Christian Schmidt, 34
Director customs trade compliance EMEA, Adient
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
This is my first job in the industry. I really enjoy building and leading a regional organization. I like that the automotive industry supplies a product that connects and changes the world. It generates great benefits, but at the same time it also demands that we are conscientious because we carry great responsibility.
Born: Viernheim, Germany
Languages: German, English, French
Education: Master’s degree in leadership and management, Buckinghamshire New University, High Wycombe, England; MBA, Frankfurt Business School, Germany; bachelor’s degree in procurement and logistics, Frankfurt Business School, Germany
Your greatest achievement?
My greatest personal achievement is my family. They are the reason I do what I do. They make me very proud. Professionally, I see it as a success to have been able to work with many great people. I have already had the chance to build several professional teams. Bringing together different people, working together and contributing improvements every day is a great feeling.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
That is not easy to answer because there is nothing I consider having been a great failure. In the past I might have chosen a more difficult path because I was overly enthusiastic. Today, I spend more time evaluating the situation and reflecting on every step. Now, I also don’t hesitate to change a decision before it leads to irrevocable difficulties. What matters is that you learn from every mistake and draw the right conclusions as you move ahead.
What is your current challenge at work?
It’s always challenging to develop an existing organization. In today’s world it’s characterized by complex markets and that can make planning difficult. Life’s fast pace also generates pressure and requires a lot of transparency. The challenge is to improve every day in this environment and to develop a good strategy for future needs.
2013-2015: Head of foreign trade, General Electric, Mannheim, Germany
2012-2013: Export control manager, Alstom, Mannheim
2010-2012: Customs manager supply chain, Alstom, Mannheim
2009-2010: Trade programs supply chain, Alstom, Mannheim
2008-2009: Supply chain specialist, Cobinet, Heddesheim, Germany
2006-2007: Procurement and logistics, D.M. Nutzfahrzeugtechnik, Viernheim, Germany
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The dynamics of the industry are incredible. It’s also interesting to see how closely everything is connected within the automotive world.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Paths are created by walking.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Stay flexible. Just know, it is what it is.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I am very interested in general management. My strengths are helping to promote change and taking the lead when something needs to be built up or developed.
What do you do to relax?
I love spending time with my family and romping with my kids.
What is your pet peeve?
I don’t like it when people are imprudent, make promises they don’t keep and spread incorrect information but call it factual.
What was your first car?
A third-generation VW Golf.
An Audi A6.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a Jeep Wrangler. It has enough space to take everyone along, it can travel on any terrain and deal with any situation.