Thorsten Poetter has been working at Bayer for the last 26 years and is currently responsible for the Manufacturing Intelligence & Execution Systems department in the Engineering & Technology unit. In other words: IT in Manufacturing and Production. The teams design, develop and maintain business support systems for our plants all over the world. On our Career Blog, Thorsten Poetter describes his day-to-day work and tells us what makes Bayer such an interesting company for young engineers.
Can you describe your typical working day?
A good part of my working day consists of crisis management, listening to others, and asking the right kinds of questions in difficult situations so that we can come up with potential solutions. Our organization manages the ordinary issues of everyday life. People come to me when changes are planned, when something goes wrong, or when we have to make adjustments somewhere. So, as you would expect, my calendar is filled with meetings with colleagues and our partners in IT and Production. There are people behind all the systems and IT – namely, us.
What makes Bayer stand out as an employer for you personally?
I began my career here as a research chemist 26 years ago, and throughout my professional life I have always had the opportunity to pursue new challenges, contribute and grapple with new topics. There’s always lots going on at Bayer, and things are changing constantly. I really enjoy this, because it is precisely these change processes that bring opportunities to contribute. And that motivates me. Sometimes it’s also rewarding to move laterally to a completely different area just to experience something new, and, as a larger company, this kind of growth is possible at Bayer – we, the employees, are afforded the most diverse range of opportunities here.
Which skill or quality would you say has been the most useful in your career at Bayer?
The biggest learning curve for me was realizing that there are a number of different ways to achieve a goal. Today, if I see a proposal for a specific approach and think that we can reach our goal that way, then I’m fine with it, even if I might have chosen a different solution. This is especially helpful when it comes to cooperating with international colleagues and teams. Our French colleagues, for example, are far closer to us geographically than their counterparts from the United States or from India, but my experience during the integration of Aventis Crop Science has shown me that our working methods and culture in Germany can be still quite different from theirs.
Did your studies adequately prepare you for the challenges of Bayer’s digital transformation?
Yes, without a doubt. Even though it’s been a few decades since I was at university, we all retain a great deal of knowledge – sometimes even subconsciously. Computers were just coming into use at the time. I studied theoretical chemistry, and our tools were computers and networks (components of the digital transformation), which we used to create molecular models, for example. At the end of the day, anything that can be expressed in binary – ones and zeros – can be considered “digital.” This is also the case in our production system today. It always comes down to finding the right language for everything to run smoothly.
Be aware of the things you do, and take time to consider what role you can see yourself in. You can either become an expert in one subject area and get as much as you can out of it or a generalist who can take on anything, bring together different disciplines, delegate, and come up with original ideas when something doesn’t work.
What makes Bayer an appealing employer for young engineers?
At Bayer, engineers have the opportunity to spend time in different departments, allowing them to gather valuable work experience. That really is something, considering we employ engineers from every discipline. Engineering & Technology is a good place to start, since young engineers can build up their work experience and take responsibility for projects before they move over to Production. They can either specialize in one subject area and take responsibility for content-related matters, or work towards a managerial role. Another option is to “just” take on a role that sees you managing staff who may know more than you in certain areas. In this case, it is important to learn about your team members’ strengths, since you have to be able to rely on your colleagues, and to challenge and encourage them… This is great fun and it demonstrates where you can end up when working for Bayer. I’m a chemist, yet I’ve been working in Engineering & Technology since 2012.
What would surprise aspiring engineers about Bayer?
Certainly the sheer size and scale of the company. We are mainly known for either our most well-known products or for our strong focus in the scientific field, which attracts chemists, biologists, and medical professionals, etc., to us. Not many people know that we also have many employees in Production and, accordingly, all sorts of production facilities on a global scale that have to be supported in a variety of different ways. Our packaging lines are as large a part of the company as chemistry; we use a variety of automation technologies, and handle issues for new and existing plants individually. We implement new ideas and work them into our solutions and updates. To me, Bayer is like a big city with over 110,000 inhabitants. You can really achieve a great deal here as an engineer, and the potential for growth seems limitless.
This post is also available in: German