By Thomas Shambler
CEO of Siemens Middle East Dietmar Siersdorfer believes that good ideas come from diversity.
Siemens is one of those companies – it's everywhere, but many people aren't 100 percent aware of what it does. So, what does it do?
We like to call it a business to society story, or B2S. It speaks to our contribution to enhancing people's lives across the Middle East and globally.
Siemens provides electrification and power generation where it's needed, powering cities and remote areas; automation solutions for industries and buildings, making them more efficient; and trains that get you to work or home on time.
Right now, we are focussing on digitalization across our portfolio and bringing these benefits to our customers. Siemens has around 30,000 software developers, that's more than Microsoft, Oracle or SAP.
How is the business doing? Where do you expect it to be in five years?
There is a lot of infrastructure that still needs to be built in the Middle East. This will continue to be a topic of conversation in the region, where the population is still growing.
I think we're also going to see an increasing shift towards diversification, with countries moving away from reliance on oil and towards building knowledge-based economies. I also believe some regional countries will leapfrog other countries around the world, as they will adopt the latest technologies and use more software to optimise procedures and increase energy efficiency.
What's the biggest challenge facing Siemens today?
In addition to threats to security - the biggest challenge in the region - there is the downturn of oil, which slows down investments. However, the latter is also an opportunity for Siemens, as companies seek the right partner that can provide new and more efficient technologies to move forward.
Where do good ideas come from in your organisation?
Great ideas come from a mix of very good people – very diversified in terms of gender, age, education background, and from different parts of the world with different cultures. We have more than 80 nationalities at Siemens in the Middle East. A lot of good ideas come from this diversity. We also employ many young people who bring new ideas and different way of thinking to the team.
How do you make decisions?
It depends on the topic. As the CEO, sometimes you have to make quick decisions on the spot. But most of the time, I consult and talk to my people or stakeholders to determine the best way forward.
What's the best part about working at Siemens?
It’s a fascinating company, a big global family that makes you feel at home and were you can develop. I've been working at Siemens for nearly 29 years now, and the company has been around for close to 170 years. It provides all this amazing technology and innovations we see around us every day. It gives me joy to witness the positive impact we have on people’s lives.
Explain your job to a small child in three sentences or less.
We create power, and build trains and factories for cars and other things that people need in their daily lives. My job is to listen and talk to many customers and co-workers. It's important for me to be curious, as things can always change.
Is there anything that has had an impact on you as a leader?
In my lifetime, there have been a few defining and fascinating moments. I grew up in Germany and witnessed the will of the people that brought down the Berlin Wall. I was there and saw it crumbling. Shortly after, in another major development, Nelson Mandela was set free, ushering in a new chapter for democracy. Having seen those two events inspired me immensely because it made me realise everything is possible if you have the will and power to go for it.
What would you say to a new employee about the company culture at Siemens?
I would say that the organisation is very open and welcoming, but you have to make yourself available to the family, you have to get into it and be open and transparent and then you become part of this great company.
If you're faced with two equally qualified job candidates, how would you choose which one to hire?
If they are equally qualified then I go with my gut feeling and assess their interpersonal skills to see if they’re a good fit for the team and our company culture.
What are three characteristics that you believe every leader should possess?
A leader should have good people skills and be a good communicator and listener. They need to be an excellent strategist to plan and analyse what the company is doing and in which direction it needs to go. A good understanding of how to develop an organisation and manage change is also crucial.
What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Be willing to learn continuously. Don’t think you’re a master.
What's one mistake that leaders make more frequently than others?
Some leaders fall into the trap of having inflated opinions of themselves.
What's your greatest fear in business?
My greatest fear is misunderstanding a customer, and misinterpreting how our business will develop, and making wrong decisions on the back of that.
What inspires you?
Success. When you work for a customer and do a great job that they’re happy with it motivates you and you feel invincible, ready to take on any challenge that comes your way. So it’s about achieving success and gaining from it.
What's one thing most people don't know about you?
I’m a gadget geek.
What is your most prized possession?
I wouldn’t call her a possession but my wife is the most important person in my life and I feel grateful we are both in good health.
What do you work toward in your free time?
I enjoy for example gardening and outdoor work. It’s a time to disconnect and to do something completely different, which gives you a fresh mind. And it’s satisfying to see the fruit of your labour and how it grows.
What did you want to be growing up?
I always wanted to become an engineer, initially chemical, but I selected then last minute telecommunication and I have never regretted that.
How do you manage a large company and still find time for things like family?
A good team is essential. You also need to manage your own time well. If you are incapable of that you can’t manage a company.
How do you relax and switch off from the office?
I enjoy golfing, jogging and listening to music.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It starts with some office work, followed by customer meetings, talking to my colleagues and communications team, video conferences and social media. It’s a mix of everything.
Do you have any daily rituals that help prepare you for the day?
I usually go to the gym in the evenings. What I like to have in the morning is half an hour to myself to prepare for the day ahead, so I avoid meetings or calls during that time. If I don’t have that in the morning it reflects on the rest of my day.
Finish this sentence, "the world would be a better place if only…."
…there was peace in the greater Middle East region