What is special about working in procurement for non-production materials and what is the role of a Global Commodity Manager all about? What does the international trainee program have to offer? We spoke about these and other questions with André Schroeter.
Hello Mr. Schroeter, please introduce yourself briefly to our readers.
My name is André Schroeter and I work in marketing procurement. As Global Commodity Manager for Advertising Agencies I am responsible for commissioning the development and production of advertising campaigns for the Mercedes-Benz brand around the world.
My journey to this point was anything but straightforward. I had to work very hard in a number of places before getting the opportunity to join the Daimler trainee program: After working my way through the German school system, I secured a place at Hohenheim University in Stuttgart, graduating with a master's degree in economics in 2012 as the best student in my year. From there I went straight on to join Daimler's trainee program.
Why did you choose Daimler as an employer after your studies and why did you opt for the trainee program?
Despite doing numerous part-time jobs, internships, and so forth, I was always in search of bigger challenges. So I decided to start my own business while I was studying. Building up a business while working toward a degree, standing on my own two feet, taking responsibility, dealing with conflict, and making decisions – if you strike out on your own, you learn very quickly what business acumen actually means in practice. But above all it was a fantastic and intensive experience that made me reflect on my own strengths, weaknesses, and behaviors, and that sharpened my focus with regard to leadership skills.
Daimler, as the company that invented the car, had always fascinated me! Its employees are given so many opportunities for development. For me personally it was important to choose a career path that would place the highest demands on me, but in return would help me to develop personally and professionally and give me a systematic insight into different parts of a company. The trainee program at Daimler ticked all of those boxes!
Participants can join the trainee program in different areas of the company. What made you choose the procurement department?
Procurement is fantastic and is often underestimated by early professionals. For me it couldn't have been a better place to start and a better place to end up at! You learn an incredible amount here in a very short space of time. In procurement you are in direct contact with other companies, you have to forge professional, long-term partnerships, conduct complex negotiations, close deals, and maintain quality and control over costs. All in all, you play a huge part in ensuring the success of Daimler as a company. It really fills me with pride when my colleagues and I look back on our work.
It's hard to think of another department that offers you so much responsibility and freedom right from the start. That is unique and is a big part of the appeal!
There's also a lot of variety involved: As Global Commodity Manager I am a central point of contact for complex global procurement projects and I work on an international basis with people from all over the world. Dealing with such a mix of cultures means my job is always varied, never boring, and sometimes challenging! I love the scope and freedom that I am given and I enjoy driving forward our strategies together with my colleagues in procurement, with other parts of the company, and with agencies. My department International Procurement Services offers a very varied range of development opportunities and actively fosters people's personal development through initiatives such as mentoring and the talent ambassador program.
Please tell us more about your time as a trainee.
The trainee program offers a unique opportunity to get to know different parts of the company, to lead projects, to work on your strengths, and to build your network. I really liked the way the program was set up. It comprised a project plan that you could customize to meet your own particular needs, freely selectable assignments covering a wide range of functions, sites, and business units, and intensive courses providing on-the-job and off-the-job training. All in all, a great mix. My mentor and I thought long and hard about what assignments in Germany and abroad would be best for my future career. And so after completing my first placement in consulting procurement I headed off to Japan for my global assignment to lead the project aimed at optimizing the procurement operation there. For my third project assignment I got the chance to work in the management team on the Fit4Leadership growth and efficiency program, where I gained a great deal of insight into individual work packages. Your trainee program is rounded off by assignments in dealerships and in production, and with interdisciplinary project work as part of an international team. Throughout your time as a trainee you build up a global network of contacts that continue to serve you well even after you have 'graduated'.
In summary, the trainee program, in a relatively short space of time, gave me lots of in-depth insights into very different parts of the company as well as the opportunity to work with all kinds of different people. That not only helped me to better understand the interrelationships within the company, but also expanded my own personal horizon. There was also a lot of emphasis on dialog with all management levels. One of my absolute highlights was the informal Q&A session that we had with our CEO, Dr. Zetsche. We were allowed to ask anything we wanted and he was extremely open about his experiences, which I found very inspiring. These sessions were always a fantastic opportunity to learn a lot at first hand and to see things from the perspective of management, but also to make you reflect on your own situation, particularly when it came to the subject of leadership. At all times I had the feeling that I was seen as a talent and someone with management potential and that I was being given the right support.
What personal advice would you give to students who are interested in joining Daimler?
My advice? Get as much real-life experience as possible while you are studying. And whether you're doing an internship or are further on in your career, remember this: Never choose the easy route, but always the most challenging. You'll learn much more that way. It's not for nothing that people say that life begins outside your comfort zone. And you'll also learn more quickly by jumping in at the deep end. Take on as much responsibility as you can, as early as you can, and don't shy away from difficult projects.
If you can imagine yourself one day occupying a management role, then the trainee program is an excellent place to start. You can look forward to gaining invaluable insights into the company, working on exciting projects, and meeting strong personalities. In a multi-stage selection process, comprising an online test, a telephone interview, and participation in a two-day assessment center, a lot of emphasis will be put on your personality, so try to be yourself. Within the trainee program you are free to choose between a number of attractive international projects, which allows you to directly influence the direction in which your particular path will take you. I recommend that you try not to pick completely unrelated projects. Instead, make strategic choices based on your individual development path and the job you want to do later. It's what you make of it that matters! I can only recommend the following: Make the most out of the program, proactively shape the program in a way that makes sense for your needs, take the initiative, stay on the ball right from the start, and get as much feedback as possible. After all, it's about your development and that’s a unique opportunity! Bring passion and enthusiasm into your projects, seek out the opportunities that are available to you, and take full advantage of them! That's how you'll get the most out of the program and how it will work best for you.