It’s All Down to Communication - Wacker Chemie AG


It’s All Down to Communication

Timo Hagemeister is having lunch with with five Chinese colleagues. While today the German has opted for salad and a sandwich for a change, Jessie, Jason, Tony, Kevin and Ryan are having rice, vegetables, meat and soup for lunch. Mealtimes are sacred for his team – something Timo Hagemeister had to learn quickly when he came to Shanghai in 2011 to reorganize silicones R&D in China. For instance, a meeting over lunch is unthinkable.

Dr. Hagemeister (second from left) and his Shanghai team actively promote intercultural dialog between Germany and China.

“It was also a venture into new territory in other respects,” recalls Hagemeister. Research in China was a sensitive issue, for historical reasons, and it wasn’t easy in the beginning. Since then, Hagemeister has built up a lab team that he is very pleased with. The first products customized specifically for Chinese requirements are on the market. “We have noticed that we are now fully accepted by our colleagues in Germany as well as here” relates Hagemeister, who comes from the German region of Westphalia. A relationship of trust has been established, he says. “Because we are honest and pragmatic and are not too proud to admit when something hasn’t gone perfectly.”

“Communication is absolutely key,” Hagemeister adds, “especially because knowledge about silicones and expertise levels are regionally so varied..” Like any chemical specialist, he can immediately offer a scientific explanation for this: “If we want skills to diffuse, for example from Germany to China, then there mustn’t be any barriers in the way,” he says. After all, the goal for the future is for Shanghai to carry out more and more of its own research developing new products tailored to the Chinese market.

Thus Hagemeister has helped develop a program to systematically improve the transfer of knowledge. His R&D team was the first to participate; now it is the turn of others. The schedule for the next few months includes cross-cultural training for German and Chinese employees as well as a whole row of exchange visits, each lasting several weeks.

Naturally, everyday business will not suffer, On the contrary, researchers like Dr. Jessie Lin can continue working on their Chinese projects in their mentor’s lab in Burghausen. The emulsions expert is looking forward to the exchange. “I already learned such a lot on my previous visits to Germany – about products and the company, but also about communicating with my German colleagues,” enthuses Jessie Lin. “I like it better each time.” In the fall, she even went to the Oktoberfest with her German co-workers, dressed in a 30-year-old dirndl lent to her by the wife of a Burghausen colleague.

Jessie’s co-worker Jason is also convinced that international exchange is very important. He is scheduled to meet Japanese colleagues right after the interview and is in constant contact with applications engineers in India, South Korea and the USA. The Chinese developers are delighted when they have the opportunity to show their international colleagues round the new Shanghai labs.