PROFILE: Rebekah Fitzgerald, Siemens - Free spirit learns to settle in at Siemens

Gadget-mad comms director also enjoys hard thinking and hard dancing

Rebekah Fitzgerald, the newly appointed corporate communications director for Siemens, confesses to an affinity with new technology.

At the tender age of ten, she impressed her perplexed parents by setting the timer on the video recorder. And throughout her PR career, she has worked with technology products.

Fitzgerald started her career at AT&T, then moved to Text 100 as an account manager (which brought her into contact with Microsoft, among others).

She left to travel for a year and returned to freelance, primarily with Joe Public Relations, working on short-term contracts, including the agency's Visa account.

Now, she has taken on the top comms role at hi-tech giant Siemens.

'I've always loved new gadgets,' says the 32-year-old, whose meteoric career path has led her along the M4 corridor to Siemens's UK HQ in Bracknell - and a seat on the company's UK executive board.

On her first day at work, two Sundays ago was, she met with fellow executives in a Worcestershire hotel to plot the company's road map for the next two to three years.

There was no paintballing, go-karting or role-playing, however. 'No soft stuff,' she says. Instead, the day was spent doing 'lots of hard-thinking' in a conference room; the type of environment that fires her up, she says.

However, the Sunday time-tabling wreaked havoc with her usual weekend R&R of dancing to hard house music. 'I would have loved to have been a DJ,' she says.

Thankfully for Siemens, Fitzgerald steered clear of the decks, and she was a natural choice to replace Fionnula Tennyson, who left in July.

Fitzgerald had been a regular freelancer since 2001 and built up a reputation for independent thinking and a strong sense of conviction. She managed a variety of projects, including the company's website and annual review - the only public document that sews the many parts of the organisation together.

The review used client case-studies and was illustrated with professionally taken photos.

'They were great shots and I thought about how we could reuse them for something else,' she says. She came up with the idea of making a calendar, which was met with acclaim internally and externally.

According to those who have worked with her, Fitzgerald has the determination to see her ideas develop into successful, results-oriented campaigns - usually turned around quickly.

Siobhan Aalders, senior vice-president of media comms firm GCTV, hired Fitzgerald when she worked at Joe Public Relations.

'Rebekah is competent and committed with an instinct for the big picture.

She has good corporate direction and understanding of in-house sensibilities,' she says.

That's just as well. Fitzgerald faces a sizeable challenge. Siemens boasts 30 departments working across a wide industrial spectrum. It employs 18,000 people, influencing markets and parliaments in Europe and further afield.

She leads a team of ten, and will form close bonds with communication teams working in the Siemens matrix of autonomous services, ranging from power stations to healthcare, transportation and mobile communications.

Internal communications are high on her priority list. 'I want to concentrate on exciting our employees about the company's various services. I think this is important, as they will pass this on to the clients,' she says.Fitzgerald will also review its sponsorship activities and events and oversee public affairs.

She admits to being a stickler for research and learning all she can before taking on a new challenge. She also displays a knack for retaining information. 'Siemens is a great company founded in Britain in 1843 and is responsible for many technological changes, and services that we use daily. I want our customers to become more aware of its innovation,' she says.

Hailing from Dublin, Fitzgerald was sent to an English boarding school aged 15. After graduating from university in London, she sat and passed Foreign Office entrance exams, but turned down a diplomatic career. Although she has a love for travel, independence and fresh challenges, and speaks French and Spanish, she says: 'I didn't like the idea of being told I had to serve in Outer Mongolia for years.'

It is four years since Fitzgerald last had a full-time job, but she claims she will not miss the autonomy of freelancing. She has come up against her first career hurdle, however. Her car, a 16-year-old Toyota MR2, is frowned on by her new bosses. 'They won't insure a car older than five years,' she explains.

You can't risk breaking down when you are young and going places, after all.

HIGHLIGHTS

1995: PR executive, AT&T (UK)

1997: Account manager, Text 100

1999: Freelance director, Joe Public Relations

2003: Corporate comms director, Siemens

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