Manager Karin Thelen

“Natural sciences and management are an excellent combination”

TUM Alumni Karin Thelen is uniting the best of both worlds. With her scientific expertise she is driving development and innovation and she decisively contributes to the economic success of her company.

Karin Thelen knew early on that she wanted to work in natural sciences. She was searching for a university at which experts would provide her with a first-class education and where she would receive long-lasting support for her career. “I found exactly that at TUM. Here, I had found an excellent partner for my professional and personal development“, she says and stresses: “This is not just a phrase. It is precisely what I have experienced.“

In 2002 she graduated with a diploma in Biology. In 2009 a doctorate in Microbiology followed. Professor and TUM Emeritus of Excellence Karl-Heinz Schleifer was her supervisor. “He is an outstanding scientist and a very inspiring personality”, Karin Thelen remembers. “His research made sure that TUM is at the forefront in the field of Microbiology and Molecular Biology.”

Boundless creative drive

In order to gain practical business experience, Karin Thelen worked in a start-up while still studying. She started as an intern and, after her doctorate, had made it up to Head of Research and Development. She quickly realized how much she enjoyed being creative and making positive changes, and how essential her management skills are in this area. Therefore, a change of perspective and new challenges were needed. She deliberately switched to a large corporation and accepted an offer from Stadtwerke München.

TUM has been an excellent partner for my scientific and entrepreneurial development.

Consolidating her expertise in management and business administration was an obvious choice for Karin Thelen, and so she decided to do a Master in Business Administration (MBA). “I wanted to be prepared for today’s complexity and volatility and its issues”, she says. For her MBA she did not consider any other university than TUM. She was able to win over Professor Isabell M. Welpe to supervise her master’s thesis. “She is an authority in research and business, a driving force of digital transformation with exceptional strategic and organisational skills”, says Karin Thelen. “Working with this excellent specialist and luminary has inspired and motivated me a lot.”

Quest for continuous improvement

Today Karin Thelen is the managing director of the Quality Control and Quality Assurance Department of Stadtwerke München and is able to contribute her diverse skills. She is supervising more than 50 employees and with untiring enthusiasm transforms her spheres of action, increases operational efficiency and creates new business opportunities outside the established structures – thus, she does exactly what she is passionate about: creating, developing, optimising, changing. Here, Karin Thelen not only develops the company but also at the same time the competencies of her employees. As a board member of the internal women’s network she is committed to connecting the company’s women, to making them visible and to supporting and empowering them.

Networking and personal initiative

Networking and the exchange with female seniors and mentors is fundamentally important not just for women in STEM, says Karin Thelen. “Personally I think it is extremely important to show potential pathways through role models, which have successfully embarked on these careers”, she states. She can imagine very well to give back to her university and to become a mentor for the program TUM mentoring from alumni to students. Yet, what she would like even more is to help make the existing TUM Network even more visible and effective, and in doing so, strategically connecting all students, alumni, and TUM. “Either way I will remain faithful to TUM”, she says with a smile with regard to her creative interest, which does not even stop short of her alma mater.

The desire to create and the joy in ongoing personal development are Karin Thelen’s inexhaustible sources of motivation. She specifically moulded her career so that it caters to her passions and competencies. This is what she advises young women to do, too: “Form networks, be open, take initiative and actively shape your personal path.”