Christian Schmidt, 33
VP of commercial consumer experience and EMEA service business , Volvo Cars
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I have never been the typical car guy. Even though I love cars, their design and technology, I would describe myself as more of a people person. I’m motivated by change and big challenges. One of the big reasons I joined Volvo Cars in 2012 was because the company has such a strong history of focusing on people and innovation. I started with organizational development and change management. The timing was great as this company was on the way to becoming independent. It had its own plans and strategy and a Chinese owner that provided freedom to “set the tiger free.”
Born: Gothenburg, Sweden
Languages: Swedish, English, basic German
Education: Master’s degree in international business and trade, University of Gothenburg, Sweden; bachelor’s degree in marketing, University of Boras, Sweden
Your greatest achievement?
That is difficult to answer but it’s probably what I’m doing now. My colleagues and I are working on a new way to approach consumer experiences throughout our commercial operations. We are working on building a new mindset and responsibilities to address issues from a consumer’s perspective and how they experience our brand.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I recently failed to fill a position as quickly as I should have. That caused me six months of having to field all the questions. That is not good for the business, the team or me. I haven’t been a line manager for that long, and I believe it’s part of my journey to learn how to prioritize.
What is your current challenge at work?
The biggest challenge is transforming the way we interact with consumers. Together with our retail partners we will have to address this together. We can’t just look within the automotive industry for ways to transform. Inspiration on how to make consumers happy will come from other industries such as travel, banking, fashion and music.
2017-2018: Customer experience senior manager, Volvo Car USA, Rockleigh, New Jersey
2016-2017: Product strategy manager, Volvo Car USA,
Rockleigh, New Jersey 2014-2015: Organizational development manager and director, Volvo Cars, Gothenburg
2012-2014: Change management specialist, Volvo Cars, Gothenburg
2011-2012: Change management analyst, Daxam Sustainability Services, Gothenburg
What about the auto industry surprises you?
In many ways it seems to have been protected from external influences for a long time. There are consumer trends, and then there are consumer trends within automotive. That will come to a full stop at one point. We are living in an experience economy, and I feel that the automotive industry needs to adopt and adapt. This needs to happen sooner rather than later.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I can’t think of any specific personal advice, but I really like what ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Don’t limit your imagination and innovation horizon to the automotive industry. Look at general trends in society and dare to speak your mind to support bold decisions. Especially the ones that help build a more environmentally sustainable business. That is something all people and industries should rally around.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
For now, I am strongly committed and highly engaged in what Volvo Cars is doing when it comes to shaping tomorrow’s mobility. That is especially important on the consumer side while keeping environmental sustainability in mind. Looking long term, I would like an opportunity to work at the United Nations or the World Health Organization. I would also enjoy working in a completely different industry such as sports, music or travel.
What do you do to relax?
I like to travel, work out and spend time with family and friends. I also love listening to music, both at work and in my free time.
What is your pet peeve?
People who have a mindset that is too negative.
What was your first car?
A 1994 Audi A4.
A Volvo XC60.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be the first full-electric Volvo.