Digitization as a challenge
But let me back up first: when I joined Bayer in 2000, I suddenly found myself in the midst of major change and was faced with many new challenges. It was the beginning of e-commerce and many industrial companies were racing to set up their own sales platforms on the internet. Bayer had just resolved to form a team of 50 people for this purpose, half of which was to be comprised of existing employees and the other half of new ones like me.
On this international and diverse team, I worked independently as a Java programmer and project manager, which included trips to Pittsburgh, United States, to coordinate activities with colleagues there. I did not expect to experience that kind of dynamism, openness and agility in an industrial company.
The sales platform was a success: for several years, our customers could use it to schedule, place and track their orders. We later used the same computer code again for other portals. But for me personally, the search I mentioned before continued.
After six years as an in-house “IT service provider,” I switched over to the client side. As a project manager in Business Engagement at Bayer Material Science, I mediated all project phases between IT and the IT program and platform users.
In 2009, we then launched our Social Collaboration and Networking platform, and I took the first, major step toward my goal. As a user of comparable platforms on the Internet, like Facebook and Twitter, I quickly got involved and became an active participant in a rapidly growing community. It was logical for me to be the one to answer those first inquiries that came into IT concerning the use and sense of such platforms. It was the beginning of an avalanche of questions and I started giving training classes all over Bayer on the hows and whys of social collaboration. After a while, I was released from my job at the time to work full-time on training and education in this field. I even went to Thailand, Hong Kong and Shanghai in this capacity.
What I never had thought possible before happened: based on my interests and inclinations alone, I had picked this new job myself, with the help of an employer who supported and promoted me along my chosen path. I began giving talks about our experiences and advancements in the field of social networking and collaboration at national and international congresses. Interest was very great among the professionals in attendance from companies, government agencies and other organizations, because many of them were either still waiting to see how things would develop, or had not had the desired success after launch and were in search of new ideas. I can well remember a talk in front of some 250 international professionals at a congress in Orlando.
This growing network of people at other companies is still a source of many new ideas for my job today, which is at Covestro, a young and exciting company. By “young” I mean not only physical age, but also the ability and willingness to constantly change, develop and question the status quo. Our CEO once called Covestro “an eighty year-old startup.” We can look back on a long tradition of invention and research, but by leaving the Bayer Group, we acquired the freedom we need to start afresh in many areas and tailor things to our needs.