What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My father worked in the industry and in his spare time he liked to repair and restore cars, which inspired me. I began my professional career as a quality engineer at Johnson Controls. I continue to be fascinated by how a product progresses through its various stages and by the entire innovation process that yields these products.
Your greatest achievement?
I can’t point to just one event or particular achievement. To me it’s all about longevity and consistency. I’m very proud that I have been able to adapt within this fast-changing environment by taking new positions, many of which required me to live in different countries with very different cultures. I work hard to keep my teams motivated by trying to be an authentic and trustworthy leader. At the same time, I try to put great emphasis on keeping our customer relationships positive, even if there are problems. I usually find win-win solutions that work for everyone.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I have reacted too fast or with too much emotion during a certain situation or argument. I learned that if you’re angry or excited you should not respond right away. Think twice about what is happening, reflect and try to understand the other person’s point of view. Only after you do that should you craft your response.
What is your current challenge at work?
Managing the ever-changing matrix of organization challenges without any negative effect on the business’s results and performance.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The speed at which in-car technology and safety features are developing amazes me. I’m also impressed by China’s ability to learn, adapt and perform. Ten years ago we had multiple expats working in China to help manage the growth there and transfer knowledge to the local teams. Today, we open a new plant in China nearly every month with minimal support from teams based outside China. The workers there are incredibly disciplined when it comes to compliance with processes.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I actually have two. The first is: Under promise and over deliver. The second is: It is better to make the wrong decision and deal with the consequences than to not make a decision at all.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Go for it because it is interesting, challenging and rewarding all at the same time. You will learn about best-in-class processes and management systems in product development, program management, quality management, production systems and supply chain processes while working in a global environment.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Initially I would analyze the company’s strengths and weaknesses. That includes the products, processes, people and culture. It’s important to understand the engagement level of the employees and to improve it, if needed. Then I would define a clear vision. Through consistent communication of these goals we would achieve a sustainable transformation.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I would like my future job to continue to offer me the chance to be in a leading role and to work with global teams in a high-growth environment.
What do you do to relax?
I’m proud that despite the demands of my work I’ve been able to maintain a healthy, happy marriage for nearly 20 years. I enjoy spending time with my wife, and I especially like taking her to musicals and the cinema. I also love playing with my wonderful children, watching soccer and swimming.
(All Johnson Controls)
April 2016-present: Group vice president and general manager specialty seating, Burscheid, Germany
2015-March 2016: Group vice president and general manager product group foam, Burscheid
2013-2015: Group vice president global quality seating products; head of global quality transformation program, Burscheid
2012-2013: VP and GM for global interiors for German automakers (Daimler, BMW, VW Group), Neuss, Germany
2008-2012: VP & GM, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
2006-2007: General manager, General Motors business unit for interiors and seating, Burscheid
2004-2006: Platform director GM business unit for seating, Burscheid
2002-2004: Launch director, managing director seating for Opel business unit, Burscheid
2001-2002: Plant manager, Turin, Italy
1999-2011: Program/launch manager, Burscheid
1998-1999: Senior quality engineer, Burscheid
1997-1998: Quality engineer, Burscheid