To implement the digital agenda successfully, TAKKT is taking on additional digital talent, among other measures. Since February, six new recruits have started the "Corporate Digital Entrepreneurship" programme. Cornelius von Schönau is one of them. In an interview, he reveals the obstacles he had to overcome to get in, what's in store for him over the 18 months and how unique the programme is.
How did you find out about the programme?
In the autumn, I did an internship at TAKKT AG in the newly created "Digital Transformation" division under Senior Digital Advisor Peter Bruhn. The new programme was being designed there at that time together with the Unternehmer-Schmiede, a joint venture between the consultancies etventure and Kienbaum. I later applied for it.
What was the application process like?
First of all, I submitted my application with a covering letter and CV. Then I had a Skype interview with two employees of the Unternehmer-Schmiede. This was followed by a Viasto interview in the third round, which was essentially a video interview on the computer: an employee of the Unternehmer-Schmiede welcomed me on the screen and explained to me in the first video sequence that questions would then be displayed, which I would have to answer – after I'd had a bit of time to think – in one minute. And then: pow! Next question. It took a bit of getting used to, but it was fun to take part. Everyone who got through to the next round was invited to a candidates' day and had to work through three case studies. There was also a personality test and an IQ test. After that the selections were made.
Did you have a long, nervous wait between one round and the next?
Although there were quite a lot of hurdles to clear, the selection process took only about three weeks in total. Peter Bruhn then rang me one Friday just before Christmas to tell me that I had been successful. I was absolutely thrilled! As far as I know, there aren't any other programmes like this. I have searched in vain for similar schemes.
What do you think is special about it?
As the name "Corporate Digital Entrepreneurship" suggests, TAKKT expects us to set up digital projects that promote and help to shape digitalisation through flexible working practices and proactive entrepreneurial action. That's also reflected in the choice of Corporate Digital Entrepreneurs. What we all have in common is that we like to initiate things and we have the courage to take responsibility for projects. The two Americans among us have already set up small companies of their own. Of us Germans, one worked very successfully on a freelance basis in the areas of search engine marketing and Facebook advertising while still at university. Another held various positions of responsibility at start-ups. But apart from our entrepreneurial spirit and digital mindset, we aren't like any stereotypes. We're completely different.
When did you get the chance to find that out?
In April there was a kick-off week in Stuttgart, where we were able to do an insight potential analysis. This type of self-assessment is a massive help in getting to know your own motivations and preferences better. And we were trained in how to find out other people's as well. At the end, each of us received a tower made up of four different-coloured blocks. In mine, red was on top, which means, for example, that I like to make long to-do lists and then tick the items off. I don't think a single colour combination came up more than once in our round.
What else was on the agenda in the kick-off week?
We had a two-day workshop in which we had the chance to learn more from the Unternehmer-Schmiede about the innovation method of design thinking, with fun activities arranged during our free time. Another highlight was the introduction to the digitalisation strategy by Felix Zimmermann. The CEO is passionate about this subject and talks about it with great enthusiasm. The programme is also very close to his heart. He called on us to set up our own projects, so that entrepreneurship wouldn't just be in the name of the programme. We have to familiarise ourselves with the work our colleagues have done to date and learn to assess it, so that we can then ask: Couldn't we also do this in a more modern way? A vital part of the digital transformation process relates to the corporate culture. This is where we can really play a part.
What should your learning journey look like?
The 18-month programme is based on the design thinking process. We therefore had a two-day workshop at the beginning, in which we participated in the various process steps ourselves. Then we were dispatched to our first stations, for example in online marketing or corporate development at TAKKT or, in my case, to Schacht One. At these stations, we have to observe and get to understand the business, before we develop, test and validate our own ideas in the second six-month period. And in the final third, we can and should launch our own projects.
So you don't receive any specific guidelines in this regard?
We don't, actually. Apart from a joint homework assignment at the beginning, in which we are meant to internalise design thinking, so that the method becomes ingrained in us. The question is: What could a collaboration platform look like on which all TAKKT divisions work together in future? We have to interview colleagues about their problems and needs and present our findings in the summer. Another highlight of the programme is a visit to Silicon Valley with the two Management Board members Claude Tomaszewski and Dirk Lessing, which marks the start of the three-month stay in the USA for the four Germans among us.
That sounds like it will be a real highlight...
Definitely. Although my stint at Schacht One has already been one of the highlights for me. That gave me a really great start. There's a very inspiring corporate culture at Schacht One that really promotes good performance. You're encouraged to try things out and risk making mistakes. It's not about getting something perfect right away, but setting up promising projects, daring to try new things and learning from mistakes. Speed is also very important at Schacht One. And you have the chance to work with the best technology and state-of-the-art programmes. The principle is always: If you have an idea or if someone else has an idea, try to build on this idea and don't just dismiss it straight away. There are a thousand reasons why something might not work, but why don't we say "Yes, and?" instead of "Yes, but!"?
Was there anything you had to get used to?
The short decision-making channels and the fact that at Schacht One you don't work in a line, but almost exclusively in projects. It's about achieving milestones. How you do that is up to the team concerned. Naturally the quality has to be right. It goes without saying that everyone gives their best, because they want to make something happen. That's also very important to me personally. I want to get involved. And at TAKKT AG I have the opportunity and the freedom to do that.
Cornelius von Schönau (28) studied economics and philosophy in Freiburg. That's where he met his wife, with whom he has two children aged 3 and 1. The family currently lives in Meerbusch.