Vice President, Industry Automation/Drive Technologies,
*As published in our November-December newsletter issue
Tell us a bit about yourself and your educational background.
I am originally from Belgium, where I did my four-year degree in Electrical Engineering.
Why and how did you go into this particular field?
Actually, I was inspired to go into electrical engineering by my father. He worked at a local Belgium telecommunications company, not unlike that of Rogers and Bell in Canada. My father had his own ‘lab’ in our home where he introduced me to the wonders of electricity. His excitement for this technology was what guided me.
How did your professional career develop from there?
I was fortunate to be in the right program at the right time. My university was in a partnership with Siemens. Our labs consisted of Siemens automation and drives equipment, and the university was happy to promote Siemens as a top recruiter for graduating engineers. As I became better acquainted with these products, I entered into a short co-op term with Siemens in which I was to write a thesis sponsored by the company itself. In the end, I was offered a job with Siemens just before my graduation. It is for these reasons that I strongly believe in the idea that businesses and universities should work together and create a mutually beneficial relationship.
The role Siemens offered to me was sales position. Initially I didn’t want the position. At that time I wasn’t thinking very highly of sales people. Rather, I was looking to do something creative with technology. Siemens convinced me to try it out. Taking the position proved to be an eye-opening experience that taught me that business-to-business selling was more about establishing long term business relationships, inspiring customers on innovative technologies, and the excitement of winning the trust of customers. This very positive first working experience was the foundation of my future career at Siemens.
As I mentioned, it was the tie to my university that made Siemens the prime organization to join before and after I graduated. And why I am still with Siemens after 21 years? Essentially two reasons: Siemens offers me the opportunity to pursue an international career, and the excitement I feel when marketing and selling innovative leading technology: there is never a boring day.
Tell us more about your current role?
I am the Vice President of two divisions: Industry Automation and Drive Technologies. In my role I have the profit and loss responsibility for the two divisions, which comprises of eight business units representing offerings ranging from Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC’s), drives, gear units, instrumentation, and motion control to Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) Software. In a nutshell, offerings which enable industries to automate their production processes, optimize productivity, and reduce time-to-market.
Your career profile is rich with international experience such as Director of Business Development in Asia, South America and Africa. Tell us more about the importance of this experience.
My interest to explore the realm of international business was initially fueled in my days as a member of Belgium’s national volleyball team while I was in school. This experience allowed me to meet and compete against people from Europe and North America; it gave me a taste of the excitement involved in learning about new cultures and the different ways people go about living their lives. That was also a motivator to learn more languages: English, French, German, and Dutch. These initial experiences motivated me to drive my career in the same fashion, and the positions I held allowed me to continue my understanding of people from around the world. But most importantly, along that journey, my wife Saskia shared that same excitement to get to know people from different countries. The support from wife proved to be the most important factor during my international career where I held management positions in Germany, the U.S., and Canada.
What’s the part that you find most exciting in your current role? Most challenging?
The most exciting part is working with many different people: customers, channel partners, colleagues, and so forth. One of the most challenging issues in our industry includes short innovation cycles and managing change, as well as continuously adapting our setup to optimize performance to have a cutting edge over the competition. This is similar to how social media changed the way we interact with one another through technology; you deal with similar game changers in the technology used in industry.
How would you describe your three years of working experience in Canada? Did you find anything special in the Canadian market?
Canada has won a place in my heart: in total I have been working for 10 years in Canada during 2 terms, which I enjoyed very much. I have enjoyed much success, which is always fun.
The Canadian market is unique for the following reasons: a high level of business transparency, the integrity of the business partners. The Canadian market also has the potential to grow much further thanks to its natural resources, a good education system, and its ability to attract talent from abroad.
Where is Siemens standing in the current global economic situation?
Our business is solidly performing and is prepared to grow further to become a 100 billion Euro company in annual revenue worldwide in the near future.
Where do you think the market is heading?
I don’t want to speculate on the short term developments of the financial markets, but I would like to mention that there are four worldwide megatrends that will drive change in our market: climate change, urbanization, globalization, and demographic change.
What advice can you offer to students in the field?
Do not see the globalization of businesses as a threat, but as an opportunity. Take the opportunity to learn other business cultures, other languages, and new technology domains.
What do you do in your free time?
I like jogging and biking with my family.