E-commerce? Very exciting!’

From China to full-service agency to METRO MARKETS. Through her unusual career path, Astrid Stegmann discovered her passion for structure, planning and challenges. It demonstrates that translation is not only about languages but also about understanding corporate processes and product strategies.

Astrid Stegmann METRO MARKETS
Astrid Stegmann, Product Lead at METRO MARKETS, balances customer needs with product development. In this interview, she talks about her unique career path.
e-commerce  - online shopping

What´s it all about?

  • From doing a degree in Chinese to product management at METRO MARKETS
  • From project to product management
  • No second Amazon
  • Good to know
  • METRO MARKETS in a nutshell

METRO MARKETS  - Brainstroming  results

👉 About ... Astrid Stegmann

China is an incredible country for Astrid Stegmann, a qualified translator who lived there for six months. She's got the gift of the gab, and she's got the language skills to match! Small talk, reading signs and ordering food – no problem, although she only learnt a fraction of the seemingly endless alphabet. So she prefers to steer clear of business talk. Her unusual CV has led her to the position of Product Lead at METRO MARKETS, where she manages a team of four employees. She regularly looks over the shoulders of the development teams in Mallorca and has mastered the art of striking the perfect balance between meeting the needs of both the seller and the buyer, and ensuring that everyone is satisfied – not just with the product, but also with the customer journey. Travelling to faraway countries is still a fantastic way for her to balance her challenging job and the fast-paced industry.

MPULSE: Astrid, you have a degree in Chinese and English translation studies. Not what I’d call an easy combination – Chinese is said to be one of the most difficult languages in the world. What gave you the idea?

Astrid: I love travelling. It’s something I’ve always had the chance to do, even as a child with my parents. I want to find my way in the world. For me, languages are the key to achieving this. Everyone can speak English and French! (laughs) So I went for Chinese and English. But English turned out to be the more difficult language.

Why is that?

Because standards and expectations are higher. For example, if you translate azure blue as sky blue or just blue, it’s seen as a serious translation error. On the other hand, what people don’t always realise is that Chinese grammar is very minimalist and therefore very simple. Instead, it has what seems like an infinite number of characters. To read a newspaper article, you need to know at least 2,500 characters. That’s a lot of studying.

Why did you decide against becoming a translator after finishing your degree?

You need to live in the country for three to five years to speak Chinese well enough to work as a translator. I didn’t want to do that. You have to be able to support yourself financially as well. I wanted to start my career, so I found an entry-level job in a full-service agency. Apart from occasionally correcting and proofreading adverts in Chinese for a construction machinery customer, the job didn’t have much to do with my degree. That’s how I gradually got into project management.

Project management is primarily about time and costs for the customer.

Astrid Stegmann, Product Lead at METRO MARKETS

If you like variety and challenges, project management is an obvious choice, isn’t it?

Yes, as a project manager, you need to be able to carefully plan, coordinate and manage projects. You need to keep an eye on the whole project and be ready for any unforeseen events. I was positioned between sales and developers. The sales department had already established what needed to be delivered to the customer. I had to properly understand this to put together the work packages for the developers, keeping the schedule in mind, and to support costing for the customer. After all, project management is primarily about time and costs for the customer.

What brought you to METRO MARKETS?

Actually, METRO MARKETS found me. I didn’t even apply, a recruiter approached me. That was in 2018. I had heard of METRO, and what they offered was attractive.

In what way?

It was a young company at the time. A startup. A startup with a vision. The goal was to create a B2B marketplace. Everything was new and had to be built from scratch, for example: “Do METRO’s traditional product categories work for online retail and wholesale? Do we need to rethink things? What do online customers actually want? What do we need to offer them?” I liked the end-to-end process. Here, the customer comes first, and every process is viewed and tested from their perspective. All activities necessary to meet the customer’s requirements are thought through chronologically and logically. That’s very complex but also very exciting.

METRO MARKETS in a nutshell

  • Active in 6 countries – 2018 to now (2024)
  • 62 nationalities
  • 43 percent women 57 percent men
  • 512 employees
  • 27 product teams
  • There is an office in Mallorca with more than 110 employees
  • There is the METRO Marketplace, where METRO is just one of many sellers, and the ERP, which encompasses everything METRO does as a seller: its own supplier contracts, the entire supply chain for the METRO MARKETS warehouse systems, and so on.

And how did you transition from project management to product management?

The two aren’t really that different. Product managers (glossary: product manager) are also responsible for the planning and development of individual products and services. A key difference is that there are no project completion deadlines and no clearly defined goals. It’s about continuous improvement. I move forward from the minimum viable product (or MVP), the first functional version of a product that offers value added. This means that the first version can still be largely manual, with each subsequent release bringing it closer to automation.
Then there is the strategic alignment of the products with the company goals. As a product manager, you are also the link between several departments and must reconcile all aspects to ensure the product delivers maximum value – and reaches the user in the first place.

METRO MARKETS is no longer a startup. What has changed?

METRO MARKETS is now nearly six years old. In the beginning, we were just under 40 people with a lot of external support. At some point, we started hiring 15 to 20 new employees each month, and today we have more than 500 staff! Now we are corporate, and yes, that may mean more processes, more structures and additional steps. But we have retained the spirit of a startup: We share our knowledge and we try things out. We think about which technology will be useful and who knows the best hacks for different tasks. We have the courage to try things out and fail, if necessary. And we want to keep things personal. We have our People Newsletter, which introduces new employees with a photo and a short profile. Things like that.

A colleague once said to me, "Astrid, if you have one thing, it's a plan.

Astrid Stegmann, Product Lead at METRO MARKETS

Would you say you’re a talented organiser?

(laughs) I love structuring things and having a clear focus. An important part of my job is to be able to look ahead and anticipate things. If something doesn’t work, try thinking from a different angle. A colleague once said to me, “Astrid, if you have one thing, it’s a plan”. This is something I also enjoyed in China: when you’re stuck, you use your hands and feet to get out of the situation or solve the problem. You have to find a way. This is exactly the skill you need as a product manager.

After all, we as METRO Marketplace are not simply a second Amazon!

Astrid Stegmann, Product Lead at METRO MARKETS
Hand holding a phone with the METRO.de website

Focus on professional needs

The METRO online marketplace offers HoReCa customers an efficient shopping experience.

What do you say when someone says, “METRO Markets is just METRO’s online shop”?

That’s not true at all. Many people still don’t understand the concept of an online marketplace and don’t realise what’s behind it. Of course, we also manage online sales for METRO, but primarily we provide the structure to connect merchants with customers. Customers can choose the best offer from a wide range of options, whether it’s from METRO or another merchant. But there’s much more to it.

Some of my team are developing the system that our colleagues from product data management work with. The system where sellers also upload their data. We consolidate the data displayed on the marketplace and develop the logic behind it, deciding which data is the best and what the customer actually needs. There are three teams, each responsible for different areas, which means we use a PIM system to take the pressure off the product data team. Another team handles the system for managing seller accounts and developing the offer and pricing strategies.

As you can see: it’s so much more than just a traditional shop system. What we always keep in mind is: What exactly is wholesale? And what’s HoReCa? This means we also have to consider which products to include. After all, METRO Marketplace is not just another Amazon!

You were headhunted by METRO MARKETS. Looking back, would you choose the company again?

Definitely. And I’m still here (smiles). I learn something new every day and have a fantastic team. Our team spirit is amazing, and we communicate as equals. For me, it’s important to be passionate about what I do. I really enjoy engaging with other people, solving problems and acting as a bridge between developers and other departments. It’s all communication.

Which brings us full circle to being a translator...

That’s right. Ultimately, it’s about translating from one language to another. I’d say that’s what I do all day, but between business and tech, not between German and Chinese or English.

Did you know?

What does e-commerce mean?

When a provider sells goods or services via the internet, we call that an online shop or e-commerce.

What is a marketplace?

A marketplace brings together various merchants or suppliers to sell their products. It’s like a shopping centre, where customers can compare the range and quality of products from different suppliers. A B2B marketplace can be compared to an industry or trade fair that brings together companies from various sectors and sizes. A C2C marketplace is like a car boot sale or a swap meet. A marketplace is a collection of several online shops. It’s also known as a “multi-vendor marketplace” or “peer-to-peer marketplace”. (Source: https://www.digitalhub.de/wie-setzt-du-einen-marketplace-auf/)

What does a product manager (PM) do?

A product manager is responsible for a product’s strategy, which must align with the overall business objectives. A product can vary in size and may be “only” a partial product, like the shopping basket of a marketplace; this alone covers many value-adding processes.
The PM is responsible for planning, developing and implementing a product with their multidisciplinary team, usually including developers, UX designers, and data scientists or analysts. Their tasks also include analysing requirements, testing, coordinating within the team and, above all, coordinating with stakeholders from various disciplines.

How does a PIM system work?

A PIM system centralises product data. This means first gathering product data from various sources such as Excel files, ERP systems and CRM systems. Once in the system, the products are organised in a media-neutral structure and supplemented with additional information such as descriptive texts and media, for example, images and videos. At this stage, data quality is crucial. Meeting the minimum requirements for product descriptions is only possible through data validation. This ensures that the customer does not receive incorrect information. The data can then be distributed across a wide range of marketing channels, including online shops, electronic catalogues, print advertising materials, apps and social commerce platforms like social media.
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