Horstfried Läpple is a “BaySEN”. That means he is part of the Bayer Senior Experts Network: even after his retirement, he is supporting his former colleagues in Group-wide projects with his wealth of experience and expertise. He also advised Sebastian Dorok within the scope of BaySEN.
With this three-part blog series, we provide an insight into a special network that is typical for Bayer, and show how closely scientific research, business and IT are linked with one another: (1) Doctoral candidate Sebastian Dorok (2) Bayer manager Karsten Tittmann (3) BaySEN advisor Horstfried Läpple.
Why are you still working?
In my life after Bayer, I mostly deal with projects that align with my own interests and tendencies. In this connection, there is a lot of overlap with fields that I “lived through” at Bayer. Here I benefit from the fact that I had the opportunity to work in many different areas of Bayer: organization, strategic planning, human resources, global SAP introduction, IT, administration and foreign subsidiary management. My stays abroad as a postdoctoral student in Stanford, California, with Bayer in Japan and especially my assignment as Senior Bayer Representative and Health Care Representative in Brazil were enriching and challenging. They showed me that there are always several different perspectives, and there are always new challenges and approaches. Some of these developments are so important to me that I continue to actively pursue them.
BaySEN offers a very good platform to continue working for Bayer, provided it makes sense for everyone. But I’ll be honest, while I was working for Bayer I always tried to keep the kind of retirees at arm’s length who always wanted to intervene in Bayer’s alignment and processes and take control. I hope I never do that. And if I do, I hope my former colleagues remind me of my resolution.
How would you describe your role in the collaboration with Mr. Dorok?
The cooperation between everyone involved is simple: I’ve been working together with Karsten Tittmann since his first day at Bayer. At about the same time, I had also initiated the collaboration with the Computer Science Department at the university in Magdeburg as the project manager for the global introduction of SAP. This collaboration was positive for everyone involved and has since resulted in numerous diploma and master’s theses. The collaboration has been in place for 18 years now with varying levels of intensity.
What did the exchange look like?
Genomics provides a new foundation for biology, medicine, agriculture and environmental protection, as well as the information technology that supports these areas. Extremely large data volumes of varying quality, multi-stage process blocks with highly complex processes and algorithms are a major challenge. What’s more, the issue of compliance has now fully arrived in fundamental research. The reproducibility of results is an unqualified necessity. For example, you have to demonstrate in an audit-proof manner what results have been achieved based on which raw data and which multi-stage processes, assumptions and preliminary results. The use of databases can be very useful here. The problem here is that conventional databases such as those used in the SAP systems deployed by Bayer are poorly suited. Databases must instead be completely realigned to handle large data volumes and complex functionalities.
Sebastian Dorok deserves a lot of credit for becoming involved, at our instigation, in a field that few people had previously focused on. This offers tremendous opportunities, but also comes with some “side effects.”
What advice have you been able to give to Mr. Dorok so far, and what has he benefited from?
In coordination with Karsten Tittmann, I’ve always challenged Sebastian Dorok in many discussions and deliberations to drive forward the use of databases in research – as well as sustainably supported him in this endeavor. But I also gave him the space to successfully complete his thesis by the end of the year. We know trying to force results isn’t very helpful in research.
What have you gotten out of this task so far – what are the benefits for you?
Of course, I share the insights from my wealth of experience with Sebastian Dorok. But this is only beneficial if I too can actively comprehend the new developments – in other words, if I also work my way through the newest publications and assess them with him. Of course, a network of many researchers from several universities and research institutes is also involved in this process. I, too, benefit tremendously from this. I’m right there with them. Yet this isn’t just limited to seniors. It applies to everyone. If you don’t keep up, you get left behind.
As I’m very interested in the project, I invest a lot of time in it. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. I don’t do it to boost my income either.
What should young people know who are interested in working for Bayer? Is there any advice you can give to them in this regard as an “old hand”?
Two characteristics are important in my view.
First, Bayer has always been in a state of change. This is very evident when you look at the period since 2000. Change is absolutely necessary in order to actively shape the future. You have to want it, accompany it and help to shape it. This also involves sometimes parting with things you’ve become fond of.
Secondly, Bayer is international. Wherever you go, the Bayer Cross is almost always there already. I’ve always been impressed by how rapidly Bayer established itself in many of its current core countries after the company’s founding. Bayer can often look back at a much longer history than other companies in a large number of countries. This is a great strength of the company. Maintaining it is a constant challenge. An international company must be steered based on international principles. Processes must be standardized on an international basis – with country-specific circumstances being adequately taken account of. I’m familiar with both sides of this process – from the global introduction of SAP and from my assignment in Brazil. Bayer can only be successful if we continue to pursue both aspects in a business-oriented way. And if we always recognize that there are outstanding employees in the other countries as well. Here, too, the maxim applies: you have to want internationalism, accompany it and help to shape it.
If you’re looking for change and internationalism, Bayer is just the right company for you to contribute to.
This post is also available in: German