Female Leaders: Sylvia Lier
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Sylvia Lier
Working with TAF mobile GmbH since September 2022
Managing Director

Hi Siyvia, it’s great to have you here with us, could you please tell us a little about yourself?

I am an expert in multimodal personal mobility with a triad of experience in vehicle fleet management, platform-based shared mobility, and public transit. Over the past 20 years, I have been employed as a member of the executive team, CEO and board member.

In my current role, I work to create digitally connected offerings from road and rail mobility services based on Mobility as a Service platforms.

In 2018, I was awarded the Clara Jaschke Innovation Award by the Pro-Rail Alliance for the concept of the Mobility Budget. My mission: I want to enable people to be mobile in a good and climate-friendly way even without their own car.

What made you decide to start a career in the mobility industry?

To be frank, I happened to start by accident in the automotive sector at the beginning of my career. I studied business administration with a focus on information technology on a dual basis. I was very happy that I was able to do this through Continental AG at the time. These study places were very much in demand. In order to pursue the sales career I wanted, I had to change companies in the mid-1990s. I went to LeasePlan, which sold vehicle fleet management as an outsourcing service. Making complex management processes efficient, cost transparency and monitoring, and digitalisation - those were the hashtags that drove me at the time. But over time, I began to understand more and more that, in perspective, it would no longer be just about the car, but about mobility. In 2009, someone told me that he sometimes used the train, sometimes the car, or even the bicycle or public transport. And that's why he would need a budget for mobility much more than a car leasing rate (for his company car). TaaaRaaa! That was something of a 'moment of truth' for me. The mobility budget was born in my head.

When I moved to Deutsche Bahn in 2012, I was first and foremost responsible for the 22,000 cars. But I had actually arrived at mobility. Sharing offers like Call a Bike and Flinkster or the on-demand shuttle offer ioki quickly took up a lot of space in my everyday professional life for a variety of reasons. In 2018, we launched the beta version of what is now Bonvoyo Mobility Budget. A bundle of different modes of transportation that you can use and pay for through a single digital access point. Over the years, I have come to understand more and more the opportunities that such comprehensive offers bring: The easier it is to use public transportation and shared mobility offerings, and the better the bicycle and pedestrian paths are developed, the more likely people are to opt for alternatives to their own cars. This is how the mobility revolution succeeds - for the sake of the climate, for the sake of the people. That is still my motivation today.

What do you value most in your job today?

That I can do exactly what I stand for as a person, Sylvia Lier - climate-friendly personal mobility. As I just mentioned, this requires mobility-as-a-service platform solutions. These are being developed by a great team at our company. I'm delighted to be able to contribute my management experience and expertise. Not only internally within the company, by the way, but also regularly in various event formats - one of which is even a guest lecturer position at the Institute for Mobility at the University of St. Gallen.    

Which female personality inspires you when it comes to the topic of 'female leadership'?

I find Annalena Baerbock (Editor's note: Germany's minister for foreign affairs since 2021) very inspiring. She didn't let the "stumbles" in the context of her candidacy for chancellor get her down. Shit happens ... stay standing, keep "fighting" - that's probably her motto. Then she courageously and self-confidently took up the mandate of Foreign Minister and did not let herself be put off by superfluous prophecies of doom about her role as a mother and her knowledge of English and others. Annalena Baerbock represents Germany not only professionally, but also as a human being - a great "female leader”. I cannot judge how she leads her team or actively supports and/or encourages other women. But I am very impressed by the way she fulfils her office.

I would like to add what I observe or frankly often miss in #FemaleLeadership and #FemaleEmpowerment: Women can support women by giving each other visibility. What do I mean by this? Women who are on stage at events should not be satisfied with being visible as a showcase woman. They should always also look at the other women in the room and, if somehow possible, make them visible, e.g. by taking a photo that shows not only a few top women, but also many other women. The message: "Gentlemen, look, there they are, the women. Experts, managers who want to contribute and can contribute." And the message to other women can be: "Come on, you are not alone here (in whatever industry). "Go for it!"

And one more thing: When women ask other women for help with a career change, the women interviewed often think they are doing a great job of helping another woman by giving her the phone number of her recruiter and maybe sending a quick nice email to that same recruiter. That's fine, but - to be clear - it's not enough. It is important that women actively open doors for other women by networking, actively making recommendations, and thus actually advocating for each other. Here we can still learn from our male colleagues.

Which car do you currently drive?

We have finally been driving an electric vehicle since 2022. Electrification of our garage took from 2018 to 2022 (groans). It was a miserable process to get the connection through the local utility. Fortunately, it worked out in the end.

Longest drive in an electric vehicle?

So far, it's been a 350 km drive to Bremen. But hey - everything is easy. The only challenge is to plan differently or with foresight, to plan for stops at fast-charging points and to take time for a break. I find it comparatively more challenging when I use the train for the first time for routes that I have previously taken by car. Two years ago, for example, we went hiking in South Tyrol by train instead of by car. You have to adjust and organise yourself much more than when you switch from a combustion engine to an electric vehicle (wink). And when hiking, you suddenly have to pay close attention to the time so that you don't miss the last bus at the end ... But it worked out well overall and I would do it again any time.

Who would you like to have by your side for a longer electric car ride?

Ina Müller, the world's best entertainer (Program in Germany called: ‘Inas Nacht’) or Jan Böhmermann, the bravest satirist (ZDF Magazin Royale), who, by the way, lives in Pulheim, just like me. Unfortunately, I haven't met him in the supermarket yet ...

Bicycle or e-bike?

Bike, an old, uncool and very normal bike.

Your message for a sustainable and smart future in mobility:

In the sustainable and smart mobility of the future, people can be mobile in a good and climate-friendly way even without their own car. Our mobility is less car-centric and instead more diverse, i.e. multimodal - with strong public transport, safe cycling and walking routes, and good shared mobility offerings. The various means of transport can be conveniently booked via digital access points. All users need is an account and a means of payment. The offers and solutions are so attractive that no one misses their own car.

Michael Brecht from MOTION Magazine talked to these amazing women in the past weeks. It is impressive to get an insight into their career paths and to understand what motivates them personally. Women have a key role in helping us make the change needed in industries such as mobility, logistics and energy. Research demonstrates the impact of women in leadership roles goes beyond profits as they focus on diversity, belonging and equity. And Iwecan tell you from our own conviction that we will only succeed in the global transformation in sustainable mobility issues if we listen to the voices of these female doers. Thus we are very happy to provide a stage for female leaders that are making an impact.  Read more about the other participating female leaders and Michael’s introduction for our MOTION Magazine Edition III, now available online in German language (only).

Illustrations courtesy of Jörn Kaspuhl for MOTION Magazine.