C-suite career advice: Ulf Timmermann, reichelt elektronik

C-suite career advice: Ulf Timmermann, reichelt elektronik

Name: Ulf Timmermann

Company: reichelt elektronik

Job Title: CEO

Location: Sande, Germany

Ulf Timmermann has been at reichelt for more than 31 years and has been CEO since 2010. He started his career in 1979 in the German Navy. Timmermann was appointed as a cipher machine technician in the German Navy in Wilhelmshaven before joining reichelt in 1986. During his career at reichelt Ulf has developed the company's logistics centre, software solutions (including the ERP and PIM) and lead reichelt to its current size and scale.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Impossible is not an option - we have a German term for it: ‘Geht nicht - gibts nicht'.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? You should stay in the job for the money.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in technology? Be open - these days the link between different technology is getting more and more important. For example, the ‘mechatronic' is a good mix of electrician and mechanic.

Did you always want to work with technology? Yes

What was your first job in the technology sector? I started my career in 1979 in the German Navy. After three years in German navy training and one year of education in the USA I became an electronic warfare specialist and went to sea on the destroyer "Lütjens" for two years. I was appointed as a cipher machine technician at the German Navy in Wilhelmshaven for two further years before I joined reichelt in 1986.

What are some common misconceptions about working in the technology sector? I think the biggest misconception is that you have to be always on the newest version of something. That's not necessarily the case.  

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? From my point of view, detailed knowledge and the trust and belief in the employees is required to be successful at a c-level position.  

What are your career ambitions, and have you reached them yet? I have worked my way up the career ladder in reichelt and now I am CEO which is the highest position in the company. But, if I were my boss, I'd beware! I'm always ambitious as striving to achieve the best I can.  

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? I am a very engaged CEO and like to be as hands-on in the business as I can. But I enjoy being involved because I want to help the company to be as successful as possible.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Nothing!

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I would suggest a coding bootcamp to pick up the right skills.

How important are specific certifications? In working life, I think you need a certain amount of "proofed" education. But at the end of the day, the person with engagement, drive and humanity makes the difference.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? At reichelt, technical knowhow is important. We need to know our products, how they work and how they can help our customers fulfil their needs. We pride ourselves on our personability, so flexibility and humanity / team ability are needed too.

What would put you off a candidate? If she/he is not ready to support a team. We have a very collaborative environment at reichelt.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? Many candidates fall into the trap of pretending to be what they think the company wants them to be. They end up portraying a persona that isn't always true to themselves.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both? Having skills is always better than needing. Having both technical and business skills is perfect. Here comes the good news for technicians: A technician can learn business - it's rarer in my experience to do it the other way around!


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