In what areas can employees pursue a “digital career” at Bayer, and what qualifications should candidates have? Christian Pütter, who has been helping to advance digitization at Bayer since 2001, gives answers to these questions and insight into his own, exciting career.
How long have you worked for Bayer, and what is your current scope of activity?
I joined Bayer in 2001 as part of the former Information Management department, and spent the first five years in R&D. I switched to Marketing in 2009, when we started developing digital marketing within Bayer IT, which at the time was still a very innovative area. We started out with three people, but now we are 30 strong in Germany alone. Our main task today is to use IT to effectively support the digital transformation of Bayer business functions, which face a never-ending stream of new demands. To this end, we are continuously developing our technologies and looking for people to join our team. That’s one reason why we attend career events, like Online Career Day in Berlin.
How have your activities changed as digitization has progressed?
Several years ago, our team projects consisted, for instance, of developing a system for Marketing & Sales to help them manage the Bayer websites. Today we get asked to support entire product campaigns. They can easily involve 10 or more channels with interfaces to internal Bayer systems. Sometimes we have to comply with complex permit application procedures and make sure we include all stakeholders. We have to define processes so that the IT systems can operate as efficiently as possible, also across several disciplines. Just take Pharma for example: We can’t “just post something quick.” By the same token, we can’t take a week to give feedback to social medial questions. That has to happen within a few hours and it’s our job to make it possible by appropriately setting up the IT systems.
Why is the digital industry so interesting and important for Bayer?
Our Bayer products are about more today than “just selling pills.” Take a pulmonary hypertension drug, for example. Bayer developed the active ingredient, which however can only be administered to patients in the form of a gas. Our team was called upon to find a manufacturer who makes inhalers that allow the dose to be set with 100 percent accuracy. After completing a market study, we visited what is known as the Digital Campus, a platform for major companies to exchange information on digital issues and challenges, and there we linked up with Philips. They had an electronic inhaler under development that would fit our needs. By collaborating, we were able to influence the final production and technical parameters of the device. The inhaler we have now is Bluetooth-ready and, using an app, patients have direct access to their data from the inhaler. A doctor can also analyze the data records to adapt the dose if necessary. This example illustrates how the borders between Marketing, R&D and IT are blurring, and how it is becoming increasingly important to have a good overview of all three areas and a good understanding of how each one works.
In addition, Bayer maintains close relations with the major IT companies, like Google, and concludes cooperation agreements with them, because this segment is also undergoing extensive change: It is moving away from the classical service-provider/client mentality and more towards collaboration. We don’t simply buy a service anymore; we develop something in partnership. This is one of the major change topics, and it has very high priority at Bayer, because it means rethinking things in all areas, from development to sales and purchasing.
In what areas can employees pursue a “digital career” at Bayer?
We need digital experts in all areas at Bayer. Our central Digital Marketing competence center for all the divisions is located within Bayer Business Services. There are also employees in the divisions working on this topic, and they likewise are contacts for us. In other words, there are many options for starting a career, both for newcomers and especially for those with job experience. International experience is another important factor in Digital Marketing at Bayer. New team members should be willing to go abroad for a time, because one of our responsibilities is to expand exchange and cooperation programs with our Digital Marketing colleagues in other Bayer countries.
What skills are in demand in Digital Marketing at Bayer?
Our range of responsibilities has changed dramatically and become much broader. Therefore, our team needs to have not only IT and marketing know-how, but also extensive knowledge of our divisions. Physicians and agricultural engineers (keyword: digital farming) use a lot of technical terms, and if we aren’t familiar with them, it makes cooperation difficult. They can’t waste time explaining basic concepts every time. For this reason, we also have specific areas of focus, either Pharma, Consumer Health or Crop Science. Although we do try to rotate, people need about a year to really get the hang of things. And that is something we expect of new employees too: That they are willing to get familiar with the job very quickly and capable of asking the right questions.
Digital Marketing maintains integrated, consistent and effectively scheduled processes, which is why we have to know the target groups well and thoroughly understand the product. It’s the only way we can work with marketing and sales experts in the divisions to plan which channels should be used and which processes established to achieve the greatest possible impact. Up to now, we have mainly been hiring candidates with a focus on international marketing, and some IT specialists with good knowledge of the overall process. But now we are seeing the first university majors in digital marketing, and that will undoubtedly be ideal. Of course it is also helpful to have experience in the life sciences industry. Intercultural experience is just as important as team skills and being open to life-long learning.
What do you like most about your work at Bayer?
I have been happy working at Bayer ever since my first day. For me personally, the continuous change is equally as important as the immediate relevance of my work to our business activities. I want to understand the problems our customers have, so I can develop solutions that really help them. On the other hand, I don’t like doing the same thing for a long period of time. Variety also comes from our different divisions: Crop Science differs in a lot of ways from Pharma or Consumer Health, and I get extensive exposure to all three. Apart from IT, which was my major back in the day, I am motivated by the many different application cases that always involve something new.
This post is also available in: German