Company

"We hold the threads together" An interview with woom project managers Marlene and Christina

What's the secret to successful transatlantic teamwork? The strong figures of Marlene Fussi and Christina Pallanch discuss the ins-and-outs of project management, language barriers, and what makes woom a special place to work.

Felix Schifflhuber
Felix Schifflhuber
10/18/2022

Christina Pallanch (left) and Marlene Fussi (right).


With the marketing team at woom being based in both Klosterneuburg, Vienna and Austin, Texas, what's the biggest challenge when working internationally?

Christina: Within project management it's very important to get to know the people and learn about their preferences, how they function and how they work. Having a physical distance between you adds to the challenge. But there's a positive to our situation: We get to work with a lot of different people from different backgrounds and different cultures.



Are there any differences between the EU and US teams?

Marlene: There are cultural differences, but we approach these with an open mind and curiosity. What comes to mind is how we phrase things. We've got a good level of English in the EU team, but we're not native speakers. Often it takes a bit more time – maybe one more round of discussions – to get aligned and agree on a particular bit of wording.



What's project management and why do we need it?

Marlene: In textbook project management, you've got this wonderful thing called a 'project triangle.' A project always consists of three dimensions: the timeline, budget, and scope, as in what you want to achieve. And the project manager has the task of connecting these dots.

But, of course, it's way more than that, too.

Project management has so much to do with social skills. It's communication. Your role is to bring people together and make sure that they're communicating.

As project managers, we're basically problem solvers that hold the threads together.



Christina, what makes project management such an exciting field for you?

Christina: Every project is different. I love that aspect! One day, you'll be organising a photoshoot; the next, you'll look after a website relaunch. It's never boring because there are always challenges. So, it's about being able to improvise and be creative in order for a project to succeed. If you want to learn something new day after day, project management is the place to be.



What have you learned throughout your career?

Christina: I used to work at an advertising agency, and that's where I learned a lot about colours and graphic design. How do you organise a layout? How do people usually read?

Since joining woom I've learned so much about all the tiny parts that make up a bike. And I can now tell you why our woom ORIGINAL 1, 2 and 3 bikes are equipped with a steering angle limiter.


Christina is referring to the steering limiter on the woom ORIGINAL bikes (sizes 1 to 3). It prevents the handlebars from overturning, which reduces accidents.



What skills does a project manager need to bring to a company?

Christina: You need to be organised, communicative and have empathy. And you need to know how to keep your cool. After all, we're the ones keeping the team together. If we get nervous, the whole team will start to shiver.

Marlene: Humour helps too. It's invaluable if you know how to drop a good icebreaker joke. But more importantly, it's about knowing when to crack that joke. Timing is super important: when to reach out, when to push – it really matters.

Christina: I completely agree. As a project manager you end up developing a real feeling for timings. You get a gut feeling when you start to make the timeline for a project and it's so useful for the job.



Can you think of any projects that have gone wrong and if so, what did you learn?

Marlene: Before the woom NOW was launched, we were busy creating the ‘how to' videos to demonstrate how to assemble the bike. When we were getting close to completion, we showed one of the final edits to the product team.

But while they were watching it, they identified that a certain cable wasn't in the right position. Ultimately, we had to scrap all the work we had done with that video and re-shoot it.

But the interesting thing is that I don't see this as an outright fail – we identified the problem at the right time and reacted accordingly. So we still reached the goal in the end and nothing actually went wrong!

This shoot was just a lesson for us. And that's something critical in project management: You've got to learn from mistakes and be able to question your own work.

Filming this assembly video taught some important lessons to the project managers.



There are a lot of different methods, schools and trends in project management. Which ones do you use, Marlene, and why?

Marlene: At woom, we work with hard deadlines. Products have to be launched on a specific date. This means I have to plan according to this date – the workload, the tasks – so that we're all ready on time.

I always deploy certain methods from classic project management, which follow the waterfall principle. This means the project starts at point A and finishes at point Z, flowing like a waterfall with one task after another.

This method also determines how I structure the work breakdown and how I use Gantt charts. But I also borrow methods and tools from Scrum, which is the agile project management method, with elements like regular update meetings and stand-ups.



Why are you here at woom and not somewhere else, Christina? 

Christina: I learned about woom bikes as a parent. At first I thought it might be a bit of a hipster thing, but then my son got his first woom ORIGINAL and I was immediately hooked by woom bikes.

Since joining, I've been completely behind the bikes we produce. I love that about working here.

I also like the story of how woom was founded: The two dads, who weren't happy with the bikes on the market, so went ahead and developed their own.



What makes woom so special for you both?

Marlene: After studying, I really wanted to work for a company that produces a physical product. And I really wanted to work for a brand that I can relate to and that I can stand behind.

That's what I found at woom.

I think it's fantastic that I get to work in such a central position within the company and have contact with so many other departments. I enjoy that a lot. And what I also love is that my job changes all the time. With the company growing so quickly, it never gets boring.



Christina, what do you enjoy most about working with Marlene?

Christina: I think she's got a great sense of humour. And even though she always has my back, she's also a great sparring partner in the best possible way. We have different approaches to things, so I get to learn a lot from her with each project that we do together.



Marlene, what do you enjoy about working with Christina?

Marlene: I also appreciate that we are quite different! We have different backgrounds and come from different fields, but that's what makes us so strong as a team.



Christina, what does your day look like as a working mum?

Christina: At woom I'm able to choose where to work. Having a hybrid model with both a physical official and a home office makes it a lot easier to organise things with the kids. I have the feeling that whether or not you have children, woom places a lot of importance on family and private personal relationships. 



Does your work as a project manager affect your personal life?

Marlene: I couldn't stand it if I had to be so organised in my private life. (laughs)

Christina: I'm not always able to completely switch off the organisation or planning side of my mind. I always find myself planning, particularly when we do things as a family.



What's on your bucketlist for the next ten years?

Marlene: I want to pursue my career as a ski instructor, so I'd like to do some additional training towards this.

Christina: A private goal of mine would be to travel again for a few months with my family. We did it before my kids started school. We went travelling for four months and they really loved it. I would love to repeat this within the next ten years.



Which countries would you like to explore? 

Christina: I love Southeast Asia, so I'd like to visit Hong Kong again. And Singapore would be really interesting.



Cycling means something different to every woomster. What does it mean to you?

Christina: I see cycling as a way to get from A to B. But riding with two kids in Vienna isn't always as stress-free as you'd like it to be. The cycling infrastructure needs some tweaks.

Marlene: Cycling is sustainable mobility and sport for me. I love to hop on my road bike and cruise through the Vienna Woods.

When I'm in Styria, it's the same with my mountain bike – I hop on it and conquer the mountains. It's the best way for me to keep fit and get in shape for the ski season.



Marlene, you also commute to the office in Klosterneuburg, right?

Marlene: I'm very much a fair-weather commuter. (Laughs) When the weather is good and there's no rain forecast, then I'll ride to work. It does me good and helps clear my head after a busy day.


Strengthening their team spirit with a day spent mountain biking in Vienna – Marlene, second row, second from left, Christina, second row, third from right.

JOIN US!

Marlene and Christina are currently looking for a North American counterpart!


Quick-fire Q&A


Marlene Fussi:

My desk is...

tidy.

My diary is...

packed.

If I was going to a deserted island, I'd take...

books.

A moment in my personal life that I'd describe as "magical"...

is laying tracks on the first powder day in winter.

My comfort food is...

junk food.

I relax most when...

doing endurance sports.

I'm inspired by...

the out-of-the-ordinary.


Christina Pallanch:

My desk is...

wherever my laptop and notebooks are.

My diary is...

always with me.

If I was going to a deserted island, I'd take...

my family.

A moment in my personal life that I'd describe as "magical"...

was when my kids spoke their first words.

My comfort food is...

Thai cuisine.

I relax most when...

running or snorkelling.

I'm inspired by...

travel.