Martin Fischer, 46
Vice president and general manager Europe and South America, BorgWarner Turbo Systems
Family:Wife, Katja; 2 daughters
Languages: German, English, French
Education: Doctorate in electrical engineering, Technical University Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany; master's degree in electrical engineering, TU Darmstadt and University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I'm fascinated by cars and have always been intrigued by new technology features. Majoring in controls during my electrical engineering studies, I got a lot of insight into automotive innovation with regard to both powertrain and active safety. At the start of my career, the Siemens graduate program with its rotational assignments provided me with an excellent overview of how an automotive supplier company works.
Your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement so far occurred during the global economic crisis in 2008-2009. I was running a U.S.-based business that faced extreme external market pressure, which challenged all levels of the company's leadership. Everyone worked together to help us not only weather the storm but also set us up for a prosperous future because the business has been growing ever since. Personally, I'm very grateful to my family for always providing support, especially during that tough period, which was also challenging for them because we were living in a different country. Our move to the United States and back was a positive experience for the whole family.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
My stay in the U.S. was a wonderful intercultural experience, but I learned that not all German traits lead to optimum results in a foreign work culture. In fact, they might have even caused frustration at times. I've learned that one should always do one's best to adapt to local styles and practices. It might even be better to have locals in charge. When I look at my field of responsibility today, I can see that all international sites are run by locals. This is highly effective and brings an enjoyable diversity to the leadership team.
What is your current challenge at work?
As BorgWarner Turbo Systems is a market leader in its field, I aim to keep the business at No. 1 by focusing on sustained product leadership and having the best possible talent. The South American market brings significant challenges due to its weak economy.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
We often emphasize how special our industry is because talent is mostly developed in-house. However, there are a number of excellent examples of how industry newcomers have quickly and successfully turned around big, long-established companies. The move toward autonomous and connected vehicles as well as development of new business models and sales channels will require automotive companies to attract more people from other industries. I personally hope that we are going to see more diversity going forward.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
A mentor once drew me an image of a bull's-eye and described the area of control in the center. The center is surrounded by the area of influence. That, in turn, is surrounded by an area of given facts and circumstances. This helped me learn how to focus my attention and actions on the areas of control and influence.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Give some thought to which parts of this business have the best growth potential. There is plenty of opportunity when it comes to real innovation of products, services and business models that can make for an exciting and fulfilling career, especially when you have real passion for what you do.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
I would listen to stakeholders and business partners to create a sound mission and strategy with my team. Realizing that it is impossible to incorporate everyone's input, which could lead to doubt, I would put emphasis on delivering great results to help further convince everyone of the merits of the strategy.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I hope to continue to have exciting tasks that spark my curiosity. I want to grow as a professional, help to bring about change and generate new value in my field of responsibility. Our work is most rewarding when teams are passionate and work together. This is the type of environment I want to create in the future.
What do you do to relax?
I can truly recharge my batteries by spending time with family and friends. I also love sailing, however, I used to do more of that during my time in the U.S. when I lived in the Detroit area. I try to run, bike and ski to help unwind.
2014-present: Vice president and general manager Europe and South America, BorgWarner Turbo Systems, Kirchheimbolanden, Germany
2006-2013: Top-level jobs with Hella of Lippstadt, Germany, including: member of the executive board, business unit electronics (2009-2013); president Hella Corporate Center USA, Plymouth, Michigan (2008-2013); president and CEO Hella Electronics North and South America, Plymouth (2007-2013)
2006-2007: Executive vice president quality, Hella, Lippstadt, Germany
2005-2006: Vice president wireless products, Siemens VDO Automotive, Regensburg, Germany
2003-2005: Vice president chassis electronics products, Siemens VDO, Schwalbach, Germany
2000-2003: Director tire pressure monitoring products, Siemens VDO, Regensburg
1998-2000: Member Siemens graduate program, Regensburg and Toulouse, France