Mari Brandl - Lead The Future
“My most important piece of career advice is to create a foundation of technical knowledge and then be ambitious.”
Mari Brandl
Head of Department
Rambøll

Facts

  • Mari Brandl
  • 1977
  • Civil Engineer
  • Head of Department
  • Rambøll
  • Married
  • 7-year-old twins
  • Once I arrived at work with two different shoes on

What is your most important piece of career advice?

My most important piece of career advice is to create a foundation of technical knowledge and then be ambitious. This is how I knit my career together – and that’s what I recommend to young graduates. I did not set out to become a boss, but rather to be the best technician possible. As a young woman, you rarely know you want to be a manager; it comes with experience. And then you have to be ready to move forward. 

Who has been your role model?

My first head of department, who is now a director in Rambøll, is my role model because of how he comes across and his way of being a manager. He has always both taken the lead and been 100% behind me. He gives responsibility, but helps in uncomfortable situations without taking over.

Today, I have 40 people under me and try to do the same. I believe that everyone will perform optimally if I give them responsibility, and I only take over if one of them asks me to. For me, a good role model stands behind you, complements you and has professional ballast. That’s how I try to be – and I hope I am – because it has an impact on how those below me will progress.

What is special about being a female manager?

A female manager has been through it all with childbirth, the first day of school, the child’s sick day and so on. It creates understanding for the lives of my employees. I like to hire women who have not had children yet, and I urge young men to take paternity leave. Yes, maternity leave is a bump in resource planning, but it is a natural part of life. I believe that a fairly equal distribution of men and women forms the healthiest organisation. 

Where do you experience that difference?

In salary negotiations, women are often happy with the first offer, whereas men want more. It can also be in a team where a woman lacks faith in herself. I often find that the confidence of a male intern is greater than that of a female – even though she has more experience. It’s frustrating and a big mystery to me.

What have you experienced yourself?

When I was a newly qualified engineer and came out on projects, I was often asked when the engineer was coming or if I was the intern. I came in as an underdog without having even opened my mouth – but this just gave me more motivation! First and foremost to always be the best technically and, in time, to strive for higher positions. Being skilled earns respect.

What has been crucial to get you to where you are today?

My motivation! I am driven by success, and once I have succeeded with one thing, I begin striving for the next. In quite an engineering-like way, I also have healthy scepticism and ask what the parameters are. It’s probably really annoying, but it gets things moving.

The way I interact is also a weakness because it rubs people up the wrong way, but I try to say everything with a smile. It is important for me to convey even a bad message in a way so that “my group” does not lose heart and still has motivation.

What does it take to go far (up)?

I don’t want to discount that it takes hard work to go far, because it does. I pay close attention to whether our young graduates have a healthy critical approach and would like to be where things are happening. It is important to believe in yourself and to dare to ask questions.

How do you use your influence?

I use my influence wherever I can – and in my own department so we can grow technically, organisationally and in the market. In the scientific world in education, in publications and expert panels as well as in arbitration. I am conscious of promoting both myself and my department professionally.

What are you most proud of?

I am extremely proud of the department I am with now. There were fifteen employees when I took over in 2015. Now there are 40, and we have created a solid business. The need for renovation and knowledge of building physics has grown, and we have been labelled as someone who is good to get help from.