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Honh Hong Xu speaking at HIP about intercultural relationship with chinese

Building a trustful and long-lasting personal and business relationship with Chinese

Today, globalization is unstoppable, making it the norm that people from diverse cultural backgrounds work and live together on a daily base. At the same time, we all know that trust is the foundation of long lasting and successful partnerships. But how can we build that trust when we don’t understand the covert cultural signals being sent?

China, the Middle Kingdom, opened its doors to the world more than 30 years ago and has developed into one of the largest economic centers of the world. However, for many westerners, this country, its people and culture remain mysteriously hidden like something of a closed book. In January our member Hong Hong Xu gave us a presentation on Chinese Culture.

We began the day by celebrating the year of the Red Rooster.

Then Hong-Hong Xu provided an eye-opening look into the world of Chinese Culture helping us to see just how hard it can be to bridge the culture gap even with the best of intentions.  She showed us, with clear examples and her own story, the awareness and determination it takes to choose to adapt in a world with different values.
At the same time Hong-Hong underlined a universal truth – that we can often learn the most by overcoming difficult challenges and rising to new understanding of our self and our potential.

Many thanks to Hong-Hong for the great presentation and the lovely gift for all the participants!


Ms. Hong Hong Xu was born in Beijing, has been working and living in both China and Germany since 1988. She holds a Master of Engineering in Materials Science from Technical University Darmstadt (1995) and MBA from University Mannheim (2000). She is senior manager at BASF SE.

HIP Carousel 2016 Frauenwirtschaftstage

HIP Carousel 2016



The HIP Carousel 2016 has come and gone, once again leaving behind a rich array of learning, connecting and opportunities.

Held in partnership with the IHK, Standort Heidelberg, and the Amt fur Chancengeleichheit, our event opened with a podium discussion based on the theme of the Frauenwirtschaftstage ‘Migrant Women at Work ‘ which explored the challenges and opportunities available to international women moving into the Rhine-Neckar region. Using the real life experiences of 4 of our members the discussion underlined the importance of learning the language and building and using a professional network.

Following the podium discussion 3 activities ran simultaneously:

  • The Carousel itself, where HIP entrepreneurs spent time sharing their highs and lows and subsequent learnings gleaned from having built their own businesses.
  • The mini-presentations, where HIP members told stories of major impact in their professional lives which brought them significant life lessons.
  • The Networking Center where our visitors could mingle for extended discussions while having a snack provided by Juliah Rais Morres from Serai Catering.

The day wound up with a final podium discussion on Women and Technology. Four HIP members shared their journeys in mastering and leveraging technology in their careers. The crux of the discussion left us with clear evidence that change is here to stay and it is up to us to use the tools at our disposal to move us forward towards our goals.  A continuous growth mindset is the key to that mastery as well as a positive attitude about how technology can help us.  If you can’t beat them, join them!

As the Carousel 2016 came to a close we were thrilled to see many new contacts and plans already blooming.  Now for each of us to nurture the possibilities contained in those new relationships.  Our goal was to connect, inspire and build.  Satisfied with our experience we look forward to 2017 with anticipation and enthusiasm.

HIP Carousel 2016 Frauenwirtschaftstage


All pictures © Dorothée Piroelle. For prints of event pictures please contact Dorothée.

own your career own your life

Own Your Career – Own Your Life

Tuesday evening’s presentation ‘Own Your Career-Own Your Life’  by Monika Niederhoff proved to be another stimulating success with lots of enthusiastic discussion.

Monika, VP Production Program Director at SAP, shared with us the story of her career as she worked her way up the ladder in her field.  A few of the to-dos and taboos included:

To do: have clear goals, be courageous, let your voice be heard, be aware of cross-cultural differences.

Taboos: At yearly reviews focus on what you have accomplished, not where you can improve! Do not hesitate or hold back, state your interest for areas and posts of interest.  Don’t expect encouragement or reassurance to be willing to grab an opportunity.

Monika also demonstrated the intersection between work and family, and how it takes a strong commitment from the entire family to find the right balance for everyone.  She was warm, she was witty and I believe her story resonated with many of us in the room.

own your career own you rlife monika niederhof at HIP 2016


social media marketing

Marketing yourself in social media with Austeja Subaciute and Larisa Balanovskaya

On Juli 21st we had the opportunity to improve our personal branding in an interactive workshop with Austėja Subačiūtė and Larisa Balanovskaya. The workshop addressed branding ourselves as individual professionals and as business owners.

Austėja explained to us the methodology of psychographic consumer segmentation, showing us the importance of understanding consumers as humans with full lives. We also learned that for successful communication it is critical to start with understanding the needs of consumers instead of trying to push our brand attributes.

Buidling up on Austeja’s presentation, Larisa talked about how to apply the principles of branding online. In her presentation she covered two platforms: Facebook and LinkedIn. She explained what a business owner can do to create exposure and awareness for business on Facebook as well as to enhance the customer experience and ultimately increase sales. After discussing some rules of successful Facebook pages, Larisa has talked about how a corporate professional can optimize LinkedIn profile to position herself as an authority in the field.
Even though social media marketing is not set in stone, and the key of success is in experimenting and testing of what works for your own business or personal brands and what does not, one should be aware of the basic rules and guidelines every online platform has. Besides, there are some tricks that make the process of setting online presence easier.
Larisa shared valuable practical advises of how to use these two platforms to build successful and profitable brands.
We continued to discover how to identify our own brand essence based on understanding the target audience and the environment around us. We finished the session with an interactive workshop where we all worked on our brand essence, presenting our results to each other.

The workshop was extremely engaged and active. We were all inspired by fellow business owners soaking up new ideas how to improve their business marketing. Discussions continued throughout the workshop to obtain further insights.

All participants received the presentation slide deck for future reference. Anyone we missed may request a copy from Austeja. Please contact her at austeja(at)garrisongroup.eu .

2016 HIP Sabine Keller

Getting Our “Ducks in a Row” with Sabine Keller

On Saturday April 23rd we all had the opportunity to learn from Sabine Keller the ins and outs of ‘Getting Our Ducks in a Row’ – that is taking care, in advance, of having our affairs in order, just in case something happened, such as an illness or accident, which would impede our ability to speak for ourselves.  The discussion covered the importance of who would be in charge or our things, our families, but even more important, ourselves.  We explored the difference between advance directives, living wills and the power of attorney.

The interest was high and Sabine answered the many questions with patience and knowledge.  As this is a service she offers she is clear on where she can guide and advise and where it is important for us to seek legal aide.

As international women with our lives sometimes spread out over several countries, she underlined the importance of cross-checking that our wishes and directives are formulated in all the necessary languages and according to the different countries requirements so as to facilitate any processes that must be put in place by those people we appoint to do so.

Sabine underlined that while we hope the chances are slim of something so drastic happening to us, it can.  It is up to us to be prepared, saving those who love and care for us the anguish of dealing with obscure regulations at a time when they will also be dealing with the emotions which are part and parcel of just such a situation.

Funnily enough the discussion was not grey and heavy, but stimulating and vibrant.  We felt the power of a group coming together to help one another achieve a very important task that we all need to deal with.

Another important topic which will help us be on the top of our professional and personal lives.

HIP night out
HIP night out
HIP night out
HIP international women's day 2016

Women Helping Women: An International Women’s Day Presentation

HIP Women’s Forum was thrilled to have Uta Anders speak to a group of 47 women on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016 at the ADAC Office in Heidelberg.

The event started with the registration in a welcoming atmosphere, where beverages and food were provided. The food was catered by HIP Member Juliah Rais-Morres. Some enjoyed a glass of prosecco, while others had delicious food and said hello to each other.

After networking for a while, the women found themselves a seat with a little scented candle on it, a welcome gift from Cheryl Sweeney of Yankee Candle. Every woman introduced herself by telling her nationality, what she did for a living and what brought her to the Rhine-Neckar Region and to HIP.

Then the guest speaker Uta Anders was introduced to us by HIP Steering Committee Head Cheryl Sweeney and Uta told us her career story at the company ThyssenKrupp, where she works as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Throughout her story, she touched on themes of hard work, opportunity, living abroad and being comfortable where she lived.

Last year, as a lot of refugees started arriving in Europe and at the Patrick-Henry-Village (PHV) in Heidelberg, Uta wanted to help and had the idea of doing a project there. A long time practitioner of yoga in a local yoga studio, she decided to organize a weekly yoga/movement class for women and girls at PHV.

Uta asked for help from the Diakonisches Werk Heidelberg, the yoga studio where she usually did classes and her friends. Through Facebook she was able to coordinate teachers and helpers to show up at the assigned room to conduct the moving/yoga classes.

At their first class, they were ready to go but no one showed up! So a flyer was created and handed out to the people at the PHV. The flyer was even translated into Arabic but still no one showed up.

Uta hung in there, kept handing out flyers and showing up with her group. Around the third or fourth time, women and girls came and really enjoyed the chance to move, relax and dance. The effort, at first known as “Yoga For Help” transitioned into “Yoga for Hope” which explains the feelings of hope and community that is created through this activity. And not just for the women and girls, but for Uta and her friends as well.

Uta talked about the achievements she made through ‘Yoga for Hope’ and how much happiness was added to her life by the people who she met at the yoga group. Uta said that nothing could give you more joy then the hope and happiness you give to the people around you.

The women at the event were then invited to discuss and share any ideas they had for the refugees and for helping other women.  After more food, beverages and networking a wonderful evening came to an end and left all the participating women with a lot of fulfillment and good thoughts.

Written by HIP Member Silvia Schukraft; photos by HIP Member Larisa Balanovskaya, contact her for any full size images.

2016 HIP imrov theatre workshop

Using improvisation theater in your presentations

Some years ago, Frédérique was captivated by theatrical improvisation technique, which she finds an inspiring and compelling tool for personal development, leadership, change management, team building, creativity, and communication skills development. Improvisation Theater is the art of acting without script or props – making everything up on the spot, in real time, following a set of rules and practices such as focusing on the here and now and making the most out of what is available at the moment to achieve the intended goal.

Key-competencies of an improvisational actor are also important to anyone working in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (sometimes abbreviated as VUCA), such as the ability to let go of the initial plan, listening to others’ ideas, building on them, and exploring unconventional solutions.

At the beginning of the workshop Frédérique shared with us some insights she had while learning improvisation theater. And because talking about it is no substitute for the experience, you had the opportunity to take part in some improvisation exercises. We tested ourselves how body language shapes our mind, feeling unsecure with a hunched posture and confident when we made eye contact with others.


Frédérique Thiriet-Smith, a HIP member from the beginning, is a French national who has lived in Heidelberg, Germany since 1999. She has worked in international companies for over 30 years, successfully leading multicultural and virtual teams facilitating change, skills development and knowledge exchange on a worldwide scale.


Picture: Drive-In Theatre by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.com, Creative Commons Zero licence

2015 HIP event

Do More of the Things You Love!

Over 20 women joined the HIP Event “Do More of the Things You Love!” with guest speaker Helge Thomas. After networking and chatting at the beginning of the event, Helge presented us his life story – sharing his most important influencers, including the people and events in his life, the music, books and films which left a major impact.

From a steady job in the insurance business, passing through theater, various jobs and a post as Creative Director at ProEvent, Helge has come full circle to the one activity which makes him forget time: film. Making movies.

Along the way he has learned to embrace his own identity as a ‘scanner’ – someone with multiple interests and capabilities. He is now always searching for the state of ‘flow’ which signals to him his total engagement in what he does.

Helge encouraged everyone to pay attention to what makes us tick, respect what brings us fulfillment and trust that our skills and qualities are there to guide us to our life’s purpose.

Date: Saturday, April 25, 2015

LocationHelmstätter Herrenhaus, Heidelberg

See the gallery below for photos from the event. All photos by HIP Member Dorothée Piroelle. Should you be interested in having a high resolution version of any of the photos, please contact HIP Steering Committee Member Christine Funke.

2015 HIP Shuchi Sharma building your own brand

The Importance of Building Your Own Brand

Over 35 women from the Rhine Neckar region gathered together on International Women’s Day on March 8th to listen to a presentation from Regina Mehler, founder and CEO of the Women Speaker Foundation based in Munich. She has executive marketing experience in the IT and communications fields for over twenty years, and is the author of the book The Phoenix Effect.

Shuchi Sharma Heidelberg International Professional Women's ForumThe late morning event started off with about 45 minutes of networking and then introductions delivered by HIP Steering Committee Head Cheryl Sweeney and HIP Founder Shuchi Sharma. Shuchi told the story of the founding of the HIP Women’s Forum and mentioned the famous quote by Madeleine Albright, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Both touched on the uniqueness of the day and the opportunity for the group to be able to get together to support each other.

Shuchi then introduced Regina who spoke without slides (to everyone’s appreciation!) and discussed her background, how she came up with the title for her book (from a poll from friends and colleagues), her experiences in becoming a keynote speaker, and finding other women and helping them to stand out as speakers with expertise in their fields.

With the Women Speaker Foundation she has created a dynamic pool of women from which large and small companies can find ideal speakers for their events, conferences and meetings. She reiterated that, through this journey, she has stuck to the idea that if we come across something we don’t like, we need to mention it and talk about it, and that has guided her to mission to get more women in speaking engagements and influencing positions in companies.

Her 5 points for building your own brand are:

  1. Say yes
  2. Define your expert level
  3. Do your own marketing
  4. Practice
  5. Network

Regina Mehler at the Heidelberg International Professional Women's Forum EventThroughout her talk, she took questions from the audience and encouraged dialogue from attendees. Topics like social media branding, importance of your clothing and style in presenting your self, and building a sound support group all came up during the one and a half hour presentation.

The women attending thoroughly enjoyed the speech and appreciated Regina’s approachable manner, sound advice and powerful message. Networking and chatting resumed after the presentation.

Date: Sunday, March 8, 2015

Location: Conference Room at the ADAC, Heidelberg, through the generous sponsorship of the Deutsche Bank

See the gallery below for photos from the event. Should you be interested in having a high resolution version of any of the photos, please contact HIP Steering Committee Member Christine Funke.


2015 personal finances

Making Sense of Your Professional Finances

We were excited to launch our 2015 HIPWF program with getting a head start on our finances! In our first meeting of the year, we received advice on good principles of personal finance as well as ideas on how to set up a few easy bookkeeping options for your business.

Tracie Marquardt and Marjorie Simon-Meinefeld, with expertise in the audit, finance and legal fields, made dynamic presentations to help us see some of the basics more clearly. They gave us some clever techniques, tools, tips and tricks to help us all better understand the processes of managing our professional finances.

Marjorie focused on personal financial know-how and Tracie shared her bookkeeping system. They finished by answering attendees’ questions and started a launching pad for further discussions about tax consulting and getting “healthy and wealthy.”

Tracie has put her background as a Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant to good use since launching her training and coaching business, Quality Assurance Communication, in 2013. Tracie developed her own bookkeeping system that thus far seems to satisfy her tax accountant and the HD Finanzamt.

Marjorie is a military veteran, trained chef, and legal expert for the US government. She has studied the principles of personal financial management for over 20 years and regularly puts them into practice for herself, her family and her business, Anything Vegan, which she co-owns with her sister in the US.

Date: Saturday, January 31, 2015

Location: Perkeo Restaurant, Heidelberg