President of the German Chess Association: An interview with FAU alumna Ingrid Lauterbach
She is the first woman to be appointed president of the German Chess Association in its 146-year history: FAU alumna Ingrid Lauterbach. From 1979 to 1985, she studied for a degree in mathematics at FAU. Since 2001, she has worked as an expert in information security at Deutsche Bank. Ingrid Lauterbach started her career in chess while she was still at FAU. She is a women’s International Master, and even participated in the women’s Chess Olympiad in 1990, 2008 and 2010. She was appointed president of the German Chess Association in May 2023. In the interview with FAU Alumni Management, Ingrid Lauterbach talks about the time she spent studying at FAU and tells us why we should possibly all play chess.
Ms. Lauterbach, you studied mathematics at FAU in the early 80’s. What fascinated you about this subject?
I really enjoyed mathematics at school. I loved logical thinking and thinking about solutions. I didn’t enjoy learning things off by heart, like in some other subjects. Especially when I was preparing for my degree, I had the impression that the various subject areas within mathematics merge into each other, and new connections became apparent, which I found really exciting.
When you think back to your time at university, what do you have particularly fond memories of?
We were a small group of students who enjoyed doing a lot together, whether that was solving exercises or meeting in our favorite pub of the time, Kanapee. I still remember the carnival parties at the FAU Campus Erlangen (South), where we all loved listening to the Spider Murphy Gang, which wasn’t yet as well known as it is today.
As I worked as a student assistant in the library of the Institute of Mathematics (which was located in Bismarckstrasse at that time) and had my own key to be able to lock up when the library closed, I had a special relationship to our Institute.
You work for Deutsche Bank as an information security expert. What does your work involve?
I am in charge of the team in Germany that deals with all questions concerning information security. My tasks range from organizing events for our customers and staff aimed at raising awareness for the topic, to assuming responsibility for regulatory topics and audits in this area or developing and assessing secure methods for online banking, for example. Security is of the utmost importance for a financial company.
To what extent is what you learned at university still of relevance for you today in your work?
Mathematics requires an ability to think logically, strategic thinking and the willingness to consider a question from various perspectives in order to find a solution, and of course, it also requires a certain degree of ambition, as you are determined to find a solution. All these qualities also help in life in general, and a mathematician might take a slightly more objective approach than others.
It was only possible to stay in touch with contacts from university or early on in my career by letter or telephone if we moved to a different location. Nowadays, tools like LinkedIn or Xing offer much more straightforward possibilities of getting back in contact, even if you have lost touch with each other.
You are a passionate and also very successful chess player. Is it true that your chess career started at FAU? How did that come about?
I played as a teenager in Kulmbach, but moved to Turnerbund Erlangen when I started to study, and also began to play successfully around this time, for example winning Bavarian championships. The highlight was when the Turnerbund organized a zonal tournament in Erlangen, where I became an International Master straightaway and won third place, which was a great success for me.
Can we all learn something from chess?
A lot of the things I mentioned for mathematics also apply here: logic and strategic thinking are helpful. Chess greatly improves our ability to concentrate, and chess players throughout the world “play a language”. Chess players have friends from different countries and cultures, which leads to a more open attitude.
Since your appointment in May 2023, you are the first woman to be the head of the German Chess Association. What are your tasks as the president?
I represent the German Chess Association with its approximately 90,000 members, also vis-à-vis sporting institutions such as the German Olympic Sports Confederation, our International Chess Federation FIDE and the European Chess Union (ECU), or vis-à-vis sponsors, politicians and the general public. I am responsible for the staff and the work in our main offices in Berlin, I am the point of contact for our national players, I coordinate the work of our president’s office and I chair the members’ meetings I convene.
Did you have a favorite place at the university or in Erlangen during your time at FAU?
I had a lot of favorite places: the Schlossgarten, the chess café at the time (Café Weiss at Lorlebergplatz), the Berg beer festival, Adlitz and the Märchenweiher ponds. As I worked as a student assistant in the library of the Institute of Mathematics (which was located in Bismarckstrasse at that time) and had my own key to be able to lock up when the library closed, I had a special relationship to our Institute.
How significant is networking to you personally and to your professional career?
It is very important, but it has of course changed over the years. It was only possible to stay in touch with contacts from university or early on in my career by letter or telephone if we moved to a different location. Nowadays, tools like LinkedIn or Xing offer much more straightforward possibilities of getting back in contact, even if you have lost touch with each other. One of my best friends studied with me in Erlangen, we still see each other regularly.
If FAU was a chess figure, which figure would it be and why?
That’s a tricky question! Maybe a rook – forward-looking and straight.
Thank you very much for the interview, Ms. Lauterbach!
(Interview: Christina Dworak, December 2023)