Marlen Ring, Mobile Platforms Senior Manager for Coca-Cola's Western Europe Business Unit, is a digital innovator and a rarity in the tech sector, where women are dramatically outnumbered by men. She wants to change this however, as one of the founders of the Women's Linc Berlin chapter and the recipient of Axel Springer's 'Women in Media Award 2015'.
Can you tell us about your role at Coke?
From 1 July, I became part of the newly formed Digital Acceleration Team in Western Europe. Prior to this, I was a Media Manager for our Berlin-based IMC Marketing Team. As a brand new unit, our role is similar to that of a start-up – we come up with solutions for keeping Coca-Cola at the technology forefront, by developing our digital agenda and bringing new innovations to the market.
How did you enter the running for the 'Women in Media Award'?
During recent technology conferences I attended, it bothered me that 90 percent of the speakers were male. The tech industry is booming, yet there is still a huge gender gap. When I heard about the contest, I saw a great opportunity to surround myself with inspiring female innovators.
Digital publisher Axel Springer organises the Women in Media event annually in Berlin, with tech-savvy women invited to send in a one-minute video submission and their CV for a chance to attend a one-day workshop. My video entry explored the idea of drones monitoring people's hydration levels via a smart watch and then delivering beverages wherever they are – it caught the judges' attention and I was thrilled to be selected.
What was your winning idea?
I teamed up with two talented women – Hanna Löbke, deputy advertising director at German newspaper Bild, and Sally Meukow, a travel journalist and blogger. We had six intense hours to come up with an idea linked to the digital future of journalism, one of the workshop themes, and then pitch it to the jury.
We came up with a news sharing app, called WITNEXT. It's based on 'crowd journalism', directly connecting eye-witnesses with publications. The idea is that anyone who observes something newsworthy can write a report and send photos directly to editors, making the journalism process much more democratic.
People who download the app receive an SMS when news is breaking in their vicinity, and they can then send in their reports for potential purchase, giving publishers direct access to quick and exclusive material. It could dramatically reduce the cost of sending a journalist around the world to cover an event, while potentially giving people in developing countries, or anywhere, a source of income.
What was the grand prize?
We won an all expenses paid trip to Silicon Valley this autumn! The tailored programme includes visits to some of the world's most inspiring technology companies, such as UBER, Pinterest and Airbnb.
We'll also visit some of Silicon Valley's rising stars and speak to people working at some of the most innovative start-ups around. It's organised by a local Axel Springer guide and will also include plenty of time for sightseeing and entertainment, but it's the networking opportunities I'm most excited about.
Tell us about your involvement in the Women's Linc network.
Women's Linc is a global initiative for Coca-Cola colleagues to share experiences and learn more about the great work being done to empower both Coca-Cola female employees and women around the globe.
The 2015 Women in Media Award is organised annually by Axel Springer.
I'm one of the founders of the local Berlin chapter. We set up the initiative to help women balance work and home obligations, giving them a forum where they can voice challenges and concerns. It's open to all employees and one of the main things we hope to achieve is helping women to be clear about their career goals.
We regularly hold networking events and bring in guest speakers who share their stories and offer inspiration about work-life balance.
What's the next big thing you're working on?
I'm sure Silicon Valley will spark a lot of new ideas and will also give us ladies a chance to discuss taking our app from the idea to production stage.
Right now I'm busy settling in to my new role at Coca-Cola and am very excited about our upcoming team projects. For example, we're working on developing 'smart' packaging – products that can be scanned by smartphones and linked up to great content.
I really believe that technology can improve the world. It's something I've already seen in my time working for Coke – our work is about so much more than just beverages. Every idea we develop as a company has a chance to make the world a bit better, whether it's by spreading happiness, promoting diversity or empowering women.
It's been a very busy summer so far – the Women in Media event was just five days before my own wedding day, so I'll also take some time to enjoy being a newly wed and see where the future takes me!