XP SERIES Podcast
Welcome, everybody, to the EXP series here at UN 1010. com. For all new listeners in our EXP Series, we share leadership and career experiences from successful leaders around the world. So EXP stands for experience. My name is Udo Neumann. I’m the founder and chief experience officer at UN 1010. com. In today’s episode, which has the title A Career from a CIO in Banking to a Founder in Digital Health, I welcome a good friend of mine, Alexander Raiff. Alexander was the CIO and Global Head of Technology for years in different banks in the United Arab Emirates and is now the founder of Digital in Health. So what makes Alex very unique is his energy and passion for transforming business models and organizations. He did that in Europe, in Asia, and in the Middle East. And I’m looking forward to hearing from him about how he did that, what are his challenges and what were opportunities around his career in this different kinds of regions of the world. So welcome, Alex, and thank you for being my guest. It’s great to have you on the EXP Series, and I’m sure our listeners will also get a lot of positive feedback from your experience. Thank you. And let’s get in it.
Hi, Udo. Thanks for inviting me to be part of your podcast and happy to share some insights, experience, and knowledge from my past and from my presence, and looking forward to a few challenging questions from you.
Let’s get into the question. Alex, your career is a trip from Stuttgart to Beijing to Abu Dhabi and to Dubai, and these are only some top names of cities. There were, for sure, more around that. So a lot of people, me included, have international careers. But I must say yours is a special selection of countries and challenges. I remember some of your career steps when we work closely together. But please, for our listeners, share your bio and, more importantly, where your decision points on your career are and t he different challenging milestones on your career path.
Udo. You mentioned a few of my stations, as you said, where I have been, and you’ve mainly focused that around locations. I’ll try and extend that a bit. And before I go into my bio, the locations were only one part usually the other part was always the location, the culture, the business culture and that location and then the company, the company culture of the company that I was working for in these locations. And I think that was very often for me, decision points where I took the decision to move somewhere. Now, very often I got offered something, sometimes I declined, sometimes I accept it. But before going also into the bio, you said, what are your drivers and decision points? For me, I think the main thing that always drives me, and that’s probably not the same for everybody, but for me, I put that even on my LinkedIn profile as a quote from Albert Einstein which says, I’m neither very clever nor especially gifted. I’m only very, very curious. And a similar thing is for me, right, I was never good at school. I was just average everywhere. I’m not very gifted in anything. The only thing I have is a drive and a curiosity. I always want to know more things, want to learn different things, want to expand my knowledge, my experience. And then usually when a decision point came or when something came, it was either an offer that came from somewhere, and then I had to decide in the current position or in the current assignment, am I still progressing? Am I still satisfying my curiosity or am I not? Or do I agree with the direction that was basically brought to me? Can I identify myself with that or not? And then usually you start to rethink, and you start to rethink whether is it still the progress I want to make? Is it the direction I want to go to? And that’s kind of always the decision points and the drivers, and that has never changed over the last many years. Going back into Bio or where does all of that come from, or how did I end up doing that? Originally, I studied electrical engineering in Germany, graduated as a master’s in what was at that time, what you call digital at that time, which was kind of the technical part of computer science. And that went down to really switching flip flops and basically programming FGPAs and all that stuff. Really the hardcore bit of computer science and all of that was in the last millennium. So at very early stages of this whole thing. Now, after graduating and after basically being in the job, being taken over by the company for whom I did my final thesis, I realized that developing hardware and writing low level software was interesting, but was not going to cut it for me for the whole life. So I went back to university and did kind of the German equivalent of an MBA, which we called Wirtschafts ingenieur. I did half of that in Germany, and as I thought there must be something else, I did half of that in Singapore, which was kind of my first real international stint. That was quite interesting, to be exposed to a different culture, to be exposed to also a different educational environment, which was not what I had experienced so far, studying all my time up to first degree in Germany. So that kind of got me very interested to see whoops, there’s more out there, and there’s much more to learn, there’s much more to experience. And it’s not only the content of your job, your education. There’s a lot around this which is cultural, which is business practices, which is different behaviors. And I sometimes, as I say as I say, I think I leaked blood at that point. Then once I was finished, I basically applied and I signed up with, at that point, shell Trading and Shipping, or Shell, the oil company. But in their trading arm and actually in their It, which was a good combination of my electronics It skills and the MBA business skills I had acquired, at least theoretically, during my university time. So I’d ended up in London at a company called Shell Trading. They were doing the crude and products trading and I was in the It there. Very interesting for me, first as an It consultant, then when this whole thing again, remember, we talk about the last millennium when this whole thing with the Web started. I was very keen to get into that, to understand it. And we developed in house development in house developed a few productivity applications, stuff you take for granted today, stuff you get off the shelf today with Office 365 and others. But that was quite interesting. So I did that for quite some time for them and then also did some infrastructure work for them on the network level, understanding how IP networks work and basically rolling out messaging projects. Again, very interesting. Lots of facets. The thing then was I was in their trainee program but you know what, there was no real progress anymore and there was no real projection for me anymore what comes next and where to go next. So something happened, some old friend called me and said look, there’s this startup here in Germany they’re looking for somebody to basically help drive the development. So I left a very safe job and I left a prescribed career and I jumped into that startup and was doing ecommerce software. Again, very interesting set up there. The whole thing, the software, the whole dream was already sold to a few customers but nothing was really built or not a lot, let me say it this way and somebody had to get the whole things together. There was a very engaged team and a very also knowledgeable and very skilled team. I just needed a bit pulling together a bit of architecture which I hadn’t come across before that, but a bit of systems architecture, how to do these things properly, how to do them in a scalable way. So we built software and that was great. So I was there for three years, it was running quite well, it was a startup, I put some money in unfortunately there was this external event which they called the.com Bubble Burst which hit us unfortunately before the next funding round and we were not yet cash flow positive. We had a good cash flow but we were not yet cash flow positive and that’s when you get in trouble with the startup usually you’re not yet cash flow positive, there’s not enough money anymore and you need to then do something. So we had to restructure the company was a very tough way, we had to downsize things were not going necessarily the trajectory I thought they should be going. We built a great software. We had quite a few customers. We were running the biggest ecommerce site in Europe on Microsoft basis, but still at the end became a decision point when I got an offer from a company called Daimler Mercedes from Stuttgart, which is when I met Udo basically. And that sounded actually interesting. So I had to rethink. Do I want to keep spending my time in the startup environment or do I want to move back into Big Corp and operate there? And at that point I felt I could learn more by moving back into big corporation. Plus, in all fairness, I had two little kids. You need to bring the money home in order to have the food on the table. So I switched. I switched to Daimler at that point and was then under Odor, responsible for the cluster central Europe as a cluster CIO with quite a few group companies there running largely vehicle finance on the retail side and also vehicle finance a bit on the corporate side for the dealer financing. Interestingly enough, many of them had all the same problems. They were engaged in some transformation programs. They were engaged in some system migrations, and they were largely, how should I say, tackled only technically but not organizationally. They were very often conceptualized purely technically and neglected the whole organizational piece and how to get such a thing implemented or changed, because the technical part is just one part, it’s an important part, and it needs to be done well, but it’s not the only part. So cut the long story short. I ended up going around Europe trying to b ring such projects back on track basically or to run them completely. And somehow, in some cases I was successful. In some cases you couldn’t fix them. And that was all very interesting. And I kept learning. I kept learning system approaches, I kept learning about different organizations. I kept learning about different financial products which I had not come across before. And as it is my kind of personal endeavor, I want to know not only how do things work technically, but also how do they work conceptually. So I wanted to learn how does a leasing work, how does a loan work, how does that get calculated, how does that get accounted for, how does that get amortized and so on, how does that get serviced, how do you interact with a customer? And within this project, I had lots of opportunities to ask people who know how this works. So that went on for a while. Then somebody realized that you could send me into some burning platforms, and the next burning platform was Beijing at that point in China, where Daimler Mercedes were just building a new financial services company at that point, which I think become a bank in the meantime. And they needed somebody to basically make sure this thing goes live properly and then is operational and can be built out with further products, further systems and so on. So we packed the container and went to Beijing with the whole family. That was interesting. Completely different culture, completely new environment. Was it challenging? Yes. But you know what? I think it was great. It was a great experience. So that went on for about two years. I was just about to renew my contract for another year because there was more things to come on that side that the company was growing like mad and additional systems for additional products needed to be implemented. I enjoyed that very much. And then I got another call saying look, you just have to go over the water into Japan. There’s a few issues with a few of the financial service companies there because there is three. And then there is the vehicles import side and the parts logistics side. So quite a few things need to be done there. Can you please go? So I looked at it and said, Japan was never in Japan. Don’t know that culture. Really heard lots of things. But anyway, so again, packed the container, moved the family to Japan. I was there for three years doing replacement projects, doing refurbishment projects and doing, I think, still the only demerger of my career where Daimler and Chrysler or Mercedes and Chrysler basically demerged. Very interesting exercise if you ever get to do one of those again, for three years. Doing system replacements and architecture overhauls, landscape overhauls there. First time I did virtualization there. Very interesting. And with that one got exposed to let me call it what we call cloud today. At least on the technology side. So that was quite interesting. Then I got called back into Germany to basically take care of a few things. One was the home built core system that they were running out of Milton Keynes. Plus, there was a project going on in Detroit. Plus, moving the financial services headquarter from Berlin to Stuttgart and so on and so forth. And that was then for me a bit, how should I say, awkward. I didn’t know really where was this going? And my boss had changed. Didn’t like that guy. So then all of a sudden, a head hunter came and said look, there is this actually, it was two things happening at the same time. I had literally two job offers at the same time which is very rare. One was to go to London and the other one was to go to this weird place called Abu Dhabi where there was a bank who needed somebody to do what I used to do overhaul the whole thing. I then thought, London. I was already my son was born there, so why not try something new? Let’s go to Abu Dhabi. So we went to Abu Dhabi. That was, for me, probably one of the bigger challenges, because I was all of a sudden not only responsible for some part of the banking business, but they were a universal bank. And they literally had everything that you can think of in banking, from retail conventional Islamic over SME, to corporate banking to brokerage, to wealth management to private banking. You name it, they had it. And the whole thing was pretty underserved on the It side I should say I was really surprised on which footprint you can run a bank. So everything needed to be done. That was down from the data centers, from the networks, from the server landscape up to the application landscape to the whole application architecture. Replacing core systems, replacing payment systems, building out the channels which were not there before and then basically ramping them up, putting them onto a footprint so you can run the whole thing was quite interesting. And that went actually it took me about six years or so to refurbish that whole shop. And just at the moment when it would have become boring there was another challenge which was three banks merging. So I went into a three -bank merger and got the task to kind of get that done on the It side which again was a very interesting one. Never done a three -way, never done such a merger. Then just right in the middle of that everything was designed, set up, was running. Well actually, at that point there was a personal event in my life which was my daughter had an offer to join the United World College basically and well that would have meant for her a change in the location for her last two years in the diploma program and she was prepared to go to boarding. But at the same time I had a few health issues and I had done this for quite a while so I thought maybe time for a change. Maybe time to retire. Now I can probably while I talk about this I can hear Udo laughing in the background alex and retiring. And that was really my goal. I had to fix a few health issues, which I did and together with my daughter, my wife we then went to Thailand and try to recover health -wise plus enable my daughter to finish her school there. And I really wanted to opt out but then obviously as it was still within that merger somebody needed to finish that. So my boss came to me and said you need to find me a solution. So basically for the best part of a year I was shuttling back and forth between Thailand and Abu Dhabi in order to pull this merger over the line, which we then successfully did. We merged the systems and everything worked all well and I left then like two days or three days after the final merger and after the final go live of the systems I boarded a plane, flew back to Thailand. I think I landed one day. The next day the airport was locked for over a year due to COVID. So I was stranded in Thailand, which was actually quite nice. I fixed my health issues and then things started to happen. I really wanted to retire but didn’t pan out like this as it was COVID and as everybody was kind of now all of a sudden accepting remote working, I got quite a few people who called me who were aware that this guy Alex has nothing to do. So I got lots of things. Can you have a look at this one? Can you please check out that one, can you whatever? I even went into some consulting engagements because nobody wanted you on site anyway at that point in time. So I did a lot of stuff, remote and that’s how all of this started. I got into some startups who were asking for advice and some of them were so interesting that I decided I want to even put some money into them. So I started what you would call angel investment. Angel investing for no better word. So I started to put money into it, put my knowledge into it, tried to coach a few of these founders and that became really interesting and that went on until kind of COVID was over, until my daughter graduated and then we decided that probably Thailand is a bit too calm. So we came back to the UAE, still had an apartment in Dubai, moved into that one and then again things started to happen. I was very busy with my startups on the fintech and Rectech side and on the crypto asset side and all of a sudden another bank here, local bank, came and said look, we’re looking for somebody who can inflict the change or also just fix up things. So I started with them and that was also very interesting. Again, another universal bank, lots of projects in trouble which needed to be on track, a landscape that needs overhaul, a lot of work, so that was going on. While that happened, I met an old friend of mine, actually, he was the first guy I’d ever hired and we compared notes and he had some ideas, and out of that came a startup. So we threw our ideas together, we threw our concepts together and at the end we started a startup. We put quite a lot of money in and now I’m running a startup. I’m still in the bank as a consultant basically to help them finish off all the things that I tried to on track and that I started with them that I needed to finalize but couldn’t because I can’t do two full time jobs at least not in how I’m usually engaging . So I’m still working with them as a consultant and on the other side I have a startup with a bunch of friends where we are trying to do something completely different. And again, that’s the story for now. Let’s see where we’re going from here.
Alex, very interesting listening to your story and yeah, let’s move into another topic, please share with us some career highlights. There are highlights in every career, whether promotion or changes in a professional environment. I know you stepped out of your comfort zone several times and started in completely new environments where you needed to learn not only new business rules, but also new cultures. So please describe a moment or a decision in your career that you consider a major success or highlight. What was it and why did you select that and share that with us now? What was the special moment in that decision?
Okay, before I come to moment of decision, which was a major success or which I would deem a major success, I have to go back a bit to how you framed the whole question when you said stepping out of your comfort zone and so on and so forth. Actually, that concept doesn’t exist for me. There is no comfort zone. There is a boring zone and there is an exciting zone. The comfort zone or the boring zone is for me always when things get repetitive, when it’s always the same, when I’m doing things again and again that I’ve done before, there’s no excitement in there because I’m not learning anything anymore. I’m a change manager. And as a change manager, you’re always looking for change and not for continuing the same thing in a slightly different fashion in order to achieve another 1% efficiency. A change manager lives and breathes change, like change meaning you take something from a stable state via an unstable state to the next stable state. Now, that’s why whenever something becomes repetitive for me or comfortable, time to find something new. So it’s exciting again. And that goes together with what I said earlier that I’m always trying to learn. I’m always excited about new things and I’m always curious to find other things coming back then to your question like when is something successful or what is a major success? For me, I don’t want to go into individual ones, but it was largely around some turnarounds which was often around either system implementation or about whole transformations. When they go live in a bank, that’s usually a pretty tricky piece because the bank never stops. And that means that whenever you’re operating, you can’t take the things down. You have to change the engine while the race is running and that is usually pretty complex and usually a few things could potentially go wrong because it’s complex and not everybody will know everything at any point in time that can happen. So I think such migrations, let me call it this way, largely of core banking systems, of payment systems. They are what I would consider major successes or highlights because not only because of the technical go live, because things going smooth, also because of all the excitement around it, because usually if the thing is set up properly and if you’re running it properly, you have a very good team spirit. You have a team which is basically doing the utmost to get things done and to do them successfully and in quality and in time. And that is definitely one thing when you then go through that with a team and things go live successfully and they cut over successfully because that’s a major achievement not only for one person, but usually for the team. The other thing is that usually in such exercises or very often, you have to take very unconventional decisions because normally not everything goes to plan. And when not everything goes to plan, usually you have to very quickly grapple, okay, what’s the situation? Who can help me in the concept? And then you have to take the tough decisions usually very quickly. You don’t have time to mull over it and do all your academical research over it. You have to go by experience, by trust to people who know some fields that you don’t know yourself and then basically take the decisions very quickly. And I think I draw a lot of energy out of such events and that’s why I also consider them as major successes when things are then going live. Actually another one which people would usually not associate with success is when things have gone majorly wrong, when disasters have struck and you need to bring things back into a proper run, into a proper control. Give an example. I had one event where there was a major, actually, power failure in a data center which is not supposed to happen and literally the whole bank went down and we had to bring the thing back up in actually in no time because customers were waiting to get served on the channels. And as you can assume, this is not a very easy exercise because when things are down, some things are coming back up properly, some things don’t come back up properly. You have to take lots of decisions at all based on experience and based on a few good people you have around you as coworkers and advisors in such case. And I draw a lot of energy out of such events, even though they are actually negative events. But once you solve them, once you get things back up running ideally in a very quick time. This is for me also a major highlight because it shows you that, number one, you have the ability to basically correlate tasks and you have the team to basically help you to get the right information at the right time, in the right depths in order to make the right decisions. And again, it’s a mixture of knowledge, skills, experience and people, teams usually and team spirit. Without a team, such things can never be pulled. And again, most of such successes that I would say are successes I like and I would like to drill on is all such go lives or such major fixes after a disaster struck somewhere I know to be done conventional. I know this is not what everybody would think is an exciting moment, but for me that’s what cuts it usually.
Now, I don’t want to make it too easy for my guests here, Alex. So here comes a tough question. Which decision in your career was the toughest one, why was it tough? And for sure, we want to know, what was the outcome?
Well, which decision was the toughest one? That’s actually very easy to answer. There’s only one thing coming to mind and that was the most difficult one and remains the most difficult one that I had to ever decide. That was actually during the times with our ecommerce startup, we were actually doing great. We were building software, it was going well, we had customers, we rolled out, we had an excellent team and we were working our backsides off, right? So we’re working with the team, like day and night over the weekends to pull things off, to build things, to get them live and so on. And that was great. Unfortunately, there was this external event called the.com bubble bust when all of a sudden funding dried up. We were not yet cash flow positive, so the company couldn’t fund itself because again, we still were burning money rather than earning enough because we were still in the build phase. So it was actually all going to plan. The thing that was unplanned is that we would not be able to basically match the next funding route and get enough money in to basically fund us up to full profitability. So what happens in such case? There’s two choices, right? And by the way, that’s the easy part of the equation. The choice is, do you let the company go bust and basically all the people lose their job and all the assets that were built and everything that you have done so far was for a toss, or do you reduce your workforce in order to cut cost? So the decision was, again, the easy part of the decision was, does the whole thing go bust or do we cut half of the workforce out? That one was simple, right? Because rather than letting 100% go, you let 50% go. The difficult part is whom will you let go? And you then have to take decisions on a personal basis to say, like, who can stay, who can go? Whom do we actually need as a skeleton group to continue the company and to continue the build? Who has families? Who is hardest hit by this decision? It’s not like making one or two non performers redundant. It’s like you will have to release a few people who have become close friends, who have worked with you day and night through, who are part of the team. So you rip the team apart, you rip the spirit apart, you release people who you don’t want to release because they’ve done a fabulous job with you and they’ve worked with you again day and. Night through to pull things off. Yeah, that is probably the hardest decision I had to take. Who are the ones who have to leave, who are the ones who can stay? And then basically communicating that to these people. And again, it’s not just like a person, a number, a staff number or something. It’s much easier actually in a big company when there’s lots of severance packages and blah, blah, blah in a small company in a startup that struggles for survival. This is a very personal story and it’s a very sad personal story. I hope for all the ones and maybe one of these guys and girls hears this now, I hope I’ve handled it okay for everybody. Even though it was a very negative decision and it was a cut for quite a lot of people, I still hope that I handled it very humane and personal and explained to everybody as to why and as to what. And again, what’s the toughest decision, don’t want to go through it again if I can avoid it.
As a helping or guiding question here, I would say did you have a plan for your career? Was it all by accident? Was it the roles, the job itself or the challenges? What motivated you for always take a next step? How did your family support you in that? Because without that, it’s not possible. And I know from my own experience this is not always easy for you, our wives, and our kids moving around the world, and that starts a new challenge, and family follows. So please feel free. But in a short reflection, try to bring some main decisions and building blocks for our listeners so that they may be prepared when they are in front of their decisions.
Okay? These are quite a few questions all merged into one now from the overarching topic like development and success and how that all happened in my case and what I could potentially recommend to somebody first, I would try and dissect the whole thing a bit into, let me call it personal development and career development. I think you can have great personal development without ever forwarding your career and vice versa. You can have an excellent career but not at all develop. Personally, I think the real story is if you can combine the two, that is the best thing you can do from my perspective. Now, on the personal development side, I can only speak for myself and there are probably different paths. For me, it was always that curiosity, that eagerness to learn, find new things, go into a bit uncharted territory that kept me going. And again, that’s for me, I’m not sure if this is the same for everybody, but it definitely helps if you’re very curious and it definitely helps if you can take the things that you’re curious about into your work life and into your business career. I’m always saying also to my kids, you don’t have to be the fastest one. You don’t have to be the best one, you don’t have to be the brightest one. You have to be there when the others have given up and then pull the thing to the end now, and that has always worked for me, by the way. Or you pick up things that others couldn’t complete. It’s difficult. But if you’re curious and if you try and understand why things fail, if you understand how things should be done properly, if you plan them properly, it will always work. Don’t fight losing battles, though, right? If you’re in the losing battle, better get out. But if you see that there is a path to success in that battle, even though that battle is a hard one, always go and fight it till the end. And usually, if you’re successful where others fail, that gives you a much better trajectory also on your career side. So that’s more the personal side, on the career development side, for me, was there a planned career path? Yes and no. On the one hand, there was always a path forward. There was always some ideas, about what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go. So it’s always better to have a plan and then change it, rather than to have no plan and walk through your career and through your life without a plan. But things do change, circumstances change, and when they do change, you need to act or react or decide not to react. So was it all by accident? No, probably also not. Again, I think let me go back to my first interview that I had, my interview that I had in the assessment center for my first job at at Shell. I was actually interviewed by the Shell CIO in Germany and he asked me the usual question, where do you want to be in ten years? And I thought, I want to have your seat in ten years. Obviously, I didn’t tell him that. I was too shy at that point in time. I was not bold enough. But I should have actually I should have told him that, but I felt this was not appropriate at the time. Was that the plan? Actually, there was no clear plan how to get there, there was no clear plan how to get into a CIO seat. But there was this ambition. And I would say the most important thing more than having a plan is what is your ambition and which steps can you take to get a bit closer towards your ambition. So again, it’s not about having a laid -out career path for your life for the next 10, 20, 30 years. I think that’s not going to work today. Technologies, things, and environments are changing too fast for you to have a mapped -out career for your next two digit years. Timeline. Again, you should have a mbition. You should know where you want to go. You should be open when new things happen. And even if you have a clear path for the next five or ten years, if new opportunities arise, you should be prepared to rethink and at least reevaluate so that it’s basically coming back. The jobs that we learned back in university, at least for me or the job I’m doing today, didn’t exist in that form and shape as I learned it in university. And I think that applies to all of us, especially today. Things develop faster than we think and they’re going to be jobs in five or ten years that nobody knows about today. So you better prepared for that. You better prepare to keep learning on your personal development side, on your professional side. You better evaluate when opportunities are coming. Now opportunities are coming in two flavors from my perspective. One is, let me call it positive opportunities. So somebody comes to you, says, look I have this job, I have this thing. Would you be interested? Never say no in the first instance, always look at it, always talk to people. And very important. Actually I learned that a bit too late in my career because I thought I would stay in the big companies where I was until either a very unexpected opportunity came or until things went sour one way or another. What I’m trying to say is never get stuck in a predescribed corporate career in the big corp where you a lways stay open and always network. Network, network, network with people outside. Keep contact, talk to people, and understand what they are up to. It’s very important, especially for people like me. I’m an engineer by trade. I would say originally I was probably an introvert. Very difficult for me to go out, just meet people and talk about what are they doing business wise? How is this working, learning from them and so on. But I can only emphasize it’s important, it’s important, it’s important. Network. Invest the time. The more time you invest, the more interesting things will come to you over time. Again, this is not something I network with a guy or a person today and tomorrow, he comes with a job. To me, that’s not going to happen. But networking is a long -term game, and you have to be in it for the long run. You build networks, you lays with people, you understand what they’re doing. You try and read up on how is this working, what they’re doing. You try and learn from them. As long as you’re always keen in learning, networking always works. And the more network you have, the more opportunities will arise for you. That’s one. So that’s the positive opportunities. And again, when an opportunity comes, never say no in the first place. Always have a look at it, talk about the details, understand what this opportunity is about and then sit back, reflect and say is that the right thing for me to do at this point in time? Then you have negative opportunities. Your job runs sour for whatever reason, your boss changes. Your company is an M and A exercise and lays off people. Things are happening and nobody is safe from that. Now, if these things happen, I think I can only give you one advice. If you get kicked in the ass, take the impulse forward and run with it and do something with it. Don’t get stuck, right? If these things happen again, somebody kicks you in the backside, use the movement forward and run with it, right? And speed up. Get things done, find something new, network even more, go into your contacts, find out what can be done. Where are other opportunities. Don’t take the first best thing. Be very conscious but also negative. Changes in your work environment can have very positive effects. Sometimes we all get what we would call the comfort zone. I would say the boring zone. These things do happen and some of us get lifted out of that comfort or boring zone by getting kicked and you don’t want to be in that position. But when it happens you need to be prepared for it and you need to know how to deal with it. Don’t stagnate, don’t procrastinate, always move. I think that’s what I would have to say in the whole thing. I can give you many examples but I think that would probably get us into too long a debate for this podcast. Udo, you mentioned one other thing, which is family and moves, international moves and all of that actually a very important thing and there is no recipe one size fits all. I think the first thing I’ve seen people having international careers and having their families back in the old place and then moving around a lot, flying around a lot, working remotely, working in several places, kind of living on the plane very successfully and also with their families very successfully and it has worked out for them. I’ve seen more people who are basically where the whole family always moved. And I think in that respect, what makes or breaks the one or the other model is basically your partner. If your partner is up for a move, your partner is ready to basically change the environment, take the challenge, build social networks new in a new place in a different culture. There’s nothing better like it, but it’s not for every relationship. So relationships can break over that and you’ll have to make a very conscious decision when these things get offered. Are you and your partner ready for that? You think you can live through it or not? If not, and your relationship is precious, don’t do it if you think it can work out. And again, sometimes you need to plunge in and take the challenge and see that it works out. I would say always do it. Udo, you were talking about kids, I mean your kids yourself. I have kids. I think we are very often not moving because of our kids. I think kids take a very positive thing out of moving. Getting into new environments, seeing different things, having different experiences, going into different schools, being in different places, in different cultures. My claim is kids will ultimately always benefit from it. Kids will n ot benefit from it if you basically orchestrate the whole thing. Right? That’s why I would always say the most important thing is is your family stable? Is your spouse with you in the whole thing? And I would say even moves can have, and in most cases, I have seen, had very, very positive effects on families because the cohesion within the family gets much stronger, at least in my experience. And many people whom I have seen, I would even claim that for people who have moved a lot or who have lived their life on the move, the divorce rate is probably much lower, at least from my observation. I don’t have a real stat for that. So family for me is always a very important one and I think it’s more positive for most families. Again, always, as long as your partner is interested and is ready to do it again. Could I give any advice for your career? Probably not. I could only give you the advice. Do what you love and what you’re interested in. That’s a very important one because without that you will never have a career and always be open for new things. Network, keep your eyes open, evaluate new things, never say no in the first place. Be very conscious. And by the way, there is no wrong decisions when it comes to career moves. As long as you take into account all the information that you can get and that you have at the point when you make the decision and you make a rational decision to move or not to move, the decision is always right. And in most cases, I would say in all cases can’t remember who coined that term. It’s a two -way door, right? This is not if you go forward, you can’t go back, you can go forward, you can go sidewalk sometimes you also can go back. And by the way, sometimes it’s even worth evaluating a proposal that somebody makes you for a new job. And if you don’t really want to move, bring that proposal back to your old employer. What happens to many people, from my perspective, is that they get stuck in their place because they’re good at what they’re doing. Now, obviously, your boss in most cases doesn’t want you to move then because he has a very strong workhorse in his team. Why would he want that workhorse to leave and go elsewhere? Not all bosses are like this. Many bosses are looking at the career development of their people. But many bosses are actually, especially if they are not themselves strong in the topic they are managing. They are looking to keep the strong horses in their stable rather than letting them move and letting them have their own career. So always keep that in mind. And when you get a good offer and you want to stay, maybe bring the offer back to your employer and say, this is what I have on the table. Can you do something for me? In my current company, sometimes worth doing needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s not working in every company, depending on the company culture. But I would claim 70% it can give you a very positive move, I think. Yeah, that was a long talk for that topic. I hope I can give some insights, at least from my perspective. And again, there’s no right and or wrong. This is my mantra, my way, how I’ve managed things. You may have a completely different way, which may be even more successful than what I have done.
Alex, a very important question is, what is digital health? We all know what health means and how important it is, but interesting to learn from you what digital health means. You told me you are working on an idea to transform the digital health business and found ed Digital in Health. So can you share your passion, what it’s all about, and how this idea came to you? Was it your network who helped in that area, or how did you start a new venture? I know you cannot share everything at the moment, but I would love to le arn more about digital health.
Okay, number one, do what you’re interested in, stay curious, and learn. There’s nothing better than managing a field that you understand to the largest extent. Number two, whatever you do, do it properly to the best of your knowledge, to the best of your ability. Number three, network, network, network. Stay in touch with people, liaise with people, understand what they are doing and how they are ticking, and keep exchanging ideas with them. Number four, be open, and look at opportunities. If they present themselves, don’t say no immediately. Even if you’re comfortable in a job, even if you like your job, always evaluate what’s being brought to you and then take the decision. Number five, if you get kicked, if you get kicked out of a job, if things don’t go well, take the forward impulse and move. Don’t be stagnant. Number six, you don’t have to be the fastest, the best, the brightest. You have to be there when the others have flunked out, have failed or have given up, and you can carry it out to the end. The last one. Number seven, work in a team. Get , solicit, and honest feedback because the boss is not always right and there’s always something to be learned from feedback.
Alex, thank you so much for making the time for this interview. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot of new things. Thank you also for sharing your experience openly with our listeners. This is all about what the EXP series is. Really a lot of valuable learning, and you opened a big box with great personal career advice. Thank you for that. I wish you all the best with Digital in Health, and let me know if you need an advisor who helps and overcomes some challenges. You have my contact details, no question about that. I see you either in Dubai or somewhere else in the world. Have a great trip back home, and see you soon. Bye.
Thanks, Udo. We will definitely stay in touch about Digital Health and ot her things that we’re doing. And to everybody who has listened to this podcast until this point, one other word of advice from my side listen to as many opinions as you can get. Listen to how people have mastered their careers, their trajectory, and their personal development. But in the end, digest it. Digest it, think about it, then create your own way. Usually, no two ways are the same, no two problems are the same, and no two solutions are the same. So you have to learn, digest, and then basically make your own solution out of it. At least, that would be my advice. Thank you.