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In conversation with Karen Funk

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Karen Funk has been an editor at the IDG publishing group for 20 years. She researches and writes about career topics in the digital editorial departments of COMPUTERWOCHE, CIO-Magazin, ChannelPartner and Tecchannel. She is committed to making the IT landscape in Germany more female. Since 2007, Karen Funk has organised the "CIO of the Year" competition, which selects the best IT managers from large companies, SMEs and the public sector. During the business interview, I sensed the passion that Karen has for her profession.

Karen Funk
Photo: IDG/Foto Vogt

Ms Funk, what do you love about your job?

The freedom, the variety, the creativity. I came to specialised journalism through creative writing, and I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember. In my childhood, I used to write children's books, historical novels, thrillers and plays. I even wrote audio books and recorded them with my school friends - back then on cassette.

But my job is much more than writing.This also includes moderating panel discussions, giving lectures or conducting video interviews. I can also independently develop and implement new media projects: For over ten years, for example, I have organised the "CIO of the Year" competition for the IDG publishing house, which recognises the achievements of IT managers and their teams. It's never boring, I'm always learning.

I never thought I would end up in an IT trade publication when I was still typing serial novels on my mechanical typewriter. After my studies in English, Romance and German studies, I actually wanted to stay at the department and do my doctorate, but the fixed hierarchical structures and the remoteness of the university drove me into business. 

I got my first taste of IT during an internship at the umbrella organisation of the American high-tech industry, worked for a short time in a PR agency before I moved to COMPUTERWOCHE as online editor. It was the time of the New Economy, of AOL and Compuserve, the air was vibrating, everything was in motion and there were many exciting stories to tell. That hasn't changed until today - key words change, digital transformation and how do we take people with us. I write stories about people in IT and accompany them - that's what I love and that's what I do with passion.

What parallels are there to what we do, personality development?

Very many. For one thing, it takes trust. The CIOs I meet, interview or accompany as part of the "CIO of the Year" trust me. And they open upso that together we can see when is a good time to apply and which project is suitable. This is tantamount to coaching. How do I convince my team that we are applying? How do I convince the boss or colleagues? How do we present ourselves and the project? These are all questions that the CIOs like to discuss with me and that they wouldn't ask if we didn't have this basis of trust. 

But in the application phase for the CIO of the Year, I am also a sparring partner for many CIOs. When these managers then climb the career ladder, develop themselves further or hold an award in their hands on stage at the "CIO of the Year", it fills me with pride and joy.

When do you get the best ideas?

In conversation with people, brainstorming with colleagues, on the train, driving, walking or in bed in the evening - in fact, always.

What will your profession look like in 2050?

I am convinced that writing and creative work will always exist - even in 2050. I do not share the fear of many that artificial intelligence or text robots will replace us. Of course, text robots can write news, and maybe someday fiction. But creativity, imagination, emotionality, critical thinking - these are human qualities.To take an example from sport: In the future, an AI may be able to write about the result of the Liverpool vs. Barcelona match and also name the goal scorers. But the atmosphere in the stadium, the passion of the fans, the tears of the loser... - that can only be conveyed by someone who was there and felt these emotions.

Good journalism stands for credibility. This requires research, critical questioning and opinionated commentary. I don't believe that robots or AIs will be able to do this. That is and will remain the task of journalists, and as long as a democratic society can afford and wants to afford independent journalism, we journalists will exist. Or to put it another way: without journalists, there is no democracy.

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