Katharina Schüller is a scholarship holder of the Bavarian EliteAcademy and the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. She is the Founder of STAT-UP Statistical Consulting & Data Science GmbH. She has worked with Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis, amongst others and advises renowned companies, scientific institutions and the public sector. Schüller conducts research on data literacy, data ethics and data culture. As a Board Member of the German Statistical Society, she is responsible for ‘Statistical Literacy’. She is a member of various advisory boards in business and politics and chairs the supervisory board of the Institute for Scientific Continuing Education at the FernUniversität in Hagen.
Katharina Schüller was born and raised in Germany but is of Hungarian descent. Her father is from Hungary and was raised in Chile. When he was a teenager, he came to Germany, started his own company, and worked from home, while her mother worked full-time while she was growing up. She says, “This showed me that you can question traditional role models and form your own path.” Talking about her mother, she says, “My mother was a teacher. When I was about twelve years old, she let me help correct her students’ schoolwork for the first time. She had confidence that I could do it, even though some of the students were in higher grades than I was.” Today, as a leader, this has given her confidence in the skills of her employees, regardless of what level they are in the hierarchy. She says, “An idea from an intern can be just as valuable as an idea from me.”
While growing up in her Hungarian family, she learned the value of helpfulness and loyalty. She says, “It was evident that you can help each other, even if you hardly know them because that’s what families do.” She still relies on this value in every network she gets involved in – and vice versa. Schüller adds, “I only get involved where I can contribute and truly make a difference.”
With this human connection as one of the fundamental driving forces in her life, she decided to study psychology. She says, “I struggled through the compulsory course in statistics – as probably many do. But out of ambition, I wanted to do well, and suddenly after sitting with the subject, I understood how statistical thinking works. From then on it was clear to me that the discipline of statistics offers a universal tool to understand how our world works and how to learn from observation.”
However, the biggest challenge for Schüller at the time was having her first child at the age of 19. She recalled, “At the first moment, I had the feeling that my life was over. Nevertheless, I continued to study and went on to have three more adorable children that I cherish.”
As she continued to find the perfect work-life balance, Schüller decided that she could combine her passion for people with her passion for numbers and data. She says, “Good statistics have a lot in common with good communication: it’s important to distinguish what are the facts and what are the interpretations.”
Fusing these two passions, she founded STAT-UP in September 2003 in Munich. The company is a specialist provider for statistical consulting and data science. The privately held company operates from downtown Munich. Since 2010, the company has had an independent branch in Madrid.
However, she had her fair share of challenges as an entrepreneur. Raising three children alongside being an entrepreneur brought many challenges. She says, “Like little sleep, fighting prejudices every day and accepting that you can’t do everything perfectly.”
It also changed Schüller’s assessment of what’s essential in life, and it doesn’t matter what others think as long as you’re content. She adds, “I also learned that things often fall into place when you really want something and most of our limits are often self-imposed.”
But with her hard work and persistence, the company has grown into one of the best statistical consulting companies in the region. Their motto at STAT-UP is one for all, all for one. She says, “I learned the value of respect for other opinions from my mother. Discussions with her as a German and ethics teacher were never easy, but she taught me to look for good arguments and always question my opinions.” Today with these values, she has started a new discussion in the industry, uplifting and sharing her knowledge with others through her numerous publications, including ‘A Framework for Data Literacy’ and the ‘Data Literacy Charter,’ amongst others.
Talking about the impact of her organization, she says, “We create value from data by getting the best out of it. For us, this means that we strengthen our customers’ data competence beyond the immediate project result. We ask four questions: What do I want to do with data? What can I do with data? What am I allowed to do with data? and lastly, What should I do with data? This sharpens our customers’ awareness of why data is a valuable resource and how they can further utilize it to help their brands succeed.”
Due to their remarkable work, the company has an extensive roster of clients, including big brands like The Coca Cola Company/Coca Cola European Partners, Munich Re, Allianz, BMW, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the European Central Bank amongst others.
By Schüller’s impressive work and acumen in the industry, she has received excellent recognition and was awarded the ‘Digital Female Leader Award’ in the Category IT & Tech in 2021, ‘La Monachia Business Award’ of the City of Munich in 2019, ‘Thought Leader (Vordenker) Award’ by Handelsblatt and Boston Consulting Group in 2019 and ‘Statistician of the Week’ by the American Statistical Association in 2013.
In conclusion, her advice for budding leaders is, “As the famous tennis player Martina Navratilova once said: It doesn’t matter how good you are when you’re good, but how good you are when you’re bad. In the end, it is not the few peaks on which you stand radiant that count, but the ascents you conquer or the dark valleys through which you walk. Try to do a good job every day, deliver reliable quality instead of occasional peak performance and poor performance on other days.” That will help you succeed and reach the peak of your career.