DigitalLife: 7000km to join my dream company

What innovation platforms are there at Daimler and who is behind them? At #venturewednesday on Wednesdays, we give insights behind the scenes of the Daimler ventures and their exciting task: the future of mobility. This time: DigitalLife.

My name is Aygul, I joined DigitalLife@Daimler in 2016 and since then I’ve been working in the “Ideation and Intrapreneurship” team. To tell you my story in DigitalLife, I have to go back a little.

I am originally from the western part of China called Urumqi. I have never heard the term “Daimler” before my internship in 2008 within our HR department. Shocking, isn’t it? Of course I knew about our great Mercedes-Benz products, but the term Daimler was rather new for me at that time. After my internship within Daimler China, I made up my mind that I have to come back and work within this company.

I loved how international the work environment was. During my internship I interacted with HR colleagues from 15 different countries, every day I needed to travel more than 1.5 hour with public transportation to come to work, but I loved it!   Soon enough my dream came true when I started my official career step with Daimler in Beijing in 2010. Speed, change and excitement is how I would summarize my working experience in China.

My supervisors (whom have rather been friends and mentors till today) knew my ambition and goal of working internationally. So when they finally asked me if I would be interested in working in our newly established global development HR function at our Headquarter in Stuttgart/Germany, I immediately said yes! So there I was, never been to Germany (not even to Europe actually), didn’t speak German, packed my two suitcase and got on to the plane to Stuttgart. Now the rest is already history.

Since then, I have worked in various HR divisions at Daimler focusing on people development and performance management. During my interview for my current position, the questions ranged from the market economic situation of China to Technology Trends as well as my vision on how Digital Transformation should be brought to the colleagues in a tangible way.

The interview felt more like an intense brain-storming and idea exchange workshop than anything. One of those meetings where you don’t even notice the time has passed by. So when I got the Green light to join DigitalLife – I was absolutely delighted to be part of the group!

Digital Transformation starts with employees

My role in our DigitalLife Team is focusedon ideation, especially from the training and coaching perspective. I also have the overall bridge role for all our activities in Asia, especially in China and India. Within DigitalLife, there are four different focus areas (#transform, #ideate, #collaborate and #change), but the full DigitalLife team often takes up cross-team projects and work collaboratively together. For example, I have taken up the project lead for DigitalLife Day India for the #change area and work together with our colleagues in India.

My work is focused on our employees and how we can support them to generate innovative ideas with their expertise. And I believe this is an essential part of the digital transformation.

With almost 300,000 employees all around the world, Daimler employees’ certainly have knowledge and expertise in various areas, which we can share, further adjust and spread.

Supporting Employees with Innovation Process

One of our tools is the Innovation Camp for example –a three days deep-dive workshop, where we create, together with the idea team, the first prototype, bring in customers to provide feedback to the first raw-prototype and of course use the feedback to iterate on the product. After three days, the idea teams will come out with iterated digital prototypes and a first eight weeks implementation plan.

My role in the full 3 to 5 months long period is being the project manager and also designing the workshop content for our colleagues. To start the process, I listen to our colleagues carefully, in which area they see innovation potential, need process improvement or require new technical solutions. It is like being a consultant for your own colleagues and implementing the process I have designed together with them.

What I love most in this process is definitely bringing colleagues from various divisions and expert background together, and the innovation camp on-site as coach to see the ideas come to tangible shape. What colleagues often give me as feedback is how valuable it is to have potential customers’ feedback early on to iterate on ideas before going full-fledge product.

Bringing In an Outside-In View to Daimler

Innovation Camp was an example of my work towards internal innovation, another side of it is looking at the “outside-in view”. This means we bring back the feedback from startups, tech companies and potential customers for the ideas we have generated internally.

Therefore, we decided to take part of 4FYN with our internal intrapreneurs and corporate programs. 4YFN is a Tech Start Up event with more than 20000 visitors, where you can interact with startups, showcase your internal innovation, bridge your accelerator programs and enhance your employer branding. My role was to organize our Daimler presence at the event which takes place in Barcelona.

Personally this was an exciting challenge. Starting with designing our event concept, branding, coordinating within the Daimler world and getting our motivated employees to be present at 4YFN. All the teams received valuable feedback from visitors, investors, other startups and even student groups to further develop their products and connect with the startup network. This is the outside-in view, since we utilize the feedback for the product development before it is too late. What is the outcome you may ask? Look at the idea team evungo that was at 4YFN – together with our internal incubation team they have now launched their product.

You may also be asking yourself how we could bring that “outside-in” thinking for more colleagues. Well, this has been part of my mission for 2018.DigitalLife Day India – was one of the concrete outcome. Together with my partners in MBRDI Varsha and Ira, we have implemented a two days tech event in Bangalore where more than 3500 employees from Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and other international locations joined.

DigitalLife@Daimler – It Is the Digital ‘Life’ of Employees

Why do I love what I do? Because our full department is dedicated to making digital transformation tangible for everyone. Our crowd ideation platform is internally available for all divisions, all areas, worldwide. We consult all divisions and countries regarding setting up innovation process, new ideation methods and idea coaching.

We convert digital trends into tangible formats for our plants via our DigitalLife Tour. All of this is possible because within DigitalLife we believe in what we do, keep our internal employees on our focus, bring new trends, innovation ideation, collaboration methods, and change actions closer to everyone.

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Aygul Jilil started her career at Daimler in Beijing in 2010 and since then worked in various divisions and locations within Daimler. She is currently working in DigitalLife@Daimler in the #ideation team, passionate about digital transformation and innovation curation.