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“Growth in personal and professional life is neither a ladder nor a line. It is a big puzzle, and the overall picture allows you to be more satisfied with big and incremental achievements,” says Martin Hofmann. “Success is reaching the next puzzle piece in your life.”
After he earned his PhD in 2011, Martin was considering what puzzle piece to pursue next, and although he didn’t feel quite finished with academic learning, the timing for an EMBA wasn’t right. He wanted a more solid understanding of business and leadership experience, so decided to put into place a different puzzle piece: Moving to China for a global assignment to drive the business development of Volkswagen within the biggest passenger car market.
Several years later, after returning from a five-year personnel and professional development in China, Martin sought to maintain the international spirit of his career and invest again in his academic and leadership development. The next puzzle piece was a global EMBA, and TRIUM was his first choice, because of its diverse cohort, the integration of three renowned schools, and world-class faculty.
Martin recently caught up with TRIUM about what excites him about technology and innovation, about the value of his diverse cohort and lifelong network, and what return on investment he’s already seen from the program.
You entered the program with a desire to learn more about technology and disruption as you navigated a career in the human resources field. How did TRIUM address your interest and focus on innovation, transformation, and digitalization?
The words innovation, transformation, and digitalization are often used as buzzwords in business discussions, but they are becoming increasingly relevant and tangible. TRIUM offered a very strong selection of courses on innovation, which gave us cutting-edge insights into a new world of innovation and business disruption. Also impactful were the different speaker sessions from entrepreneurs, business leaders and people with social or policy impact. These deep-dive, real life experiences were helpful in transferring the theory into practice. They also helped calibrate the expectation on what and how innovations are made and how transformation processes are working.
Today my field of responsibility includes human-resource digitalization strategy and its implementation within the Volkswagen Group worldwide. This means we are on the forefront of transformation in all fields around the human resource processes, including learning, personnel development, and performance management. I’m privileged to apply the countless insights from the program in my day-to-day work.
You made a career shift after the TRATON IPO to CARIAD and now you are back to the Volkswagen Group. Did your experience with TRIUM motivate and/or prepare you for such a shift?
The challenges that awaited me during and after TRIUM where significant, but I seized the chance to master them. Before and during the TRIUM program I was working for Volkswagen Truck & Bus, (renamed TRATON in 2019). I then transitioned into the role as Chief Human Resource Officer at CARIAD, where I was tasked with establishing a team of software experts, building employee and employer processes, and setting the stage for a unique transformation process with regards to the automotive software development setup in the Volkswagen Group.
TRIUM prepared me for these challenges, as it helped me manage complexity, negotiate a specific collective bargaining agreement with the unions, and launch a decentralized software organization for which we recruited externally and transferred internally more than 4,000 employees.
I then followed the call to join my current Volkswagen Headquarter function, where I am now in charge of driving the transformation of the organization into a tech company within the area of Human Resources IT landscape and ecosystem.
At every turn, I have a huge opportunity to apply the knowledge and competence I gained from TRIUM. That’s the lifelong learning experience which never ends.
Can you tell us more about the value your cohort has added to your experience?
The cohort is a valuable component of the learning and networking experience. One of the reasons I chose TRIUM over other programs is because it attracts participants from all around the world and offers a platform to engage, exchange and learn from different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives.
The cohort adds important perspectives, and you create long-lasting and sustainable friendships with people from all around the world, including the Middle East, South America, Asia and other European countries. Even during the pandemic, with a low international mobility, my cohort and I kept in touch, which speaks to the quality of the relationships.
How does TRIUM address global political and economic crises and opportunities and how they impact businesses and entrepreneurs?
One of the major advantages I see in TRIUM is the strong connection between social and economic values. Compared with other programs, the lectures are designed to educate the participants not only on the pure content of theories, practical insides, but also on the ability to be a critical consumer of data and information. By addressing different perspectives and adding a political, social, and in some cases a moral reflection about the learning content, the discussion in and outside the classes help to shape a global mindset. This mindset is based on being able to exchange, interact and discuss a much wider spectrum of opportunities in business and social life. As I see this mindset change as a main differentiator for career progress, TRIUM helped me to push my personal growth in this field.
What return on investment has the program given you, or how do you anticipate it will in the future?
The return on investment is first evident in personal development. All internal and external lessons pay off, not only in terms of career progress but also in the way you approach the world, how you manage challenges, manage time, improve your confidence and flexibility, and how you interact and engage with the society. Any return on investment is built on this component and would not be possible without it.
How would you describe your TRIUM experience in three words?
LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE!