Executive Interviews

Our Executive Interviews feature top leaders from across the disciplines that we specialise in, sharing their career advice and experience with candidates seeking success in those sectors.


Markus Annen - VP Procurement- Control Products and Systems - Siemens Building Technologies

What excites you about working for Siemens Schweiz AG

First of all, it is very motivating to work for a company with over 160 years of history and such a vast amount of inventions. Siemens is a company built on a strong fundament and we are proud to be one of the world's largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies. Personally, I also like the international presence and the cultural mix of people you are working with.

What does your organization currently do to contribute towards the corporate social responsibility?

Our strategy within Siemens is geared towards four global megatrends – demographic change, urbanization, climate change and globalization – and their effects on society and our business. Corporate governance based on the principles of sustainability forms an integral part of what we understand by profitable and successful entrepreneurship.

This is reflected in the Siemens Environmental Portfolio, where the company is already a global leader. Our commitment to sustainable development is clearly evident in our expertise in ” green”? solutions. Independent organizations have acknowledged the extent to which we factor sustainability into everything we do. For many years, Siemens has held a leading position in both the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project).

Within Procurement we further expect suppliers to comply with and implement their commitment to the standards and principles specified in our Code of Conduct. With respect to issues of human rights, labor standards, environmental protection and anti-corruption initiatives, the Code of Conduct for Siemens’ suppliers and third party intermediaries is essentially based on the principles of the UN Global Compact. Acceptance and implementation of the Code of Conduct is a basic requirement in order to do business with us.

As someone who has had over 16 years’ experience within the Swiss market-place, how have you found the Swiss market & working environment has changed over these years?

I believe the Swiss market place has become more efficient, more international and more agile over the years. Especially since the financial crisis, Switzerland has been challenged with currency exchange rates and the constant high productivity demand. Agility and willingness to change and adopt have become prerequisites to be successful. However, I am not sure if we have seen the full impact on the market yet. The immigration of international talents on the other hand has helped us to maintain a high living standard but it has also challenged the job market in regards to competition.

If you could go back and give your younger (graduate) self some career advice, what would it be?

I would recommend them to gain international experience at an early stage. It does not even matter whether it is a work experience or educational studies. It just provides them with a different perspective and cultural exposure. This is becoming more and more essential in a globalised world.

As your first degree was a Mechanical Engineering what would have been your second choice and why?

I always had affection for figures so Finance would be my second choice. As an entrepreneur you always need to have a good understanding of the full picture and that includes the figures. Whenever I act I always assess the financial impact or benefit of the action to assure it makes sense from an entrepreneurial point of view 

What makes you relax from working in such a pressured role?

I am addicted to sport so I like swimming, mountain biking or working out in the gym. Depending on the season I vary on my preference. Furthermore, I love photography to express creativity.  It fulfills me with pleasure to capture a moment of time in a nice photograph.  

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your role?

The most rewarding part of my role is to work with a motivated team towards a common goal and to support them developing their personal career. I further enjoy working internationally and with different cultures. Working with different cultures has truly expanded my horizon and I enjoyed spending four years working the United States. 

What do you love most about your current role?

In Procurement you interface with most functions within a company and every action always has bottom line impact. You constantly implement strategies that ensure the best possible value for money is obtained when doing the purchase.

What recruitment challenges do you face?

I am glad I have a very low churn rate right now. Good people in Supply Chain are hard to find especially since companies have realised the added value of it. I see an increasing demand in this area which makes me concerned about future shortages in the talent pool. But in general it’s a challenge to find the right balance between good technical and commercial skill sets.

What was the worst/best interview experience you ever had?

Well, I cannot really say I ever had a very bad interview experience but I have learnt to focus more on the ” individual contribution”? the candidates have performed in their previous jobs. On the other hand, I already have a lot of good interview experiences. For example, candidates that come well prepared and quickly connect the dots. They ask the right questions and get a good feel for the job.   

What advice would you give to future aspiring leaders, and why?

First of all, the only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. That already sets the tone but typically, managers manage things and leaders lead people. This is the first prerequisite beside three main things to focus on: Be a strong performer in what you do, make sure you are visible within the organisation and build up a strong network.

Who was your most admired person in your childhood and why?

Good question, I guess it was Batman or Spiderman. Two heroes with the same goal to make the world a better and safer place. 

Who is your most inspirational person in business and why?

I like Nick Hayek, the CEO of Swatch. It is inspirational to see a CEO that does not let himself be influenced by analysts and short term interests. Yes, he is for sure egocentric but always makes his decisions based on long term perspectives. We need entrepreneurs with such qualities in top companies.

If you could choose an Artistic, Musical or Sporting career, what would it be and why?

I would love to be a photographer like Herb Ritts. He was an amazing black and white photographer and whenever I look at his pictures there is so much vitality and expression in it.


*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*

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Maarten Peters - Head of Global Risk Management, Internal Controls & Finance Integration ?£" TNT

Looking back through your established career at TNT, what would you identify as a personal highlight?

There are many highlights during my career at TNT. If I were to prioritize, I would rate the successful and sustainable turnaround and integration of the acquisition TNT did in Chile as my number one. Having said that, setting up the regional Finance function in New York and doing Mergers & Acquisitions in Shanghai rate as close second ones.

Your experience has been very International, what are the main challenges you have faced during your various assignments?

The challenges varied across the different locations and positions and included understanding different cultures, gaining trust from the people you work with (without speaking their language), establishing or improving (Finance) functions, processes and profitability, and just simply getting the job done despite being completely new to the field of expertise.

What would you say is the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just starting out in their career in Finance?

Make sure you continue to invest in yourself, through professional education, move from a head office to operating unit (or vice versa), work in different areas of Finance (if possible also outside Finance) and, of course, in different parts of the world.

What would be your advice for someone looking to make their initial move in to Industry?

If you are moving from a professional audit firm into an Internal Audit function, I would recommend to look for a company that supports development and acknowledges that audit is a step into the business and not a goal in itself.

When interviewing candidates at an earlier stage in their career what are the common mistakes you see and what advice would you give?

Sometimes candidates very much have an (external) auditor mindset and have difficulties to relate to the business and provide pragmatic solutions. 

What advice would you give to future aspiring leaders, and why?

Don't be afraid to take risks and go outside your comfort zone, as only that way you will learn your boundaries and get the most out of yourself. In addition, focus on the people you work with, as none of us is as smart as all of us.

If you could go back and give your younger self some career advice, what would it be?

To start, I am very happy with the various positions held and the opportunities TNT provided to me. If I were to do it again, I would have spent more time on learning the local language early on (or before) arrival in a new country.


*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*

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Giulio Campanella - Associate Director, Duracell Regional CFO Europe and IMEA - P&G

You have clearly had a long and successful career within P&G since 1999.  Why is P&G such a good place to work?

P&G is a great place to work, indeed. The first stunning experience is the quality of the people. It’s excellent! And what unites those brilliant people is their passion for winning infused by a very strong ethic and value driven business approach.

As you spend much of your time in Geneva, what do you like about Switzerland?

The people, their balanced culture and the proximity to the most magnificent landscape. I like the easy access to nature and outdoor sport in general. 

You have recently been leading the re-structuring of the Duracell business.  What were the main challenges and successes for you during this project?

Duracell today is a division of P&G, and will become a fully independent, stand-alone entity owned by Berkshire Hathaway. For me, the biggest challenge was to (re)create the F&A Team, from a small regional HQ team to an end to end Finance function leading the region. This team will have a critical complement skillset, balance technical hard core F&A skills with start-up spirit and passion to succeed with this project.

As a senior finance leader who inspires people, who do you look to for sources of inspiration?

The biggest source of inspiration for me is having a purpose, in business like in life, and putting every action in the context of this purpose. My purpose is ” improving everyone’s life”?, and my way of doing that is by selling products which perform better and truly improve people’s life. As well, by being more performing, you end up using less resources and therefore produces less waste. In my experience, it is important for each employee to feel what they are doing goes beyond business titles and a pay check at the end of the month.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Stay true to yourself. Every person is

different, and the best way to succeed is to find what is the unique thing one can add, and playing to one’s strengths.

Finally, with the Christmas period fast approaching, what are your plans for the festive period?

 I will enjoy spending the time with my family, that’s my lovely wife my great 3 year old boy and my only recently new born baby girl. Being with them will allow me to recharge my batteries and looks towards a very successful 2016 with Duracell.


*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*

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Tobias Pogorevc - CFO - Helvetic Airways AG

What advice would you offer to someone relocating to Switzerland?

Embrace Switzerland and do not be tempted to compare it with your home country.  Adapt to the different ways of life and attitudes.  Schooling is very different; children go to school here at a later age and do not spend a full day until they are in 4th or 5th grade.  For native English speakers you will have no problem living in one of the big cities; however you must learn German if you are going to a rural community. Enjoy the lovely landscapes!

You have worked for Helvetic for the last 8 years, how have you found the Swiss market & working environment has changed over this period?

The aviation industry has changed a lot over the last 8 years.  There is a great deal of legislation to comply with now.  The banking sector has seen a similar increase in reporting and compliance issues.  However, these changes are true of the aviation industry worldwide, not just here in Switzerland.

With the economic slowdown of the Swiss economy in 2015, what do you think are the major challenges that lie ahead for Switzerland’s growth?

In the short term, companies need to do their homework, adapt accordingly and become more efficient.  Restructuring is necessary, transferring some of the labour force elsewhere in Europe for example.  Long term, here in Switzerland, we need to focus on innovation and motivating the younger generation to continue in further education, pursue their academic studies and take up apprenticeships.  There are a huge number of apprenticeships that have not been filled; this must be addressed.  The youth of today are the key to the future.

Swiss companies must become more efficient to compete with the changing Euro and US Dollar exchange rates.

What does your organisation currently do to contribute towards the corporate social responsibility?

This is not heavily advertised but we sponsor 8 cars for an organisation called Tixi – a foundation that provides a taxi service at a heavily subsidised rate for people who can no longer access public transport (for example, wheelchair users, OAPs).  The drivers are all volunteers.

What are Helvetic’s growth plans?

In May 2010 we had 120 employees; today we have more than 400. In the last 12 months our fleet has increased from 6 to 13 planes, with an accompanying increase in personnel.  3 years ago we decided to create our own maintenance department to maintain a tighter control on cost; we now have 50 engineers of many different nationalities.  Unfortunately there are no longer any academic programmes in aircraft engineering in Switzerland and no Swiss specialists in this field so we were obliged to source personnel from abroad. 

We now need to look at consolidating our rapid growth; we do not want to increase our overheads so we want to look at streamlining processes and rearranging tasks.  We are no longer a small company.  Today with so many employees we have less interpersonal interactions.  Previously I knew every member of staff personally but at our recent summer party I did not know everyone.  We want to imbue our company culture in all our staff; we wish to stabilise now and digest our new growth.

If you could go back and choose a different career what would it be?

I had no clear plans when I was younger; I went with the flow.  I never set out to work in the aviation industry.  Working at Coopers & Lybrand, one of the big audit companies, gave me the foundation to go abroad.  I would not change my career path.  I feel that whatever you do, you must be passionate about it.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your role?

I work with so many interesting people - people of different nationalities, with different skill sets from engineers to pilots and cabin crew and people of all ages.  I enjoy motivating our staff.

Looking back through your established career, what would you identify as a personal highlight?

I cannot define one highlight, there are several.  In a previous job I worked out in Delhi, India for a time which I found rewarding.  Recently when we purchased a new aircraft, I travelled in the cockpit alongside the pilot which was great.  However to travel on one of our flights alongside passengers and see that they are happy is just as rewarding for me.

How would you advise a jobseeker to approach the current market?

At the moment I think it is quite difficult; you are competing against so many other people. You should focus on your strengths and convince your counterpart that you are the one for the job.  Be open minded and face challenges head on.  You cannot limit yourself to an industry that interest you; you may find a job in an area you like or maybe not.  All companies have good points and areas where you can make a difference.  This should be your goal: to make a difference and improvements in a company.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Yes, but they remain hidden!  I enjoy sports, in particular running - I am currently preparing for my second marathon. I also enjoy skiing and hiking in the mountains!!


*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*

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Mathias Schinzel - CFO - Emerson

Emerson Process Management seems to be continuing to grow and expand what makes you stand out from your competitors?

I think we have had a good run until a year ago. In all fairness, however, with the oil price being low this year we – like our competitors- are now having to structure and redirect our business towards industries that use oil and gas as their feedstock. Our recent order intake numbers make us optimistic that we are going in the right direction .As you alluded to in your initial question we have done really well.

What do you enjoy about living and working in Switzerland?

It is a very stable environment in a central European location and an excellent infrastructure. Tax incentives have always been a factor in the past. And quality of life is very good here.

As someone who has about ten years of experience working in the Swiss market-place, how have you found the Swiss market & working environment to have changed over these years?

Economically things have changed in the last couple of years: there is more pressure for transparency in banking and taxation. Last year’s referendum on immigration will inevitably have a future impact on the issue of work permits. Finally the Swiss franc has recently strengthened. These things all put pressure on the country and companies and serious challenges ahead.


What are the biggest challenges currently facing the business?

No one can tell where the oil price will go, but if you watch the news the supply of oil and gas is high at the moment and we will stay in this low oil price environment for a while so we have to explore other sectors. We have benefitted from the expanding Chinese economy, so the downturn in the Chinese economy has affected our business. We will have to see how we reposition in China and the export from our European countries into China. It’s a portion of our business but not large enough to have a dramatic effect. Matters in Russia we will also have to monitor.

Have the ongoing problems in Greece and its impact on the Eurozone had any impact on Emerson?

The Greek market is comparatively small. However, the Greek crisis has had a detrimental impact on the Euro.

What attracted you to join Emerson and what has kept you engaged about working here?

I joined when a segment of my previous company was acquired by Emerson.  Once here I began to appreciate the company culture and its values, which match my own in many ways. It is a global company with a vast number of career opportunities, assuming you have the flexibility and personal circumstances that allow you to pursue positions abroad.

What do you see as the core values of Emerson?

Drive for results, continuous improvement and problem solving, reliability and commitment, honesty, humility and integrity. We don’t take short cuts and we work hard.

If you could go back and give your younger (graduate) self some career advice, what would it be?

My oldest daughter just finished her International Baccalaureate and we are having lots of discussions right now.  I recommend taking time whilst you are young to explore what you enjoy doing; your chances of success are significantly higher if you really like what you are doing. Try new things; have different experiences and try different occupations. Travel is invaluable to get a sense of the vast variety the world has to offer; see the world before getting embedded in your career. Do not be naïve in thinking you can plan or predict anything beyond the next 5 to 10 years.  It is likely that you will retire in a quite different place than where you started your career and that in itself is not a bad thing.

What are your personal motivators?

Making the company better every day; helping the team to develop their competitive edge; using my common sense; decision making as if it were my own company; continually learning; helping to nurture younger talent.

How did you plan out your career development path?

Step by step, I had no long term plan. I was open minded and self-motivated and grabbed every opportunity that arose.

How do you relax outside work?

Honestly, I do struggle to switch off from work at times. I am trying at the moment to get my focus back on the main things and don’t get distracted by the noise. I have worked out with my all my direct reports to work a system for when I am on holiday to prevent flooding my emails and how to reduce e-mail traffic in general. It is one thing to say, I am not going to look at my emails, but at the same time nobody wants to get back from holiday and have a 1000+ emails. When I do switch off eventually, I enjoy spending time with my family, sports (hiking and skiing), reading, wining and dining.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your role?

Having a hand in the development of future leaders, coaching, inspiring and mentoring people.                                                        

Looking back through your career, what would you identify as a personal highlight?

My time in China shaped me the most, both in work and private life.  It was a real adventure. There were several particularly memorable leaders who had a great influence on me.

What was the worst / best interview experience you have had?

Best: when you can have lively discussions on different business scenarios early on in an interview.

Worst: when a candidate answers with a generic statement indicating that they have not had hands-on experience.

How would you advise a jobseeker to approach the current market?

Do your research! Spend as long as time allows for detailed research.  Ensure that you make you application in the appropriate manner for that particular company. Showing an edge is better than trying to please everyone. Have a niche.

What advice would you give to future aspiring leaders, and why?

Be passionate, true and use your common sense. Take a balanced view; keep your sense of humour and moral integrity. Make a difference and try to maintain an entrepreneurial stance, even in a large corporation.

Which person do you admire in business and why?

Steve Jobs for his uncompromising vision and execution; I am not sure I would adopt his leadership style however!  There are also a number of CEOs, of small and medium size companies, for their personal vision and perseverance surviving in niche markets through innovation and speed. Politically I admired the German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, in my opinion, one of the best leaders Germany ever had.  It is fascinating and humbling to read his views and learn the extent of his knowledge.


*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*

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Reto Eberhard - Head of General Ledger - Audatex (Schweiz) GmbH - Solera Group

What would you say are the advantages of living and working in Switzerland?

Well, for me, especially if you look at the area of Lucerne to Zurich, it’s the smallest capital in the world, so, what I enjoy here, actually compared to London or New York, it’s the living standards, so you have fantastic public transportation, you have a lot of cultural things going on, for a more or less ok price and the kindergartens, the schools, the universities, are close by and they are state-of-the-art from an education point of view, so for me, it’s the way of living here – it’s easy and secure.

Yes, a lot of people have moved over because of all of these advantages that Switzerland has to offer.

Yes, this is true. It always depends on the company that you’re working for, so when you’re working for an International company, they can be straightforward and quite hard with their staff, so this is not the unique point in Switzerland, you don’t have the security, like you have in Germany, for example. This is a disadvantage. But, the job market, more or less, is quite good. So when you lose your job, and you’re up with your education, it is easier to find another job, an equivalent job, so this is good. You are still able to choose what you want to do.

That’s great. What challenges do you think are ahead for the Swiss economy over the next 5 years?

The strong Swiss franc.  The Head Office is right now under the pressure of 1 franc, 1 euro.  When they started in Switzerland, it was 1 - 1.50, and even the dollar was at 1.2; now it’s around .95, so you had an automatic increase in costs for International companies. This is certainly a challenge – how to speed up with their own process to make it cheaper, to make it faster and slimmer.  The other point is that Switzerland has to keep up the pace of innovation – Switzerland is known for all sorts of innovation – that‘s why the economy is so strong so this also has to keep the pace.

How have you seen individuals have reacted to the challenges with the Swiss franc?

Local people, surprisingly enough, love it, because there is easy shopping in Europe, or vacations become a lot cheaper, so they are not really frightened of how it harms our own economy. Further to that, what Switzerland has to seek going forward, we have to start to train out own experts – you look at the health industry - 60-70% of people working in the health industry are people from abroad, so here, we have to grow from the inside as well to train the people.  To offer them standard salaries – why a lot of foreigners are coming to Switzerland because the salaries are already high – so we have to train the people.  Health is the biggest market coming up for Switzerland as well, since also the population is getting older. I’m one of the baby boomers and we are now coming to retirement age, and we need health, people looking after us – this is a big challenge also for the economy.

How have you seen the role of Finance change over the last 10 years?

The biggest change is the fast growth of information needs, so you want to look at your results from all sorts of aspects: by area, by product code, by the smallest item possible, so in Finance, that means that all these numbers have to be imported with downloads, and not any more with posting as in the old days, manually, so you have a lot of interfaces to maintain. The other part is that it grew in SOX controls, written controls and formalised controls; this was not the case 10 years ago. It started about 10 years ago, but now, it is state-of-the-art –everything you do has to be supported, has to carry on the correct signatures, otherwise it will end up in a deficiency and so, this is much stronger than it was 10 years ago.

What would you say the biggest challenge is for companies based in Switzerland in the current market?

For Swiss-based companies, it’s still the strong Swiss franc – this is certainly one of the biggest ones. For the local companies, it’s the tax benefits foreign companies receive when they move to Switzerland – they have this tax advantage for 5 to 10 years, which the local companies don’t have any more, so they feel the pressure there.

What would you say is the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just starting out in their career in Finance?

I love finance. Finance for me, is a mirror of the company – you see everything when you are working in Finance – all the money coming in, all the expenses, so you know what’s going on. Starting a finance career you have to plan, normally when you are around 22.  Sometimes, you make a career by luck, but others make a career by planning. This is always a question when you have interviews: ‘where do you want to be in 5 years or 10 years?’ I recognise that a lot of people, they say something because they have to – they are trained to say something – but they don’t feel it in their heart.  Try to gain a profound knowledge, rather than start to work as an AP, better start off in a small company where you are responsible for the whole process.  They are exactly the same processes that you will see in even the biggest companies, but when you are head of there or you’re managing the accountants, then the door is actually open to apply for jobs in bigger companies, so plan it.

So does it make out harder to find people in general, do you think?

Today, to recruit people with process knowledge, this is quite hard, because normally, they are starting at bigger companies – they are doing their education in bigger companies, so they are always only doing little parts of the job.  Once you really understand the process, how it goes, how you’re factoring, how you’re billing, how you get the signatures, the whole process in one and you do it for 2-3 years, this is knowledge that you will always be able to use.

From your point of view, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given to date?

To say no. When you are asked to do things, especially in today’s environment, say no. Sometimes management asks you to do postings without the accurate supporting documentation, say no. When you are unhappy, change. When you don’t feel right in your position, or even in your life, when you don’t feel happy, change it. We are lucky, that in Switzerland, we are in the position, economically, for the time being, to say no to a job and go on in life and in career.


*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*

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