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From all-rounder to sustainability manager

From all-rounder to sustainability manager

Anja Herzog has come an impressive way at MS Direct, mastering numerous functions along the way. With a lot of drive and the desire to gain management experience, she successfully managed the MS Direct Austria site right from the start. As an empathetic person, it was very important to her to reconcile work, family and leisure time. This led to her holding various positions over the years and always contributing where she was most needed. Today, as Sustainability and Procurement Manager, she makes a significant contribution to reducing the company’s greenhouse gas emissions – a real challenge, especially in the logistics sector. In this interview, she took us on her journey and gave us an insight into her exciting career.

Anja, you've been part of the MS Direct team since 2006 - that's quite a long time. Can you tell us how this came about?

Oh, that’s a curious story! In 2006, I was about to complete my extra-occupational training to become a federally certified management specialist and wasn’t actually actively looking for a job. By a lucky coincidence, however, a colleague at work drew my attention to the position of site manager at MS Direct in Lauterach and said it was made for me. That aroused my ambition. I saw this as my big opportunity and applied without further ado. Interestingly, both the company and the industry were completely unknown to me until then – so I was entering completely new territory. However, I was so impressed by the team and the atmosphere at the interview that I didn’t hesitate for a second and accepted. And so began my adventure at MS Direct: without any management or industry experience, but with a fantastic team at my side.

That sounds like a bold move. How did you find your way in the new environment and role?

I naturally faced a steep learning curve. I threw myself into the work with full enthusiasm right from the start and got to know the processes and my team directly in my day-to-day work. I quickly realized where we could still make improvements. That’s where I started immediately. Among other things, I made sure that we modernized our offices – there were actually still areas where people still worked with typewriters. Right from the start, I felt a great sense of trust and had the freedom to change a lot of things. Of course, these changes also brought challenges, especially when they affected my employees. I sometimes encountered resistance. I quickly realized how crucial clear communication and the involvement of employees in new processes are – an important lesson that many new managers will probably have to learn.

With your commitment, you have significantly shaped our location in Lauterach. After five years, you left MS Direct to devote yourself to family planning. Why did your path lead you back to us?

I’ve always dreamed of starting my own family and enjoyed this stage of my life to the full. But it is also important to me to have a meaningful activity outside my own four walls. I made a lot of friends at MS Direct and still keep in touch with some people. When I wanted to return to work after two years and was looking for a part-time job, the question was rather: Why not MS Direct?

Working for MS Direct for 16 years – Anja Herzog (Image: MS Direct AG)

So you opted for MS Direct a second time - why exactly?

Yes, exactly. The decision was easy for me. I always felt welcome here and the flexible approach to part-time positions suited me very well. I was open to different activities – the main thing was that I could make a contribution. It was nice to see that the company was also very happy about my return. As the company was still quite small and informal at the time, we quickly found a suitable role for me.

You have taken on many tasks since then. Why don't you tell us what they were?

There really were a lot of. Basically, I was deployed wherever there was a need. My job didn’t even have an official title at the beginning. But that was just right for me. I enjoyed great trust, was able to work flexibly and had fantastic people around me – all qualities that still characterize MS Direct today. Among other things, I took on tasks in the area of procurement, looked after company catering and partnerships and helped to set up structures where none existed.

After a few years, my position was then combined under the title of Logistic Operations Manager. I was responsible for resource planning, held quality meetings with employees and provided support with recruitment. A few years later, I helped set up the new logistics site in Arbon, set up workstations and took care of the lighting. Finally, I was heavily involved in process optimization and introduced the 5S quality principle, among other things. To ensure process quality, we carried out weekly audits at the sites. So it was really very varied.

Wow, so you are a real all-rounder. And how did you end up at Sustainability?

In 2020, I was offered the opportunity to take over the area of sustainability. That’s when I knew it was the right thing for me. I also liked doing the quality audits, but the topic of sustainability just suited me more.

Ensures that there is always enough material available – Anja Herzog (Image: MS Direct AG)

And do you enjoy your current role as Sustainability & Procurement Manager?

Yes, absolutely. Now I can deal with processes and do something positive for the environment. And when it comes to sustainability, MS Direct is really making a difference – we have been climate-neutral for a few years now! But we don’t just want to offset CO2, we want to reduce it. That is why we committed to the Science based Target Initiative in 2020. We have our data, we have a basis and we have a goal, now it’s time to get down to business. That’s exactly what fulfills me. I look forward to implementing measures and taking our employees with me on this journey.

That sounds very much like your vocation. Is sustainability also important to you personally?

Definitely! As a mother, I also want to leave my children a healthy environment. My daughter once asked me what exactly I do at work. My husband then explained to her: ‘Mom makes sure that no more polar bears have to die. It’s little things like that that also give me fulfillment in my private life.

What does a Sustainability & Procurement Manager actually do?

Do you already have an idea or a wish for how your journey will continue?

That’s difficult to say. I never really knew exactly where the journey would take me, I always got involved where I was needed. So far, exciting doors have always opened up for me. The key thing for me is that I can make a difference with my work.

You've already mentioned it, but now in more detail: what makes MS Direct a good employer for you?

I think openness, flexibility and trust are the key characteristics of MS Direct. Openness towards innovation, flexibility towards part-time workers and trust in every employee. You can work independently here, take on responsibility and – if you are committed – you can achieve a lot. You certainly need some time at the beginning to find your feet in this environment, but you can quickly get involved and help shape things.

Last question: What advice would you give new employees to help them quickly find their feet with us?

It’s important to get in touch with people and not be afraid to pick up the phone. I also recommend that everyone visits our production sites and helps out for a day. This gives you a good feel for what we actually do, who is behind it and how the processes work. It is important to be open, to learn and to take responsibility. You shouldn’t shy away from challenges and, of course, you shouldn’t forget to have fun at work!