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Women in KNX: Katja Schuster

In this interview, Katja Schuster shares insights gleaned from her extensive experience and her vision for a brighter future for Women in KNX and in the electrical engineering sector as a whole.

KNXtoday: What’s your background?

KS: After I finished school in 1999, like most people my age, I asked myself, ‘What on earth should I do now?’ When allergy tests ruled out my first career choice as a hairdresser, I decided to start an apprenticeship as a hotel manageress. After four weeks of training, I realised it was not the right job for me, so I dropped out. On my way to finding a career, however, I didn’t want to live in my parents’ pockets so I spontaneously accepted a job as a waitress after visiting my sister in Berlin. At that time, I had a good friend who told me how much they were enjoying training as an electrician. So, in 2001, I decided to start an apprenticeship as an electrician. I’d worked in the trades during my school vacations and always felt comfortable there. My training took me to Frankfurt am Main where I completed ahead of schedule in 2004. From then on, I worked exclusively in customer service.

KNXtoday: When, why and how did you first get involved with KNX?

KS: I first came into contact with EIB/KNX on a project in 2006. My colleague switched on a light via his PC and, at that moment, I thought ‘How cool is that! – how does it work and how can I learn it?’ I’ve been hooked on the system ever since.

I completed my KNX Certification that year and was allowed to create my first project at Hyundai’s European headquarters in Offenbach. It was both exhausting and exciting and afterwards I knew that was what I wanted to do.

KNXtoday: What has been your journey since then?

KS: In 2008, I took a position with a company in Mainz as a customer service fitter with KNX experience, where I gradually took on more and more KNX projects. In 2011, when the number of projects and technical functions had become so extensive, I asked to be promoted and became a full-time system integrator.

Since then, I have specified everything from small projects with three devices to large projects. It was important to me not only to be well-versed in KNX but also to educate myself in many areas I encounter repeatedly in my everyday life.

Here’s a summary of my KNX Journey so far

  • 2001 – 2004 – Electricians Training
  • 2006 – KNX Basic Certification
  • 2009 – KNX Advanced Course Comfort and Energy Efficiency
  • Various KNX product and server training courses
  • 2004 – 2011 – Customer Service Technician
  • 2011 onwards – Systems Integrator
  • 2013 – KNX Advanced Course with final exam
  • 2014 – Entry to KNX Professionals Deutschland e. v.
  • 2015/16/18 – Further training in the area of network technology
  • – Specialist planner for Building Automation
  • 2017 – eu.bac System-Auditor
  • 2017 – Training on Zumtobel LM Bus
  • 2017 – DALI Intensive Course
  • 2017 – Basic Training in ventilation and air conditioning
  • 2017 – VDI certification air hygiene
  • 2018 – KNX expert training
  • 2018 – KNX Certification HLK
  • 2019 – BACnet basic and advanced course
  • 2019 – Building automation with WAGO
  • 2021 – Specialist for building automation (IBM)
  • 2022 – Board member of KNX Professionals e. v.
  • 2023 – Founder of Women in KNX

KNXtoday: What did you notice about the position of women in the world of KNX and what did you decide to do about it?

KS: I don’t think it’s an issue in the KNX world only, but generally in the trades – particularly in the electrical engineering sector. 

My personal experience is that I always have to do more than men to get the same recognition. I am accepted and appreciated, but never fully integrated. I question everything I do and how I do it and try to solve problems myself so that people don’t think I can’t do it.

I hope to create a network where we women strengthen each other, where women with experience take the younger ones by the hand and build them up, especially in times of doubt. The most important thing is to show that the trades/electrical engineering is also something for women. Even if we do not have the same physical strength as men, we make up for it with our brains and hard work. We’re not just a complimentary addition, we add value.

KNXtoday: When and how did you go about setting up Women in KNX? Was anyone else involved, and what role has KNX Association played?

KS: The idea was born at a dinner at ISH 2023 in a conversation with KNX Association CEO, Heinz Lux, about the topic of women in the trades, and my experience that what is represented to the outside world has little to do with reality on construction sites. During this conversation we also discovered that the Light + Building Show 2024 was due to fall on International Women’s Day and, in my youthful recklessness, I said, “You should do a little something for women.” Mr. Lux replied, “If you do something, I’ll be there.” That was the foundation stone and I realised it would make more sense to organise something long-term rather than just a one-off event, so ‘die KNX Ladies Crew’ was born. Mr. Lux kept his word and introduced me to some women from the ZVEH (Central Association of German Electricians). Two more women from the German KNX Professionals came on board after a presentation at the summer conference – I was also really pleased to get a female master electrician in the influencer scene excited about the project.

The Working Group of ‘die KNX Ladies Crew’ met in October in the offices of ZVEH in Frankfurt Am Main. (L to R) Maren Cornils, Katja Schuster, Kornelia Katzenmeier, Sandra Gallner, Verena Anthes, Annika Egloff-Schoenen, Gabi Schermuly-Wunderlich.

KNXtoday: When and where did you launch the group, how did you publicise it and what did the launch involve?

KS: Together with KNX Professionals Annika Egloff-Schoenen, Kornelia Katzenmeier and influencer Sandra Gallner, the idea was born to offer women their own organisation within KNX. By October, the time had come: Women in KNX was launched at a meeting at the ZVEH premises attended by Managing Director of ElektroWirtschaft and BusSysteme, Annika Egloff-Schoenen, and three representatives of the ZVEH. A Women in KNX LinkedIn Group was launched and, thanks to Mr Lux, a logo was created. Women in KNX was officially launched at Light + Building 2024.

The Women in KNX Logo.

KNXtoday: Were you pleased/surprised by the attendance, and what feedback did you receive?

KS: I was really surprised because, admittedly, I had expected only 10-15 women to turn up – not 60, plus almost as many men. For me, it was a great recognition of the voluntary work I’ve put in over the past year. I sincerely hope this is just the start and we can make a difference in the future. I received positive feedback throughout the week at Light + Building 2024, and what I remember most are the words ‘Finally, someone is doing something for women!’

Looking ahead, we are integrating Women in KNX into the KNX Professionals Deutschland e.V. to maintain neutrality (manufacturer independence) and keep our objectives in sight.

KNXtoday: What is your message to male allies?

KS: Support women – promote them and don’t see them as competition, but as strengthening and enriching of our sector!

KNX Today: What advice or encouragement would you like to offer women working in KNX?

KS: Don’t be discouraged, go your own way and you’ll be just as good. As KNX Association CEO, Heinz Lux, says,”What makes KNX special are the people.”

Join us and become part of our Women in KNX community!

Katja Schuster is a systems integrator, specialising in building automation for EAB (Elektroanlagenbau GmbH Rhein-Main). She is also a member of the board of KNX Professionals Deutschland e. V. and the Founder of Women in KNX.

Website: www.women-in-knx.org
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/groups/12924029
Instagram: @womeninknx

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