Succeeding in a dynamic market environment

Automotive-sector | Career at thyssenkrupp | People at thyssenkrupp | When Daniel Johannes Schmidt joined thyssenkrupp Steering in Liechtenstein in 2011, his first task as a young project purchaser involved dealing with one of the world’s biggest auto manufacturers.

He probably couldn’t have asked for a bigger challenge: his customer unit was in charge of global purchasing for steering columns for the automaker’s biggest modular platform. Quite an induction to thyssenkrupp for the business graduate, who knew from the start he could rely on the active support of his colleagues. What followed was a steep and exciting career trajectory.

“After starting here as a project purchaser in 2011, I became purchasing team leader for the customer unit before the end of my first year,” says Daniel. Just a year later he was given more responsibility as purchasing manager for three further major vehicle manufacturers. In 2014 he was made head of global purchasing for the steering column business. “In 2018 my area of responsibility was widened to include the cold forging purchasing unit,” says Daniel, describing his career at thyssenkrupp in Eschen. Now aged 35 he heads a global team of 38 employees.

Office job vs. aircraft cockpit

That’s quite a progression for someone who originally wanted to do something completely different. “As a child growing up, like many people I dreamt of being a pilot or a sports reporter or presenter,” says Daniel. Later he showed a flair for presentation as well as negotiating skills. In his final years at school he developed an interest in global economic relationships in different industries and the influence of raw materials markets and political factors. His affinity for technology was obvious from a young age.

Doing a desk job instead of flying an aircraft or facing a TV camera is a decision Daniel has never regretted. “The changing dynamics and working in an innovative and customer-focused global team together with our suppliers mean no two days are the same at thyssenkrupp Steering – plus there are the challenges of the dynamic automotive industry.”

A typical day at work for Daniel shows just how dynamic life in the global auto industry can be: Early in the morning the head of procurement often gets together with cross-function teams to coordinate activities with Asia. Later he will focus on Europe before moving onto the NAFTA markets in the afternoon. But because Daniel’s work calls for a very flexible and globally oriented approach, things might turn out completely differently. His schedule also involves meetings with the divisional and/or company management as well as regular negotiations with suppliers: Daniel and his team play a big part in new project awards and cost targets on the supplier side.

Challenging market environment

“Continuous change and responding to a dynamic market environment are increasingly the norm,” says Daniel. “The preparation and implementation of agile work methods and correct handling of digitization are further core elements and exciting challenges.”

Positive error culture

But surely such a fast-paced career and packed schedule means there’s no room for mistakes? “Nonsense,” says Daniel. “We are all humans – and that means we make mistakes. I believe in nurturing a positive error culture and openly addressing mistakes. My team knows that too. It’s important to share best practices and lessons learned within teams and communities and also with colleagues across functions.” Ultimately it’s about not making the same mistake twice: “The main thing is to learn from every mistake, take the positives and pass them on.”

Sports fan Daniel is a team player who values good working relationships and team spirit. “At thyssenkrupp we have top people around the world and it’s fun working with them even on difficult and complex matters,” he says. The thyssenkrupp slogan “engineering.tomorrow.together” is not just empty words for the procurement specialist. “I think the together is particularly important. Only through the joint work of our cross-functional teams around the globe and our shared focus on challenging projects and goals can we improve our products each day and thus steadily increase thyssenkrupp’s reputation with customers”.

So it comes as no surprise that Daniel also cares about his team’s personnel development: “It’s important to me to promote personnel and organizational development in my area and as a purchasing team leader to play a key role in the ongoing transformation process at thyssenkrupp.”

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