A day to remember

CAReer Alumni conferenceA day to remember @ CAReer Alumni Conference
A hall full of chattering voices, people exchanging their latest news and personal developments. Sounds like a class reunion, right? And that’s what it was – in a way. 300 of Daimler’s CAReer Alumni from Brazil, China, the US, France, Germany and many other countries all over the world met in Sindelfingen in November 2010 for the first CAReer Alumni conference. Daimler has employed more than 1200 trainees since the start of this graduate programme in 2007 and the conference was the opportunity to bring many of us together again. I myself did the CAReer programme from April 2008 til May 2009 and was happy to see many of my colleagues again who I had gotten to know during this time.

The day was packed and full with interesting speeches and interactive sessions. Our Head of Trucks, Andreas Renschler, not only gave us some insights on future developments in the truck industry but also let us get a picture of his leisure life. Fun weekends to do whatever you want? Meet some friends? Play a round of golf? Not for a member of the Board of Management. Work life balance in this case is obviously not a matter of taking the expression literally but of setting priorities. Interesting.

In order to enable a dialogue between the speakers and this huge audience of 300 persons, the organisers had chosen to use a digital chat tool: Everybody could type in his or her questions which were then ranked by pressing the button “like/dislike”. The most liked contributions were then picked up for discussion. Generation Facebook quickly grasped the idea of it, so that we could really talk about what interests our generation most: international careers, fast growing markets such as China and Brazil, sporty designs, new products. However, we were not able to draw the well kept secret of the Actros successor out of Mr. Renschler.

As he then headed off to his following commitments we, the Alumni, started a little design thinking session with IDEO.
The task: Develop the ideal wallet for the person sitting next to you. Not as trivial as it might seem at first sight – design thinking requires a lot of social skills like analyzing the needs of the target persons and the consideration of technological developments.
„Human Centered“ and „Experimental“ are two of the design thinking principles. In a couple of years we probably won’t need a leather wallet with coins and banknotes but use mobile payments. We were rushing through this process super quickly: 90 minutes for something that usually takes a couple of weeks. However, I found it extremely fascinating and thanks to Fernanda, my neighbour at the table, I got the wallet that I wanted. And I think she was happy with hers as well. At least on paper.

After lunch break there was hardly time for post-lunch fatigue. The next speech by Dr. Martin Zimmermann, Vice President Strategies, Alliances and Business Innovations, was focussed on entrepreneurship at Daimler. The success stories of car2go, smart sounds (a project by CAReer alumni!) or the Swarovski Crystal car key speak for themselves and show that it is indeed possible in our company to develop and implement innovative concepts within a very short time.

Time was flying and by mid-afternoon we were reaching the final point in the conference agenda: a panel discussion on management, leadership and design with three members of the top management level. It was an open discussion about careers, assignments abroad, learnings, the design of our products and leadership. One of the most striking comments probably was the one made by our Head of Design who said that he had thought it would take him less than ten years to become Vice President. To get that one straight: He had expected it to happen faster! A healthy self-confidence that resulted in something between suspicion and admiration among the alumni. But the message is clear: Impossible is nothing.

For all my CAReer colleagues who couldn’t participate in this event I hope that this format will continue with a series of alumni conferences, so that not only 300 but all alumni from all over the world will have the chance to participate in this event. It is definitely worth it – of course not only for the interesting topics on the content level but also for the after-conference party in Sindelfingen and the city of Stuttgart….  no need to sleep if you have to get up at five o‘ clock in the morning anyway to catch your flight.