Caroline Schalwat is a real “Nutzi”, that's what they call the employees of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Hanover. Since 2018, the 36-year-old has been working in Product Management for Digital Services, where she heads up “Customer Focus & Design.” Her diverse team consists of employees from four different nations with professional experience from three different continents and five industries, as well as ten different fields of training and study. “In the beginning, I first had to become familiar with the language of designers and learn to see what details make a successful design. In the meantime, I can judge this very well and discuss it in a well-founded way with my colleagues.”
From promotion to user experience
Even experienced designers are now often surprised when they hear that Schalwat actually comes from a department outside her field, human resources development. Schalwat, who studied sociology and business administration, wrote her doctorate in cooperation with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles at the University of Göttingen and the Technical University of Munich. After working as a personnel officer in charge of European sales and as an assistant to the board member responsible for human resources, she decided to take a different path in 2018. “At Volkswagen, you're not only supposed to be able to manage in your own specialist area, but you should also be able to manage an area outside of your specialist area. I saw this as a great challenge for me, ” she says, explaining her decision.User experience – for Schalwat, that's a key element of digitization, which determines our entire everyday lives. As a user experience designer at Volkswagen, her aim is to make products and services understandable and intuitive for users by making processes and interfaces simple and by ensuring that devices are well coordinated.
Digital products for commercial and private customers
“Specifically, we are responsible for equipping Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ commercial customers with digital services and products,” Schalwat explains. “To do this, we create modern design concepts as well as interaction and interface designs. The main product here at the moment is We Connect Fleet.”
We Connect Fleet – that’s Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ fleet management system. The company offers commercial customers a simple digital solution to efficiently manage their small to medium-sized fleets, thereby making their day-to-day work easier. Fleet managers access important data quickly and easily in the system. Drivers can use the Connect Fleet app to report damage or keep a digital logbook. “For example, fleet managers get an alert when tires in the vehicle have worn out or should be changed,” Schalwat says. Other colleagues are also working on the California on Tour app. The mobile online service allows private customers to quickly and easily find a suitable camping and parking site or gas station along their route.
For them, working at Volkswagen is the perfect symbiosis of large corporation and small start-up. “We work in a project house in the middle of the city center, and Volkswagen’s infrastructure offers us many opportunities that startups don’t normally have. For example, we can always use the latest software,” she explains. “At the same time, we have the freedoms of a start-up, which makes creative work and interaction possible.”
In particular, collaborative working and direct communication is important for designers, in her view. Not so easy in times of Corona. That’s why one of her team's highlights this year was the virtual Soulfood Day, where Schalwat and her team deliberately took a day to focus on cross-disciplinary topics and cohesion.
Further networking in the future
For the future, she would like to see even broader networking within Volkswagen AG for her work. “Particularly in the commercial customer sector, it is important that instead of many individual products, an overall user experience is described that serves as a common target image within the company.” That's why digital services and their interconnection are very important to her. In her view, this is the only way to create a competitive UX that fits into the digital age.