Interview with Janina Kugel on the occasion of the TUM anniversary symposium

"In Germany our thinking has to be more global and more networked"

Interview with Janina Kugel, Chief Human Resources Officer at Siemens, on the occasion of the TUM anniversary symposium. (Picture: Eckert /TUM)
Interview with Janina Kugel, Chief Human Resources Officer at Siemens, on the occasion of the TUM anniversary symposium. (Picture: Eckert /TUM)

TUM’s anniversary year, Campus news

On the occasion of its 150th anniversary the Technical University of Munich (TUM) held the International Symposium "Global University, Society, Labor Market - How to Shape Tomorrow's Talents" on June 7 - 8. One guest at the highly distinguished round table was Janina Kugel, Chief Human Resources Officer and Member of the Managing Board at Siemens AG. In an interview she speaks about interdisciplinary learning and working and about how German universities and employers can grow even more attractive to international talents. 

The labor market is changing at an ever-increasing speed – What skills do you look for in recruiting today and what skills will become even more important in the upcoming years?

The labor market is changing because the world around us is constantly changing. We are currently in the midst of a structural change with a scope and speed unheard of in the last few decades. The trigger is primarily digitalization, which at the same time places entirely new requirements on qualifications – and new requirements will continue to emerge. In this sense the need for specialized qualifications, for example in the areas of Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality, is the important issue.

But at the same time the candidate's inner attitude, what we call the candidate's mindset, is also particularly important. The younger generation today has to know that vocational training is only the first step in the career journey, and has to be followed by constant further qualification. It's about Lifelong Learning – by the way, also for those of us who are already in the middle of our careers.

How can universities prepare their graduates for this?

We'll only be able to maintain our prosperity if we do the things that will make us successful in the future as well – and not if we simply hold on to what has made us successful up to now. This means that universities will have to constantly put their curricula to the test. In addition to fundamental knowledge and current qualification requirements, future qualification requirements continue to grow in importance. It's certainly not easy to recognize them right now, but this is a challenge that universities and students will have to face. The best way is through a broad international and cross-cultural network. This will make it possible for students to gain practical experiences which go beyond theory – experiences which, by the way, cannot be replaced by machines. It should also be clear that qualification in only a single specialization won't cover the holistic requirements of a working life. So I'd like to see students learning and working in a more interdisciplinary manner. For example, an engineer should also learn something about employee management.

Managers around the world are asked about the universities with the best graduates for the Global Employability Ranking. Here TUM is regularly chosen as the best German university and is also among the international frontrunners – Why do you think this is the case?

Germany is a high-tech country and the educational system has a very good reputation worldwide. One essential reason for this is the close partnership between science and business. This means universities benefit from the companies' proximity to market and application-oriented expert knowledge; the companies benefit from close networking with academic research and a very promising pool of well-educated and talented young individuals.

TUM is one of the leading German technical universities and has an outstanding worldwide network. It maintains a wide variety of partnerships with other universities and companies. For example TUM has been collaborating with Siemens for over 100 years in one of the longest-lasting partnerships of its kind anywhere. TUM is also a leader when it comes to covering future-oriented fields. All the focus topics that Siemens researches together with TUM are driven by digitalization, for example robotics, virtual engineering, IT security and cloud computing.

What can German universities improve in general to further narrow the gap to British and American universities?

First of all we should orient ourselves to the needs of the respective labor markets and not to the ranking lists or the educational concepts of the individual countries. Things that work well in English-speaking markets don't necessarily have to work well in Germany. Nevertheless there are aspects where German universities can catch up, for example in weighting of course content. Or attracting more foreign students – that's a good way for us to learn from other cultures. On the whole in Germany our thinking has to be more global and more networked; we have to think about how to make our country so attractive that highly-qualified people from around the world want to work and live with us.

How do global players like Siemens search for, select and promote young talents and what opportunities for collaboration with educational institutions do you use?

As a technology company in the future we'll only be able to employ people with qualified professional educations. And universities are an important means to reach young talent. This is why we've built up a broad, strategic and long-term network which currently includes 25 universities. We have developed new, interactive formats for approaching the students and engaging them directly at the universities.

A wonderful example here is the IT Security Hackathon that we held in March 2017 on the TUM campus. In the contest IT students from TUM and LMU solved a complex software problem that was presented to them by Siemens developers. Siemens was able to acquire about a third of the finalists as working students, all of whom are still working at Siemens today. Another good example is our IT mentoring program, which we've been offering at TUM for six years. We currently have around 15 mentees from ten countries – half of whom are by the way women. All of them will be mentored for a year by an experienced Siemens manager, from coaching and career planning all the way to networking.

And external perception is extremely important to us as well. Siemens competes against major IT players like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, etc. in the struggle for the brightest minds, especially in the fields of IT, engineering and software development. That's a real challenge. And it's also the reason we're taking new approaches here – digital approaches. One example is our employer branding campaign #FutureMakers which is extremely successful in social media. In the campaign Siemens employees from around the world share their personal stories. And this was not an assignment for the employees, these are all voluntary blog and 360-degree video posts. Here we're giving candidates an authentic insight into the world of Siemens and are showing how diverse the people are who work with us.

And in order to keep the best people on board, we invest quite a bit in the training and continuing education of our employees, more than half a billion Euros every year.

More INFORMATION on tUM anniversary symposium:

Keynote Speaker:
Experts Panel-Discussion
  • Mr. Jacques Biot, President, École Polytechnique
  • Prof. Gerhard Casper, President Emeritus, Stanford University
  • Prof. Wim de Villiers, Rector & Vice-Chancellor, Stellenbosch University 
  • Prof. Günther Hasinger, Director of Science, ESA - European Space Agency
  • Prof. Wolfgang A. Herrmann, President, Technical University of Munich 
  • Prof. Peter Høj, President, University of Queensland
  • Prof. Heather Hofmeister, Professor of the Sociology of Work at the Goethe-University, Frankfurt
  • Mr. Harald Krüger, CEO, BMW Group  
  • Ms. Janina Kugel, Chief Human Resources Officer and Member of the Managing Board, Siemens AG 
  • Mr. Christian Müller, Director Department of Strategy at DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)
  • Prof. Eliezer Rabinovici, Vice President, CERN Council 
  • Prof. Otmar D. Wiestler, President, Helmholtz Association
Program

Program „Global University, Society, Labor Market"