Christian Ohm, 41
Head of strategic brand management, media, insights, analytics and marketing performance, Mazda Europe
Family:Wife, Reya; daughters, Alina, 5, Lilly, 2
Born: Kaiserslautern, Germany
Languages: German, English
Education: Bachelor's degree, business studies (marketing, strategy & planning), Metropolitan University, London, England
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
Prior to the automotive industry, I worked as an insight-based brand & communications consultant for several large blue chip clients from different industries. After getting the contract for Volkswagen Group, I was assigned to lead their account and day-to-day operations. That's when I developed a strong passion and interest in the automotive industry. Later, I began working at Mazda Europe as marketing specialist.
What was your big break?
The big turning point in my career was a three-year overseas assignment at Mazda's global headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan. This challenge provided many diverse experiences that helped me to learn, grow and mature both professionally and personally. Albert Einstein once said: "The only source of knowledge is experience." This is very true for me.
Your greatest achievement?
I built a new, trusted, objective and high-performing global insights team from scratch. The team is made up of 13 members who come from very different functions and levels. I'm very proud of this achievement because of the vast cultural and political challenges I overcame. I'm also proud to have laid the foundation for a truly consumer-centric solution and thrilled that some of my previous team members have gone on to have very successful careers.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
During my early days in Japan, I was quite ambitious and underestimated the importance of what the Japanese call nemawashi. That's the informal process of quietly laying the foundation for some proposed change or project. You do this by talking to all relevant stakeholders across all levels prior to any decision-making. The aim it to get feedback, gather support and reach a consensus. Because I didn't sufficiently follow this process, a proposal I was heavily invested in at the time wasn't approved. I learned an important lesson though: You have to be culturally sensitive and adopt to local standards when working in a foreign country.
What is your current challenge at work?
On a broad scale, my challenge is to identify and isolate the signal from the noise, stay on top of relevant developments while also remaining focused on what is important.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
I believe it's the passion for our products that unites this industry and makes it very special. At the same time, we are a pretty closed industry and that may prevent us from realizing opportunities in a networked world. I also think we need more diversity.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
There is no specific personal advice that rings a bell, but these quotes are worth remembering: "Well done is better than well said." (Benjamin Franklin); "If you haven't failed, you're not trying hard enough." (Jennifer Cruise); and "Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow." (Anthony J. D'Angelo).
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
This industry is at an historic turning point as it goes through a period of tremendous accelerated change and faces significant challenges. Therefore, it's a very exciting time to join because the emerging opportunities are vast. If you are into great products, appreciate fantastic and very passionate people and embrace change, then go for it. However, be careful what you chose. As with any disruptive transformation, some parts of the business may cease to exist in three to five years, while others may grow exponentially.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Listen, observe, assess and learn. Then develop an inspiring, compelling and unifying vision, ensure clarity in communication and lead by example.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
A leading role that is challenging and that enables me to create, shape and influence. It should also be satisfying and rewarding when it comes to progress, learning and development.
What do you do to relax?
I'm a passionate runner and relax while running. I also relax while traveling, reading or by simply spending quality time with my family and friends.
What is your pet peeve?
What was your first car?
A Renault 5.
A Mazda CX-5.
2015-present:Head of strategic brand management, media, insights, analytics and marketing performance, Mazda Europe, Leverkusen, Germany
2013-2015: Head of vehicle launch, car connectivity, strategic marketing and insights, Mazda Europe, Leverkusen
2010-2013:Manager global consumer insights, Mazda Motor Corp., Hiroshima, Japan
2007-2010:Team leader brand strategy & services, Mazda Europe, Oberursel & Leverkusen, Germany
2006-2007:Specialist marketing area, Mazda Europe, Oberursel
2002-2006:Senior executive client service, brand consulting, Millward Brown, Kantar Group, WPP, Frankfurt, Germany