“If you keep going, you will be rewarded.” WIL Member, Inga Karten, Principal at Miller & Meier Consulting spoke to us about some of her career achievements such as having been the German spokesperson for Billion Euro project and having expanded her consulting firm internationally. Who is her favourite heroine? And what is her vision for the future of Europe?
You have an academic background in political science, German language, and literature as well as having studied media science in Cologne and Melbourne. Since 2008, you have been Principal at Miller & Meier Consulting. Could you tell us more about your career path and what led you to consulting?
I chose my university subjects based on my interests, knowing that a degree in economics or law might be more useful from a career perspective. My reasoning was that I would rather do what I like and what I am good at. After I graduated, I wanted to work in a political environment without becoming a politician. I had tried political journalism, my original career goal, but did not want to go that way and then I ended up in a political consultancy in Brussels. I moved to Miller & Meier in Berlin after a couple of years and never regretted that choice of a consulting career. In consulting I love the variety of issues and people you are dealing with. That can be challenging but is also very exciting.
You currently advise international corporations on transportation and infrastructure policies including the planning and approval of large-scale projects. What are the 21st century transport and mobility challenges?
The main challenge is of course to bring a globally growing demand for mobility in line with climate protection goals. From my point of view, we need to drastically reduce the amount of privately owned cars. Especially in urban areas where there are so many promising new offers like eScooters and ride-pooling. The challenge is now to bring these offers also to suburban and rural areas. New solutions are politically wanted, but there is still a lot of reluctance to remove long-standing privileges e.g. from taxi drivers and car owners. In a car country like Germany this is particularly challenging, but necessary in order to avoid just creating more traffic.
We need to drastically reduce
the amount of privately owned cars.
New solutions are politically wanted,
but there is still a lot of reluctance
to remove long-standing privileges
e.g. from taxi drivers and car owners.
During your time at Miller & Meier, you were also the German spokesperson for the billion Euro project of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel between Denmark and Germany, which was recently approved. What were the issues at stake?
The most interesting thing about this project is that it is a cross-border project. You might not think that there are huge cultural differences between Denmark and Germany, but the countries have very different procedures and traditions in planning, approving, and communicating large infrastructure projects. In Denmark for example there is a construction permit for the tunnel since April 2015, the German permit was issued in January 2019 and is now challenged in front of the Federal Administrative Court. This of course sparks questions and a need for explanations.
Between 2013 and 2017, you founded and headed the U.S. office of Miller & Meier Consulting in Washington D.C. What were some of the challenges and highlights of such an important international expansion?
I feel lucky that after working in Brussels and Berlin, I got the chance to work in the “lobbying capital of the world” for a couple of years. Politically these were exciting times. I was there during the last election and witnessed the transition from President Obama to President Trump. For a political scientist and political consultant that was fascinating. One of my personal highlights was the International Women’s March on the day after the inauguration of President Trump with several hundred thousand mainly, but not only women protesting on the National Mall in Washington.
From a business perspective, the biggest challenge was to come to a city where everything works based on personal relationships and networks as a foreigner without any network. That was difficult, but I learned a lot. Americans are – at least compared to Germans – so much better at networking and small talk.
What leadership skills were necessary for the successful conduct of this expansion? What is your vision of female leadership more specifically?
In this case in Washington, it was mainly persistence – not giving up even if matters move slower than you had hoped for. If you keep going, you will be rewarded.
I do not have a vision of female leadership. I also do not like to distinguish between male or female leadership skills – I would rather like to differentiate between good and bad leaders, regardless of gender. My vision would be to make female leaders as normal as part-time working or stay-at home Dads.
My vision would be to make female leaders
as normal as part-time working or stay-at home Dads.
Before joining Miller & Meier, you worked as a political consultant in Brussels. Based on your experience in Brussels all those years ago, what is your vision for the future of Europe?
When living in Europe you tend to focus on the differences and on what separates the different member states. Living outside of Europe, you get a different perspective and see more of what unites us as Europeans. I had this experience in Australia as well as in the United States, although both countries have close historic and cultural ties to Europe.
I wish we could all focus more on what unites us. Europe can only tackle global challenges like climate change, migration, trade conflicts etc. when we stand together.
What impressed me most when I was working in Brussels were all the passionate and idealistic Europeans I met there. All of them are my hope for the future of Europe.
I wish we could all focus more on what unites us.
Europe can only tackle global challenges
like climate change, migration, trade conflicts etc.
when we stand together.
Lastly, we like to conclude from a question from Proust questionnaire: Who is your favourite heroine, fictional or real?
I do not really have a favourite heroine, but I do admire people who stand up for their beliefs and for others – even if this means facing personal disadvantages or even risking your life. Rosa Parks, who refused to clear her bus seat for white passengers in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 is one example. There are numerous more recent ones of women fighting for their rights in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, and so many more. They all have my biggest respect.