My name is Josephine Schoenemann and I’m 25 years old. When I tell people that I work for Bayer, they’re usually impressed. After all, our materials may be what turn their cars into palaces, our products might be the perfect solution for combating persistent slugs in their garden or someone they know may have regained a better quality of life thanks to a Bayer drug. There are some things in life that are good because they’ve always been good – like aspirin.
And then there are the groundbreaking developments that suddenly leave everything else in the shade. At Bayer, we believe that both approaches to innovation have proven their validity. However, if our products are really going to change someone’s life for the better, every employee has to feel the urge to make a difference – whether he or she is employed in research or administration. And that is what we at Bayer call our corporate culture.
Training, studies and my first job – all under one roof
I joined Bayer straight after graduating from high school in order to train as an industrial sales representative. Right from the start, I knew that I would want to push my career further, so I joined the MIBS (Management International Business Studies) program at Bayer and studied for a Bachelor in Business Administration at the university of applied sciences in Bergisch Gladbach in the evenings and on Saturdays throughout my apprenticeship. The subsequent Master’s degree even led me to China, where I studied at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself…
After completing my training and getting my Bachelor degree, I joined Group Accounting and Controlling at Bayer AG, where I helped to compile the Group financial statements of the Bayer CropScience subgroup in the Asia-Pacific region. This proved to be an interesting and enlightening start to my career and, again, it became clear what I had to do next – an additional management qualification was a must! When Bayer offered to help me study for an MBA, I gladly took the opportunity and was even allowed to select my preferred business school.
Living and working in China
My dream of living and working in the Far East suddenly became a very real possibility. I analyzed what various schools in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan had to offer. The CEIBS in Shanghai was top of my list from the start because I knew that Bayer already worked closely with it. To make sure this program was right for me and my career plans, I contacted Shanghai myself and found out more through the alumni’s first-hand reports on the university. In July 2012, I moved to Shanghai to start 18 months of studies there. I was able to finance it all because Bayer paid not only the tuition fees but even continued to pay a portion of my salary.
Different countries, different skills
There were four other students from Germany on the course besides me, while the rest of my class mates originated from Asia with a majority being local Chinese. My fellow students were from the army, worked for state-owned enterprises or, like me, for international companies. As they talked about their experiences, I was able to gain a multi-facetted picture of “doing business” in China. However, my own experience with Chinese culture could be deemed equally important. The Chinese value a lot of things very differently to Europeans. On the one hand, that applies to soft skills. As an example, the Chinese approach to acting in and being part of a group might differs from ours. On the other hand, they teach a different type of business management know-how than at German universities. The “China Discovery Week” at China Europe International Business School for example was very helpful in getting the right perspective on current topics. There, specialists from a range of areas gave us an insight into China’s economic and political relations with the rest of the world.
The two strategy projects were also particularly informative. We had to form teams and apply for one of the projects on offer. Next, the teams had three months to solve a real-life issue for a specific company– from acquiring data to presenting the solution. Since the projects are offered by the business school’s partner companies, my team and I ended up with Bayer MaterialScience (BMS). During our project, we developed a financial model for generating synergies in research shared services – a model that BMS continues to use in its local business unit. Naturally, I’m really happy about that.
From Shanghai to Monheim – and back to China again
Since I finished my studies, I’ve been working as Business Partner Accounting for Bayer CropScience – no longer in Shanghai, but in Monheim in Germany. I wanted to understand, from the ground up, exactly how company management processes work and now I’m ready for the next big step. In August, I’m heading back to China, where I’ll be supporting the integration of a local business unit. That’s getting me a little bit closer to my dream of being the CFO of a small country organization, perhaps in five years’ time.
This post is also available in: German