"It nearly didn’t happen," Monika Werner says, reflecting on her journey to HSWT with a chuckle. When the university tried to reach her after her interview to tell her that she had got the job, no one could reach her: the trained office administrator was in the process of moving and attempts to contact her at both her old and new address failed. It was at the end of the 80s, before emails and smartphones. "Luckily, they eventually managed to get through to me on the phone," Monika Werner recalls. And so, at the start of April 1989, she took on her new role of secretary at the 'Agriculture 1 Department', as it was called then. She spent her first six months in Landshut, then the entire department moved to the Weihenstephan campus.
"I need people around me, and lots of hustle and bustle," says the Freising native. That’s what she was looking for at HSWT – and she found it. The 60-year-old describes the fact that she ended up at the university as 'destiny'. She winks as she says this, but she means it. "Although I liked my previous job as an industrial clerk at a food importer, I was alone most of the time and interacted more with numbers than I did with people. Then I saw the HSWT job advertised in the paper," she recalls. The aspect of her job as Secretary to the Department Chair at the Department of Sustainable Agriculture and Energy Systems that she particularly enjoys is the interaction with colleagues and students: "To put it simply, I need it. I love to support and help people." She also provides emotional support to the students who come to the office with all kinds of problems: she always has something sweet to hand in her desk drawer to help calm their nerves.
Monika Werner gets on well with her colleagues, too. This is a major factor behind her conviction that: "I would take the job again every time. There’s nowhere else I’d rather work." Until a colleague retired last year, they were a team of three in the Department Chair's administrative office – the three women worked together for some 30 years. They meet up regularly outside of work, too, and will continue to do so, even though they no longer share an office.
Monika Werner has a good rapport with the Department Chair employees in other departments as well. "Before the coronavirus pandemic, we would all meet up once a year to catch up and share our experiences and ideas, and we want to continue doing that after the pandemic," she explains.
Monika Werner’s responsibilities include helping to organise the examinations, assisting with student support, liaising with part-time lecturers at the department, managing correspondence and answering the telephone. "At the Department Chair’s office, we are the go-to place for all manner of issues," Monika Werner says. Over the course of her career, she has witnessed not only the growth of HSWT, but also enormous technological change that has transformed her day-to-day working life. "When I started, I mainly managed the results sheets and wrote out the lecture notes and exams. I used a typewriter – it was very modern at the time – to type them up. It could store 600 characters and had a small screen," the Freisinger remembers with a smile. "At some point, the decision had to be made whether to buy another model like that or to buy a PC – we got a PC."
Because she enjoys working with others so much, has a friendly ear for everyone and is such a positive influence on collaborations, Monika Werner needs some time to herself outside of work to recharge. For her, hiking is 'food for the soul' – whether that is in the Bavarian Alps, South Tyrol, Mallorca or on the Portuguese coast. "I look for a bit of peace and solitude," she explains, and swoons at the thought of the views across the Atlantic.
In contrast, there is quite a buzz around her latest interest – albeit of an animal kind. "Around two years ago, I was looking for a bit more balance in my life and started beekeeping," explains Monika Werner, who has two grown children. She set up her first young colonies last year, and is now hoping for a bee-friendly, productive summer. But she wouldn’t be Monika Werner if she didn’t think of others at the same time: "If my girls are hard-working and I am able to harvest a lot of honey, my colleagues will of course get to sample the results," she says.