to negotiate for promotions, raises, and other opportunities that you deserve.
Foster a positive work life balance: It’s important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. This will help you to maintain a positive attitude and approach to work and be more effective in your job.
Be resilient: The business world can be challenging, and you will inevitably face obstacles and setbacks. Learn from these experiences and keep moving forward.
Don’t let stereotypes or biases affect you: You will encounter these as you advance in your career. Don’t let them discourage you or make you doubt yourself.
Instead, use them as motivation to excel in your field. Remember to have fun: The business world can be intense, but it’s important not to lose sight of why you’re doing it. Find joy in your work and your accomplishments, and don’t forget to celebrate your jointly achieved successes with your colleagues.