In time for International Women’s Day 2019 we want to highlight and celebrate the many women contributing to pushing Mobility-as-a-Service forward. Women are still underrepresented in the transport and tech industries. With this interview series we’ll shine a light on some of the industry representatives. Starting with our own team member and Head of Marketing, Sandra Witzel. Next up will be Piia Karjalainen from the MaaS Alliance.
Sandra Witzel, Head of Marketing at SkedGo
What inspired you to move into MaaS? What’s its appeal?
When I joined SkedGo in 2014 I didn’t know much about the transport industry and MaaS itself was a rather niche topic. My background was advertising, fin-tech and insurance. However, I realised quickly that we had some educational work to do, in order to get people to understand the benefits of MaaS but also how advanced our product already was five years ago.
Back then I wouldn’t have expected to become so passionate about this topic, but you’ll now find me at parties waffling on about Mobility-as-a-Service until people’s eyes glaze over 😉
I just think it’s such an important development. It’s clear we need to reduce cars, congestion and emissions, especially in cities. Transport has been overdue for disruption and drastic improvement and with the likes of Uber storming in, it’s become clear consumers are ready too. Now we’re suddenly talking about flying taxis becoming reality soon – imagine that in a multi-modal trip chain, planned, booked and paid for via an app powered by SkedGo. I find it fascinating.
What’s the role of MaaS in the transport industry?
MaaS is a game changer that is driven by several factors coming together – new mobility offerings such as ride sharing, ride hailing, micro mobility; cities striving to reduce congestion (partly driven by EU emissions targets here in Europe); a new generation of transport users not as interested in owning a car as their parents and grandparents.
MaaS will pull everything together and reduce the fragmentation in the market – if we do it right.
What is the biggest challenge ahead for the transportation industry? And MaaS in particular?
Business models need to be worked out. A lot of players haven’t figured out yet how MaaS is going to contribute to their revenue, for example public transport authorities. Commercial entities would prefer not to share the pie and keep their data in a closed, protected environment. This is not helpful for MaaS – it needs an open ecosystem, with open data to thrive.
The MaaS Alliance has set up a whole conference day on this topic. It will be interesting to hear any new developments in this area. Don’t miss this event, it will be a great opportunity to network and discuss the future of mobility.
What do you see as the tipping point for MaaS going mainstream?
We’re still very much in pilot-mode for MaaS. Lots of smaller projects, run in contained environments. But you can already see the change with more and more projects in live mode and with new MaaS offerings coming up. There is some market consolidation, already driven by large automotive and tech players.
For MaaS to really gain traction, it needs to offer more convenience than the current fragmented system to the consumer. This can only happen in a well functioning open ecosystem.
Are there any technologies that you think will radically change MaaS? What are they and what will their impact be?
All the new self-driving and on-demand technologies will change cities, public spaces, streets and the way we travel. Hopefully MaaS will be able to help bring them together and promote offerings that are user-friendly, good for the environment and accessible and inclusive.
How do you see SkedGo’s role in shaping the future of MaaS?
SkedGo makes it possible for other businesses and governments to bring new MaaS products and services to market quickly and efficiently. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel but can benefit from our technology to offer their customers or citizens a piece of smart mobility.
We’ve been in the industry for ten years now and have a solid, senior team of developers who stay at the cutting edge of what’s possible with MaaS. I am obviously biased but I think anyone looking at multi and mixed modal trip planning needs to consider SkedGo – we’re extremely good at this.
Who is the entity or person you most admire in the MaaS industry – and why?
I think the MaaS Alliance is a key player in driving the MaaS agenda forward. Their growing member numbers show a clear trend towards mobility-as-a-service and they do a very important job of setting standards, educating and raising awareness.
Piia Karjalainen, Senior Manager at the MaaS Alliance has a crucial role in bringing everyone together, overseeing the development of standards and guiding a healthy ecosystem. Which is the reason she’ll be next in our interview series too.
I am also a big fan of all the exciting start-ups springing up all over the place. Last year I met the founders of Einride, a Swedish company developing self-driving trucks. I also love the new trike from Gotcha – who thought a tricycle could be so cool. Vehicles like this will also be a game changer in terms of accessibility – making the first mile/last mile leg a lot more doable for people with reduced mobility for example.
Are women under-represented in this field? If so, what do you think should be done about it? What would you say to other women interested in entering the industry?
We certainly need more women in this field. For example conference organisers need to provide more visibility and balance in terms of gender for their speaker line-ups and companies need to reduce their gender bias. I go to a lot of transport/MaaS related conferences as delegate or speaker and most of the time women are under-represented.
That is also the reason for this interview series. We want to raise the profile of women in the industry and make sure they get the visibility they deserve.
What I’d say to other women? Lean in! Make yourself visible. Submit papers to conferences to get speaking engagements. Mentor other women, support each other. Speak out against any discrimination you encounter professionally.
If you are located in Germany, I’d recommend joining the organisation ‘Women in Mobility’, they are doing an excellent job bringing everyone together.
What piece of tech would you never be without?
Hands down Wifi and a laptop. I enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere. For SkedGo, I worked in Sydney, San Francisco and now London. But I can also spend a few weeks in Germany, looking after my Mum, while working. Or enjoy the warm climate in Lanzarote, still doing my job. I think that’s just brilliant.
Of course you also have to know when to switch off but here at SkedGo we have a very positive attitude and a healthy work-life balance.
About Sandra Witzel
Sandra has almost two decades of marketing experience, with a major focus on technology-based, disruptive and fast growing businesses. She has previously worked for start-ups, SMEs, corporates and agencies.
Her passion for the transport and travel sectors is unsurprising, as a German who has lived and worked in Malta, Australia, USA and, currently, England. She is now focused entirely on this area, as the Head of Marketing for SkedGo, a Mobility-as-a-Service tech enabler.
SkedGo is regularly represented by Sandra at major transport-tech events around the world and she leads their strategic partnership with the European MaaS Alliance. At other times, she is found travelling around the world in search of inspiring art, stunning architecture and delicious food.
Cover image courtesy of Pexels