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Two leaders on one job: how Janina & Michael top share their position

Janina and Michael were both looking for a new partner. No, not on Tinder! In their jobs. Janina was offered her dream job in Ocean Freight, a full-time position. This would have left her with too little time to spend with her family. During the Covid pandemic, Michael learnt how valuable time with his children is. Still, both wanted to pursue their career goals. Quite a tricky situation. How to proceed? Our colleagues solved this conflict by sharing the job. Read about their experience of this special partnership.

Portrait of Janina and Michael standing back to back

The once-in-a-lifetime offer

The day Janina was offered the position as Head of Global Trade Management was quite a remarkable one. Janina knew that it could take her life into a completely different direction. On the one hand, this was the offer, Janina was waiting for. She had been working in Ocean Freight for more than 20 years and was willing to take the next step in her career. On the other hand, she had a two-year-old son at home. “You get this once-in-a-lifetime offer, but you know that this is not really meant to be a part-time job”, she remembers. Well, Anja, her manager, wanted Janina and Janina wanted the job. The result: top sharing with Michael.

The missing piece of the puzzle

Michael had leadership experience. A quality, Janina really appreciated as she was a total newbie in this area. She had gained profound knowledge of the ocean freight business as a freight forwarder. This is what Michael wanted to grow into, since his past experience was always on the carrier side. Both had the intention to complement and develop each other. Michael realized: “Like this, the work quality also improves. Decisions taken as a team are more valuable. They cover different perspectives." Anja remembers: “Finding the right partner was quite a challenge – like finding a partner for life. Candidates must be willing to take risks. There are questions such as - What does it mean for my career having worked as a part-time leader? Am I taken seriously?”

Decisions taken as a team are more valuable. They cover different perspectives.

Steering the crew

Together, Janina and Michael are heading up a team of 17. The colleagues appreciate to have two “captains”. Janina explains: “Each of them have a favorite best buddy with us.” Also, it helps that they cover the whole range of working hours of their team members. Janina works the first half of the day and Michael the second half, with a couple of overlapping hours. Admittedly, for their manager, Anja, this is not always convenient: “Apart from their joint tasks, both have different focus areas as well. I may not get an immediate answer as one of them is off, hence schedules need to be flexible and sometimes re-arranged. However, the double brain power, inspiration and creativity through the job-sharing model clearly makes up for it.” Therefore, to organize the workload, a collaborative effort is needed to reduce and re-distribute tasks. 

Job sharing and especially top sharing is a well-known theory but still unknown territory for many companies and even more employees. Also, at DB Schenker, there is no winning formula yet as we are still pioneering. But there are good reasons to explore this area further, since flexibility from standard work hours is increasingly becoming a benefit which employees are asking for. 

How do you organize yourself or who brings out the rubbish?

In every relationship, you have to equally assign the boring tasks like bringing out the garbage. In order to avoid stress in their professional partnership, Janina and Michael divided the job into different focus areas, which also guarantees that there is a direct point of contact to the customer. For Janina it is imports from Asia, while Michael is responsible for exports from Europe. Anyhow, in the end they support each other. Michael is convinced: “In a good tandem, you either enter the port together or you sink together.”

Moreover, both have a best friend called MS Teams & OneNote. Janina and Michael enter their ideas, tasks, MoM’s and learnings in this tool. It is safe to say that working in job sharing requires a lot of organizational talent. However, if you ask both for the major success factor of their partnership, it is transparency. Well, it is like with a real couple in dating – being honest and open pays off in the end.

About me-times and playgrounds

As the ocean market is very demanding right now, the position was assigned with 150%. In the beginning, Janina had a smaller percentage and Michael worked more in order to quickly get fully onboarded. Slowly, they are changing this to end up with 75% for both in January 2022 and then, both having one day off per week. Janina aims at some me-time: “Job and family are both demanding. I need to recharge my batteries from time to time.” Michael wants to spend this extra day for quality time with his family. He recaps: “During corona time, I was closer to my family. In former times, most of us aimed at a high income and classical careers and working overtime. Now, you learn that some time off at the playground, for instance, has its value too.”

Being an ambassador

Sometimes, they feel like ambassadors for new ways of working. “Our business partners and my friends are often very impressed that DB Schenker has offered us this model. It is very motivating to work for such a modern employer,” says Janina. 


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Schenker AG
Leandri Meyer
Kruppstr.4
45128 Essen, Germany
Phone: +49 (0) 201 8781 -2234
leandri.meyer@dbschenker.com