Off hours: Siemens chief executive says experience is everything

Dietmar Siersdorfer is the chief executive of Siemens Middle East and Siemens UAE, positions he has held for three years. Born in Germany, Mr Siersdorfer first joined the company in 1987 holding several positions around the world from Asia, Europe and now in the Middle East. The 53-year-old has been living in Abu Dhabi with his wife since 2008.

How do you spend your weekend?

Exercise is important to me. In the summer I use the gym but in the winter I like to be outside so I often cycle, run and sometimes play golf. I also enjoy the occasional brunch, and working in an international company of course means that at times I need to attend to work. Weekends around the globe do not necessarily always coincide with mine.

How did you become a chief executive?

That’s perhaps a question for my boss. I think experience is key for a CEO role; I started out almost 30 years ago working as an engineer in Mannheim, Germany, and it’s been quite a journey to get to where I am now. Working with Siemens has taken me all over the world and I’ve been lucky enough to gain experience in many business fields and functions, and learn from good people. Siemens Middle East is quite a complex organisation, and to take responsibility for it I really believe there’s no substitute for experience.

What is your go-to gadget?

My automatic lawnmower, which looks after the grass at my house in Germany. I can monitor and control it from anywhere in the world using an app on my iPhone, and I enjoy seeing it take care of a job that would usually be mine.

What was the lowest point of your career?

I don’t think I could pinpoint a particular low point, but I would say that I have always tried to learn from my experiences, both good and bad. In an international career there are always going to be ups and downs, and when things aren’t working the way you’d like it’s important to step up, work on yourself and the topic and move on. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Always be open-minded. Look for methods that are perhaps unexpected or non-traditional. Question processes. The way we do business is changing rapidly – it’s faster, more integrated – and you have to be open to new ideas. Don’t exclude any possibilities, and don’t be afraid to think differently.

What is your most indulgent habit?

I enjoy good food and bever­ages.

What do you have on your desk at work?

Certainly a lot less paper than 10 years ago. My desk is quite clear. I always have a notebook and a picture of my family, and usually a cup of tea and a bottle of water. I am a gadget geek, but I keep these off my desk.

What can’t you live without?

My wife and my friends.

What car do you drive?

I have a Mercedes ML350, which is great on the road and also perfect for a small amount of off-road driving.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

I try to keep a balance regardless of what’s happening at work or at home. When I’m away from work, I disconnect and do something different. I do sports and I like to get back to nature, to hike, to work in the garden and do things which allow me to properly relax. Outside the office I also try to talk about things that are different from my business. It’s too easy to talk about work and it’s good to keep your mind fresh.

If you could swap jobs with anyone who would it be and why?

I would swap with the CEO of a small start-up company, perhaps in a completely different business. Siemens has an incredible 170-year history, but I would love to experience how a brand-new company operates, how it gains momentum and how it builds its own future. I think it would be a steep learning curve, but very exciting.

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