What does strategic alignment look like at ZEISS? Where is there potential for the company to develop in different markets? And what does it mean to coordinate and communicate strategic projects? We sat down with Markus Birkhold, Project Manager in Strategic Corporate Development, to discuss these questions and learn more about his job.
Markus, you have been working at Strategic Corporate Development at ZEISS since March 2017. Why did you decide to work at ZEISS?
A combination of different factors caused me to apply to ZEISS. This includes the company’s exciting, diverse portfolio, which is ultimately reflected in employees’ jobs and the broad range of development opportunities available to them. For me, it’s also important to work in an international environment or even at a site outside Germany. ZEISS was and is able to offer me all this. I was also impressed with the overall setup at ZEISS. With the Foundation as the sole owner, it is possible to consistently pursue very long-term projects. At the same time, ZEISS is also an innovation powerhouse. It’s great when employees, no matter their position, identify strongly with their employer’s products and solutions and can get excited about these.
What exactly does Strategic Corporate Development do?
At ZEISS, Strategic Corporate Development assists the Executive Board with developing the company strategy and the business groups with its implementation. There are 15 of us divided into four teams. Each team focuses on a different topic: Corporate Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A), Market Intelligence and Strategic Projects. Working closely with the business groups and corporate functions, my colleagues and I provide answers to strategically important questions, such as how the company can ultimately become more efficient.
What are the duties of each individual team?
Our strategists handle inquiries from the Executive Board, provide a strategic forecast to the M&A team, steer and support strategic projects from the individual business groups, and act as sparring partners for the different areas during the annual strategy process. The M&A team focuses on purchasing target companies and the accompanying project management, including the search for potential acquisitions. Our colleagues also assist with preparing and conducting the negotiations. Market Intelligence monitors the markets where the ZEISS Group is currently active and identifies new sources of revenue and development potential.
What exactly does a project manager do as part of Strategic Corporate Development at ZEISS?
Project managers develop strategic alternatives, assess these, arrange the necessary structuring and ensure that all projects approved by the Executive Board proceed according to plan. This often involves different departments. I myself initiate, coordinate, assess and communicate strategic projects. Moreover, I also analyze current markets along with future market scenarios based on our customers’ perspective. I then evaluate the resulting opportunities for ZEISS together with my team.
What do you particularly enjoy about your job?
I do a lot of different things. This also means that I focus on all four ZEISS segments, rather than just one. The goal is to act as an intermediary between the segments and leverage synergies. I also work on advancing digital change and am involved in the annual strategy process at ZEISS.
Where do you see yourself in a couple of years?
I am taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by working in Strategic Corporate Development at ZEISS to get to learn as much as possible about the different business groups and to gain insights into other corporate functions and service areas. Over the long term, switching to a business group or different department is a possibility, such as by working closely together as part of a joint project. I could also envision career advancement within my current area, such as becoming Senior Manager or switching to one of the other teams.
Thank you for this interview. Before you go, could you complete this sentence? “What fascinates me about ZEISS is…”
…the incredible range of interesting customers and technical and economic questions I deal with as part of my job.