Benjamin Schroeder, SVP & Head of Communications at Siemens: "Mentoring is key to developing future talent"
Benjamin Schroeder brings over 15 years of marketing and communications experience to his role as SVP and Head of Communications and Government Affairs at Siemens Middle East. Following the success of our Global Power Book #PRProSeries, we continue the series exploring the careers of the most powerful communications pros around the world today. Tamara Bullock, Director of Corporate Recruitment at Hanson Search MENA, sits down with Benjamin to find out how he made it in the industry.
How did you begin your career in communications?
When I started my career I was working in business development and sales. It gave me great insight into our customers and clients. Every day I would see customers and ask them what they needed to help them achieve their business objectives, enabling me to understand the real benefits of our products. One day I organized a major customer campaign, through an event, which received great feedback. Shortly afterwards I was asked to take on the challenge of building a new marketing and communications team in China. I accepted, worked closely with the CEO, and eight years later I’m still in the communications and marketing arena.
How different is the communications industry in China versus the Middle East?
Language is key. In China, everything is done in Mandarin. You need to have local campaigns. It’s not good enough to simply take the global campaign and translate it. You need to understand your local market and invest in research. The same goes for the Middle East. This is certainly different from Europe, where it is possible to use one campaign for many countries. Each big market, like the U.S., Middle East, Europe or China, requires its own local campaign with core targeted messages.
What’s been the biggest career challenge for you?
I would say adapting to change. I change jobs every few years within Siemens, and work across different continents, so it’s important for me to listen to my environment and teams. I have to really understand the local market requirements and be ready to adapt. That kind of professional attitude enables me to create and deliver communications for my target groups.
Do you have a professional role model?
I am inspired by my brother. He’s a bit older than me and has always been an excellent role model. In general, great leaders inspire me. Those who give direction and challenge their staff, supporting development and enabling them to create trust.
Would you advise young talent interested in communications to join Siemens?
Siemens gives you an opportunity to work for a company which truly has a purpose. We are making things that matter and have a tangible impact on society. We do not sell ice cream, even though we all love it. For example, in the UAE, Siemens technology is responsible for generating around 40% of the electricity and 70% of the water production is supported by our equipment. The things we do have a real impact on people’s lives. Working for us means that you can go home and be proud of the achievements of your company. If you communicate with customers about their relationship with Siemens, you’ll find they are also very positive about it.
What does the day of the CCO look like?
I try to go running every morning, take the kids to school and then head off to the office between 8am and 9am. On Mondays, I usually have a call with all global heads of communications and then a regular weekly call with my regional heads of communications. This is followed by interaction with my team, internal stakeholders, our partner agencies and attending key events. I have an office, but I usually sit at the desk shared by my team. We all work in communications after all and you can’t communicate from behind a closed door. I’m responsible for 15 countries across the Middle East, so I do travel a lot. Living out of a suitcase is one of my fortes!
Do you enjoy teaching younger colleagues? Is there a special process for up-skilling young talent within Siemens?
It’s about learning together and from each other. We have a structured mentoring programme at Siemens. I’m actually mentoring people from all over the world including China, Turkey, and Germany. We have a global training network for talents and I make sure that my team in the Middle East is well represented. People development is one of the core pillars of my job. I’ve been with Siemens since 2002 and developed within it, and I’ve seen first-hand that the opportunities are huge. We have the chance to change businesses, whether its energy, healthcare, or technology and explore the company’s global footprint.
How do you cope with digital (r)evolution?
We’re not just coping – we’re driving it. We launched our first purely digital campaign ‘Ingenuity for life’ a few weeks ago, but the real digital revolution starts from within. Siemens has its own communication platform, like an internal Facebook, through which 370,000 people exchange ideas, share content and get to know each other. We have introduced projects where we don’t work with emails at all, only through new digital platforms. Personally, I’m very active on social media – I go on Twitter and LinkedIn at least five times a day.
How can we direct young nationals towards the private sector and communications industry? What is your message to them?
GCC nationals have an amazing opportunity to work in communications because they know and understand the local culture better than anyone else. They know what is important for their market and they speak the local language. The Emirati or Qatari people I have met are well spoken and understand the local context. We have GCC nationals working in my team across the region and I’m very proud of them. —
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