From Developer to Regional Manager
Ralf has been with Brainlab since 1998 and is a great example of all the opportunities and challenges a Brainlab employee can encounter while working here.
When did you first apply to Brainlab? For what position was it?
Mid 1998 as a software developer.
How would you describe the application process?
Funny and inspiring. I applied after meeting CEO and founder Stefan Vilsmeier at an industry event at my university, where he said he was eagerly looking for engineers. After not hearing back, I called Brainlab and insisted on speaking to him, since he had been so eager. We interviewed the next day, and he suggested I join service and go out to customers, rather than develop software. He introduced me to both teams and I thought: “I guess he’s right.”
What caused you to change positions so often within Brainlab? What were your positions?
A year in service (with trips to Belgium, Spain, UK and US) I was asked if I wanted to do Product Support Management, a mix of 2nd level support, global service training and complaint management. This was a great first step beyond engineering.
Two years later in that exciting multiple-hats role, I managed to go on sabbatical to South America with no exact job to return to. In my last weeks away, I was asked if I wanted to start the R&D team for a new business on integrated operating theatres. It was a great honor to be considered and I spent the next 5 years on this mission, including installations in Staten Island and Rome.
By 2006, I had commenced MBA studies and my wife and I wanted to live overseas so we arranged for Australian visas. However, Brainlab asked if we would go to Singapore for a large customer project and sales consulting in Asia Pacific. After a day of thinking it through, we said yes, and had an awesome experience.
In 2008, we wanted to continue to Australia; however the opportunity wasn’t there. We returned to the headquarters, and I took on a marketing role. A year later, I joined corporate business development and managed the communication of Brainlab’s first major carve out. It was a great time of learning about legal, sales operations and in- and external communication.
After finishing the project, my wife and I realized our Australian visa was about to expire and that we would probably regret one day not giving it another try. Talking to Stefan Vilsmeier revealed he had several overseas jobs that had to be taken care of, amongst them operations management in Australia and New Zealand. Bingo! Last minute the endeavor got even more exciting, when the Regional Manager role became vacant and I was asked to face the challenge of a busy mix of sales, sales management and general management.
Today, after 3½ intense years of a very challenging and successful job, I handed over to my successor downunder, and the future is wide open again.
How would you describe and/or rate the opportunity for job growth within Brainlab?
Generally great, and surely excellent from my own experience. All you need to bring is flexibility and openness to new challenges, whatever task and wherever located they may be!
What is your favorite part about working for Brainlab?
People: colleagues, customers, partners and the patients. The products, our brand, and the work environment are unique as well, but they are made reality by and for the people involved all over the globe, that’s why the people are my favorite part.
What is the most satisfying project you have contributed to during your time at Brainlab?
My role as regional manager and rebuilding the team here to secure and grow our Australian and New Zealand business.
But satisfaction also comes from “little” things. Some time ago I helped a surgeon achieve an extremely accurate navigation for a 21 year old patient. The accuracy allowed the surgeon to find in short time the small and mid-term life threatening tumor in the depth of the patient’s brain. After the case, the surgeon hugged me, thanked me in the name of the patient, and the whole theatre team applauded.
What does Brainlab do differently than any other company you have worked at?
I’d say that there is an unusually highly motivated bunch of people at work at Brainlab, all over the world: from our founder and CEO to the brand new intern. Our culture of attracting, hiring and facilitating the development of these individuals, and the teams they form, is probably the biggest differentiator to any other company I have worked at or with.
What motivates you to come to work every day?
In all of my so far jobs with Brainlab: every day is different and offers something new! You are likely to have fun, find a challenge, and get support in succeeding, every day.
What is the most appealing aspect of working within your department specifically?
In sales and support, it’s the broad variety of people that you deal with: surgeons, nurses, biomed engineers, physicists, theatre managers, CEOs, implant reps. For each of them you can find something that is of value to their work, and that you can contribute for the good of patients.
What employee policy/benefit unique to Brainlab do you appreciate the most?
On the road, it’s the constantly evolving tools we get at hand: phone, tablet and laptop of high quality, mobile CRM and marketing material access, video conferencing, IT support, etc. making the traveling businessman’s life so much easier.
At headquarters, I appreciate the inspiring environment, flat hierarchies, the open architecture, the creative meeting areas, and: the delicious “food for thought” from our restaurant and café. Why? It feeds our team spirit in a really yummy way.