Angelika Sodian, 41
Managing director, Nio UK
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started my career with Magna Steyr in Graz as an external doctoral candidate and then became an employee. That is where I experienced the automotive industry from the perspective of a Tier 1 supplier. Being in the automotive industry gave me the opportunity to pursue my interest in organizational development and I became involved with different automakers and partners. This experience led me to my first posting in Shanghai in 2009. This was the start of my career in cross-cultural collaboration with China.
Born: Villach, Austria
Languages: German, English, Italian, basic Chinese
Education: Doctorate and master’s degrees in international management, Karl-Franzens-University, Graz, Austria; executive leadership program, London Business School, England
Your greatest achievement?
My greatest professional achievement has been the leadership of Nio’s organization in Germany and the UK. Four years ago, when I started in Munich, Nio was unknown and my role was to lead the foundation, definition and development of Nio’s global design headquartered in Germany. Then I took up the leadership of our UK business, which is split over three sites: London, Oxford and Donington.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I don’t use the word failure to describe anything that may have happened during my professional life. Instead I try to think of my career as a continuous personal and professional development experience. My willingness to take on new challenges and learn new things has defined who I am.
What is your current challenge at work?
Nio has its headquarters in Shanghai and offices around the world. That is both challenging and rewarding. Those of us at Nio who are based outside of China are becoming versed in “Sinovation” – that stands for the agile, flexible and expedited approach of doing business that fosters innovation.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The automotive industry is undergoing dramatic change and the pace of that change continues to impress and inspire me. Continuing to push the boundaries in this dynamic market environment is paramount, while also applying critical thinking to how to best establish a stable platform that will support the business in the future.
2015-2016: HR director Europe, global practice leader for organizational development, Nio, Munich, Germany
May-July 2015: Global practice leader for organizational development, Nio, Shanghai, China
2009-2015: Founder and managing director, ACCOD Management Consulting, Shanghai
2004-2009: Multiple roles at Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria and Shanghai
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Follow your heart but take your head with you.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Be prepared for change and remain open to the new ideas that are redefining the industry. It’s not about the auto industry anymore. It’s about new solutions for mobility that will improve people’s lives.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I like being at the forefront of shaping the mobility industry as well as Chinese-European relations. This is something I want to do from both a leadership and organizational development perspective
What do you do to relax?
I lived in China for so long that I have come to be a big fan of both Chinese food and traditional Chinese remedies. My idea of a perfect day is to relax with a Chinese massage followed by dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant with my partner.
What is your pet peeve?
People who always find fault with things. This often masks a lack of initiative and unwillingness to consider new ideas and change. I try to see the opportunities in every situation. That means accepting some risk and fighting discontent without always having the road ahead fully mapped out.
What was your first car?
My first car was a VW Polo. My parents gave it to me as a gift for my 18th birthday. It was just supposed to be a way for me to commute between my hometown to my college in Graz. But it meant a lot more to me. My little red Polo meant freedom and I loved every minute of driving that car.
It’s 20 years later and I no longer drive a car myself. I live in London and work for a company with its headquarters in China. There is always a big time difference so I prefer to recapture time by working during my commute. It’s more efficient than driving myself. However, if I were to drive a car, it would be a Nio ES8 or a Nio ES6.
If you were a car, what car would you be?
I would be Nio’s visionary performance car, the EP9. I want to go fast in style. But I would be the road version of the EP9, which is a little more pragmatic to stay the course.