Meet Mariana Fernández | People & Culture Specialist
Content & Relations Manager
Meet the PRISMAtes and get to know our team! In this series, our employees tell us a little about themselves and their journey to PRISMA. Let's start and meet Mariana!
Mariana's headphones glow in bright red. Another video call with a candidate. Currently, PRISMA has published several open positions. Sometimes Mariana has six interviews in one day. "We have flat hierarchies here at PRISMA. That is an important part of our culture.” With a broad smile, she turns to the webcam. "I can tell you a little bit more about it if you like."
Whether it's remote work, working time models, benefits, or onboarding processes, Mariana knows the right answers to all questions. She is a People & Culture Specialist at PRISMA. Often the first face and the first voice candidates see and hear from the company. "At the moment we have a lot of open positions," says Mariana as she takes off her headphones. "It takes up a lot of time. But who can claim that with their call, they can change the other person's life?" You can see Mariana's honest enthusiasm for her job on her face. However, she did not realize for a long time that she would end up in the HR field.
Landing in HR - a fortunate accident
Mariana Fernández originally comes from Mexico. There she studied Industrial Engineering and initially worked in a company where she wrote SOPs – step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out routine operations. By coincidence, she befriended a colleague from HR and learned more about the connection between the work being done and the people doing the work. "You have to have a real human touch, care about people, and at the same time, you need to be practical to mediate between the interests of companies and colleagues or colleagues and colleagues." Mariana was fascinated by this process and finally transferred to the HR department. "So, I actually landed in HR by accident. That was a fortunate accident," Mariana explains, laughing.
She gained several years of experience in HR in other companies and then decided it was time for a bigger change. She wanted to complete a master’s in business administration – in Germany.
A big shift: from Mexico to Germany
"I had a great professor who teaches thermodynamic engineering. I was really impressed by him, and he did study in Germany, so I wanted to go there too”, Mariana explains. “Also, if there is a reference for engineering in the world, isn’t it Germany?”
Germany was the target. But which city was unclear. She thought about studying in Berlin like friends of hers already did. But one day a roommate of a friend mentioned she would have preferred to study in Leipzig. The education would have been a better fit, she said. Mariana did some research, compared the curriculum, and applied to the University of Leipzig right away. She was lucky and got the place.
Arriving in Leipzig she had a clear plan: “I wanted to concentrate on studying with high motivation and not do anything else for the first year, no side job, only learning." But she did not stick to her own plan. "I started to get a bit bored after two months and looked for jobs." But the job search proved to be difficult without significant German language skills. Until she found the job posting from PRISMA: working student in the People & Culture team of an international company. Working language: English. "My eyes were brightening. I was like: 'Wow, this could be great!'"
As soon as she submitted the application, everything happened quickly: the interview, the acceptance, and her start at PRISMA. "I was so lucky, with this job, I was able to continue developing in what I am passionate about: finding the right people for the right position at the right time, as well as supporting them in their development and work journey."
In 2019, Victoria Schuster joined PRISMA and began building the People & Culture Department from scratch. Together with Mariana, she developed it further in the following years. What are the right benefits for employees? How can they onboard in detail without it turning into stress? How can PRISMA build a community among international colleagues? What team events fit the company? Which conferences should PRISMA attend? Mariana worked on finding answers to all of these questions - and continues to do so today. She started as a working student and is now a People & Culture Specialist.
DE & I - a passion project
The main goal for Mariana: an excellent company culture today and in the future. "As a People & Culture team, we must and want to continually check whether what our employees need to flourish is what we are providing them." Flexibility is crucial, not only since the coronavirus pandemic. "For example, we have expanded our working time models: reducing hours, the four-day week - everything is possible. And now we also offer 100% remote positions." The demand for this is great, but another topic is increasingly driving applicants. "Clearly: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion."
Since 2021 Mariana is the Equal Opportunity Manager at PRISMA. "The first step was to educate ourselves on what could be a problem and how we can avoid it. Just saying we are inclusive is not enough." PRISMA held workshops on discrimination in everyday life, sensitive language, and intercultural misunderstandings. "Also, we want to raise awareness of disparities but also the awareness that at PRISMA, it's an open topic."
PRISMA has channels in place. There are anonymous surveys and an anonymous conversation tool where people can approach and say anything they wouldn't feel comfortable sharing openly or in a one-on-one. "Our stats and surveys are looking good, but we cannot rely on that. We have to keep an eye on that to make sure every PRISMAte is comfortable at work being the person they are."
On the PRISMA website, it says big and bold as a company value: People at the core. "And that's really true. I've experienced it differently myself and know how much it's worth when a company really cares about its culture."
A ringing interrupts Mariana while speaking. A window pops up. A new video call. "That must be the DevOps Candidate. I have to get that." Mariana lifts her feet, twists the chair and puts the headphones back up. It is her fourth call today, and she will mainly explain the same things again. Does she ever get tired of praising PRISMA? "No. We have a rare gem here, and I want to let people know."