In Love With Doing

If you had to describe Daniela Horn, VP Global Digital Product at PAYBACK, in one sentence, it would be: "In love with making things happen.” Fortunately, we have a little more room here, because there’s plenty to learn from this woman. For example, the necessary requirements for a transformation to succeed and how to bring others along with you on this journey

by Natascha Zeljko | 16 Mar, 2023
In Love With Doing Daniela Horn PAYBACK

Really exciting things happen at intersections. Daniela Horn feels comfortable in this uncertain no-man‘s land filled with enough no-longers and not-yets to make most people uncomfortable. In order to not only endure such situations, but, what’s more, to use them productively, you need a special mindset. You need respect for existing structures and courage to change. Two traditionally opposed values. However, Daniela Horn enjoys this balancing act of keeping an eye on the small details without losing sight of the big picture; of not burying the old business model and the company's heritage under over-used digital buzzwords. She sees change as a dynamic process rather than a guillotine, cleanly cutting between old and new. This mindset always requires having a plan, but equally being willing to courageously throw it out the window, because VUCA (which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, and describes the situation of constant change in today’s business world) is VUCA and lives up to its name.

Daniela Horn joined PAYBACK ten years ago as an external consultant and initially only wanted to stay for a few months. After working for a Canadian hardware company for unified messaging systems and for payment service provider PayPal, she set up her own business. First of all, she had to explore the field and think about what direction she wanted to go in: Was she interested in corporate, start-up, or something completely different? What soon became apparent was that a life as a Band-Aid – being called in just to fix problems – didn't feel right in the long run. "Going into companies, doing the job, then moving on to the next challenge – that wasn't for me. What I was missing was growing love and enthusiasm for a subject."

PAYBACK offered an ideal playing field: a product with a high reach, real customer benefits, and an immediate experience at the point of sale, combined with a sophisticated technical setting. Daniela Horn likes to use the image of the iceberg: What customers see is only the very tip. What's really interesting is what's going on beneath the surface, because that's where complex processes take place. There was another factor that motivated her to stay: timing. PAYBACK was at a tipping point, on its way to the next level, the consistent digitization of its business model. The plastic card was about to be joined by its digital sister. One of the directors of the PAYBACK app – and some even jokingly call her the mother of the app – was Daniela Horn.

I like complexity. If it's too simple, it eventually becomes uninteresting.

Everyone who has ever experienced a transformation knows how challenging it can be. And it's not just individuals, it's the entire country that has a hard time with it. That's because most people don't like change. Only about 20 percent belong to a group of so-called sensation seekers, psychologists say. Daniela Horn is one of them. She says, "I like complexity. If it's too simple, it eventually becomes uninteresting." Meetings in which there is only talk put her off. She's in love with doing. And like all doers, she is driven by pragmatism.

Where do you learn something like that? You have to travel back through the layers of Daniela Horn's childhood. She grew up near Bitterfeld, in the immediate vicinity of an opencast lignite mine. When the Berlin Wall fell, she was 12 years old. Just a few hundred meters from her parents' house, giant excavators were rotating 24 hours a day, seven days a week at that time. In inclement weather, they blew fine, glittering dust into the apartment. One took a quick breath, exhaled, and set about cleaning the apartment. "This time shaped me and the generations before me, the stoic knowledge that complaining doesn't help if you can't change the situation anyway."

As so often happens with the curious twist and turns of life, Daniela’s life could have turned out very different. It is sometimes a single day that can put your life on a totally different track. Daniela Horn originally wanted to study psychology. A friend wanted to enroll in international business. Since this friend didn't have a driver's license, Daniela Horn offered to drive her to the assessment center, and, just for fun, because she was already there, Daniela took the entrance test. Her friend failed, but Daniela passed. At that moment, she said to herself, "Why not go into business administration? It offers so many opportunities!"

The central lesson she learned from that time was that luck can be your best friend. However, flexibility was something she had to learn first, Daniela says today. Experience also helps, the knowledge that you can survive crises. This composure carries you through difficult times and is one of the most important skills of all. "As a people manager, my job is about developing fixed targets and radiating security and calm." Communication is essential to that. There are fixed meetings, of course, but it's even more important that everyone feels a lower-level buzz of community, that there's constant interaction.

As a people manager, my job is about developing fixed targets and radiating security and calm.

Her most important task in the next few months will be to push forward product centricity. Her role will also change again from April, becoming more steering and less operational. "For the first time, I will be in a pure divisional management role. However, I want to remain a sparring partner for my teams." Solving problems, that's just her thing. That’s where she feels at home, she says, laughing.

Her long dark brown hair is tied into a ponytail; it's not quite dry yet. In the mornings before work, she goes swimming. "That fell by the wayside a little during the pandemic", she says. "Now I've started again and it feels really good." And other than that? She plays guitar, gets enough sleep, and eats regularly. "I can't function without food."

A life coach is certainly not something this woman needs.

This article is part of a content collaboration between FemaleOneZero and PAYBACK. The marketing & loyalty platform enables consumers to collect points with hundreds of relevant companies offline, online and on the move – with just a single card or the PAYBACK app. 



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