Meet Lesley Schneider - our "Queen" receptionist
Hi Lesley! Just between us - Mr. Rünz will definitely not find out - as our "British Queen" you are actually the true head of DELORO, aren't you?
Lesley: (laughs) "Yes, that´s well said! No, the real head is the CEO, Mr. Rünz! I'm just the lady from the reception."
...and yet DELORO has somehow been your "kingdom" for 25 years and is also represented by you accordingly!
Lesley: "Yes, I think that's how it turned out! In my opinion, the reception is not like ours in every company! It's not just about making phone calls and coffee. A lot of things come together here, and you could say the reception is the 'hub' of the company. Above all, I have to make sure that visitors comply with our security regulations. No one just comes in here until security has been cleared. In all of this, I always have to appear completely confident, as if I know everything...even though that is of course sometimes not the case.
Gotcha! So you are the boss after all! The latter is clearly a characteristic of a boss!
Lesley: (laughs) "No, no, a boss has completely different functions! But I put the “brakes” on some things so that the bosses don't get it all and can do their work. The “British Queen" helps the "King" to rule by blocking when she must - it's my job, among others, not to let everything go through to everyone. By the way, I am also a German citizen, since 2019 -, mainly due to Brexit. There are wicked tongues that claim I am more German than the Germans. But I remain a proud Englishwoman, of course, even though I've lived in Germany for a very long time and have never regretted it."
Tell me: How did you actually "end up" in Germany back then?
Lesley: "I worked for a large manufacturer of V8 engines in my hometown of Peterborough until 1981, when I was 22. My boss at the time knew that I liked Germany and that I had also been there several times with my youth club. One day she brought me a newspaper in which an English company was looking for a new employee with very good English skills for its German branch. So, I sent them an application...more or less for fun! They called me the very next day and asked me to come in for an interview! But at the time I was able to calm myself down with the thought "It's not going to work out anyway!”
So the thing about emigrating wasn't quite thought through at that point....
Lesley: "No, it wasn't at all! It was just more or less born out of 'nonsense'. My mother wasn't at all thrilled either! My father drove me to the interview and they told me straight away that they wanted me. Afterwards we went home and I cried at first. I was practically homesick before I got homesick! But my boss at the time advised me that I should definitely do it and assured me that I could return to my old job at any time. So, I made up my mind and just two weeks later I arrived in Germany on the car ferry "Herald of Free Enterprise" - the ship that incidentally sank a few years later in Zeebrugge, Belgium. My last day in England was February 19th – as it turned out, a very special day for me.: it is my birthday, my husband's birthday, our wedding anniversary and, as I said, my last day in England. I don't believe in coincidences, everything in life happens for a reason!"
What was the first day in Germany like for you?
Lesley: "It was horrible! (laughs) I drove my car all day. It was dark, it was snowing, I didn't have winter tyres on, there were detours everywhere and I didn't know any German. I arrived in Ahrweiler somehow, sometime, but the person who was supposed to pick me up wasn't there. I went to a hotel - luckily the right one - and asked if they could help me. It was carnival at the time and everyone had drunk quite a lot. I asked myself: Where the hell did I end up ? I took my suitcase; a hotel employee took me to my room and immediately disappeared again. I was alone, I hadn't had anything to drink or to eat all day...I was so hungry that I tried to open a can of tuna. I slipped and cut my hand really deeply. I still have the scar today! I think I cried all night and wanted to go home right away. That was my first memory of Germany...!"
But it was very brave of a 22-year-old to leave her home country! We all know how much England means to you! Why did you nevertheless decide on this initially rather difficult path?
Lesley: "I wanted an adventure and had a strong need for independence and personal development! I had a colleague in Peterborough at the time who sat in this one office all her life. That put me off and I knew that if I stayed there, I might end up the same way! Living a life that I would regret in the end was out of the question for me! In addition, my childhood and youth were not particularly happy. They were marked by health problems, and I had to endure many very painful surgeries and months of hospitalization. This also led to the need to finally live my life freely and to actively shape it. In England we say: Problems make you stronger...and they really do! I survived and I'm still here!"
How and when did you come to DELORO?
Lesley: "After I became a mother, my employer at the time only wanted to take me back full time, which was not an issue for me at all at the time. I mean: It's not like I'd had a child just to leave them at the nursery all day! So, I looked for a part-time job and in 1997 I found what I was looking for in the vacancies of the "SIS" system at the employment agency...and we know today how that turned out: Günther Clos hired me at DELORO and Sabine Dietz became my supervisor. After a few years, it became a full-time position and the tasks expanded more and more. I am proud of what I have built up over the years! Colleagues appreciate the position today and know that they can come to me anytime they need help with anything - be it booking a hotel room, reserving a rental car, or doing a translation.
Yes, you could say: You are our organizing "all-purpose weapon"!
Lesley (laughs): "Yes, thank you, that's right - I like that phrase!"
But one of your most important tasks is to regularly bake your famous brownies for your colleagues...
Lesley (laughs): "Yes, that's right, I'll have to do that again soon!"
At reception, our guests are greeted not only by you but also by a Queen Elizabeth figure waving her hand....
Lesley: "YES!!! But she’s already lost her head and feet twice. I came back from holiday one day and my beloved Queen was broken into three pieces - a big drama! At this point I would like to thank Oliver Wierz who repaired her every time. She used to have a dog too, but at some point, it "died" or rather its tail just stopped wagging. To be honest: I wouldn't have bought it for myself...it's a bit tacky...but it was a gift from the KMT HR department many years ago and it has since become an important item for me. It's also a great "talking point" that is often and easily used to engage in conversation with people!"
What fascinates you about Queen Elizabeth?
Lesley: "Many people in Germany can't understand that. She was very loyal, very hardworking and she gave her whole life for us British. I grew up with her and she was just always there. I always had the feeling that I had a "grandma" in her! Well, there were problems sometimes, but in the end, she held it all together - that's kind of what I always tried to do at Deloro too!"
Do you have other things in common with her?
Lesley: “Another thing in common is the strong will, I think. It takes a lot to break me! I always seem to develop a certain strength in emergency situations! I am a fighter and always get back up! Also, I always try to be there for others too. My husband often jokingly says I have helper syndrome. This is where the common ground ends: No crown, no jewels and no palace.”(laughs)
Instead of using the name, you prefer to address people as "mouse" and "bunny rabbit”. How do you distinguish who gets which "title"?
Lesley: (laughs) "You forgot "sweetie"! That's just how I talk to people when I feel comfortable with them. I allow myself some creative freedom when addressing people! For example, I used to have the advantage of being English. If I ever addressed someone in German with the personal instead of formal salutation they would often say apologetically, "Oh, she doesn't know any better!" - oh yes, she knew very well! (laughs) I think I make people a bit more relaxed with my manner. For example, when applicants come for an interview and are maybe still a bit tense. I speak to them directly and take them as they are - and often they say to me that they feel comfortable with me. That always makes me happy! A few weeks ago, two guests wanted to take me to their company in Düsseldorf because they would have liked to keep me for their reception. But I thankfully declined: "I like it at DELORO and I will retire here in 2 months!" (laughs)
What time in your professional life has shaped you the most?
Lesley: "The COVID period. Especially at the beginning, it was marked by a lot of uncertainty - you didn't know exactly what was coming and where it would all lead! I felt a great responsibility towards my colleagues and a strong awareness of how "fragile" life can be. I was not allowed to let anyone into the building who had not been vaccinated and tested. Not every guest understood that! But I was the first point of contact in the company and it was my job to protect the colleagues - I took that very seriously!"
What do you look forward to when you drive to DELORO in the morning?
Lesley: "Just looking forward to what's coming! To the new challenge and to being able to experience something. I'm just looking forward to it being a new day! There are no two days that are the same, simply because people are never the same."
What does a successful day look like for you? What has to happen for you to go home in a good mood?
Lesley: "If everything went well! Everything worked out, everyone is healthy, nothing bad happened. When I have achieved what I set out to do. Then I sometimes sit in my car at the end of the day, take a deep breath and think: That was a good day!”
Lesley, what drives you?
Lesley: "Just determination. I set goals in my head, and I like to achieve them. I need stress, I mean healthy stress! Add to that my desire to always want to help everyone...and my extreme "helper syndrome" comes out again. But please don't misunderstand me: I am not an angel, really not! But I am a helper - a person who likes to help. Besides, I love my job! I've never had a job I hated, never! I would never want to be in a job where I really didn't like coming to work. We are not long on this earth and time goes fast!"
I think 25 years at DELORO is a good proof that you love your job! What exactly was it that you loved about your job?
Lesley: "Because it's just my thing - I knew that very quickly! Every day is different and so interesting. I meet many different people and characters every day, I like that! Working at the reception gave me the wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over the world. If I don't have human contact, I wilt like a flower. It never occurred to me to go anywhere else. Not even on the rare "problem days" - they are more of a challenge for me!"
Looking back on the past 25 years at DELORO, what is your best memory?
Lesley: (thoughtfully) "Well...I've been really lucky to have had good colleagues, many of whom have become friends...yes! I have experienced this quite differently at previous employers. Moreover, at DELORO you are not simply a "number" and that also makes the time here very special! For me, every day is a memory!
Which mastered challenge still fills you with pride today?
Lesley: "Definitely that I had the courage to leave everything behind all those years ago - a good, secure job, family and friends, to emigrate to Germany! As a young person I was - you wouldn't believe it - rather introverted and, as I said, I had to deal with a lot of health problems during that time. Looking back, I can say that it has formed and strengthened my character, that I have always faced the big and small challenges."
If you could start all over again today, what would you do?
Lesley: "I would develop my interest in languages, and I would definitely learn or study something in that direction. I always wanted to be a simultaneous translator, but the problem was: as a young person, I unfortunately didn't know what my strengths were at all! But today I enjoy learning new languages in my spare time. People say I have a talent for languages. I really enjoy practicing on visitors - and sometimes swearing....that's what I like to do best in Finnish, especially in the stadium while watching ice hockey..." (laughs)
You've given me a good lead-in to the next question! What do you do in your free time outside of DELORO?
Lesley: "I've been a big fan of the ice hockey club "Die Bären" Neuwied for 30 years and I'm at the stadium almost every weekend to cheer them on! I can be a little, let’s say louder! Once a colleague wanted to watch the game and asked where he could find me. I didn't want to tell him where I was sitting at first. When he asked me, "Why don't you want to tell me?" I replied, "Because you'll see a completely different Lesley! (laughs). But he didn't let that put him off and came by anyway."
DELORO builds highly wear-resistant components that you can rely on in daily use. Which colleague with this characteristic spontaneously comes to mind and why?
Lesley: "There are a few, of course, but Melanie Spreen and Helga Ley spring to mind! I have known them for many years and have always been able to rely on them. There is a lot of trust between us! Helga is very honest and Melanie is just a very gentle person!"
Our core values at DELORO are courage, credibility and respect. On which personal values are your personal actions based?
Lesley: "Respect - that's at the top of my list! I don't have to like a person, but I have to respect them! I don't really have to emphasize loyalty to my family here, because my family always comes first and my grandchild Paco is my world."
Last question: What three things do you take with you to a desert island?
Lesley: (laughs) "Knitting needles and wool! Books, definitely books...and pictures of my family".
Thank you very much for this interview, Lesley! To speak for the entire staff: You had a "grandma" in Queen Elizabeth who was always there - we at DELORO had you for that! We wish you all the best for your new phase of life as a retiree!
The interview was conducted by: Sascha Hannappel on February 9th, 2023.