Same company, new adventure

Von Vanessa Zeilfelder, 01. November 2021

After 15 years in DOW’s purchasing department, Simon changed jobs internally and took on a new challenge in Sales. In the interview, he talks about how the transition went, what he learned about himself, and which role parachutes played in all of that.

Simon, tell us about your “Neustart” and how it led you to your current job.

My “Neustart” occurred in 2018, not overnight, but over a period of 7 months. In spring 2018, I was told my role of Purchasing Director at Dow in Horgen (ZH) is transitioning to Dow headquarters in the USA. Until all was set, it was November 2018 and I started as an Account Manager in Dow’s Consumer Solutions business and continued to be based in Horgen. In my Account Manager role, I am looking after a dozen customers in Mobility and Transportation in Europe, supporting them with Silicone based products in their transformational journey towards electrification and sustainability.

I was determined to get this role, as it matches my plan in life. My wife and I wanted to stay in Switzerland, I value Dow as an employer, including its inclusive and international working environment, and wanted innovation to be an important element in my next job. Moreover, my first role in Dow when I joined 22 years ago was Technical Account Manager, so it was like coming home again.

Looking back, which were the main challenges you faced during the transition - from learning your role will be moved to starting the new job?

In the organization thinking, opinions and perceptions about me based on my career to date, such as:

  • People see and know me as a purchasing director and ‘all of a sudden’ Simon shows interest in the account manager role, an individual contributor position.

  • Can Simon be trusted in his sincere interest or does he just want the new job in order to stay in the company?

Moreover, my own pride could have been a challenge. The account manager position has fewer job points and consequently, I would earn less salary if I got the position…

Through my network, I got in touch with my current manager, who had an open position and after checks and balances hired me in his team. He sensed my plan in life: Switzerland, Dow, Commercial, Innovation, plus a willingness to sacrifice, and he obviously validated my skills, interests, and past accomplishments via references. This all contributed to his belief and trust that I would be a great addition to his sales team, enhancing the diversity, amongst others mind-set, soft skills, previous experiences, e.g. 15 years in Purchasing, and willingness to develop and learn. Subsequently, he was trusted by his leader with his choice of employing me.

Simultaneously in Dow, the new Employee Resource Group (ERG) PR!ME was established in 2018. The ERG PR!ME supports employees who are 50+ years of age with their unique challenges, while also tapping into their extensive experience and knowledge. So a rethinking took place in the company: experiences are valued, as well as establishing Inclusion and Diversity as one of the four foundations in Dow. This helped my case and HR was positive that it would work out fine for all stakeholders.

And how do you feel about your job today?

I am feeling very well and very pleased I made this move. In my current role, I appreciate the direct contact with customers and I am excited to be in the middle of the unique transition that’s occurring in the Mobility and Transportation area, such as electrical vehicles, sensors and batteries. Being 20+ years in this dynamic global company and bringing a wealth of contacts and 15+ years experiences sitting ‘at the other side’ in purchasing, and unconditionally sharing those experiences, is highly valued by leaders and the team. Each day I am learning from sales, technical and quality experts. We are here to learn continuously, aren’t we?

What helped you during the process of discovering what you would actually like to do, your priorities and thinking about possible next steps in your career?

I was fortunate enough to receive outplacement support from Right Management in Zürich, offered by Dow. My coach in Right Management helped me to (re)discover my strengths (skills/knowledge/experience/behaviours) and interests (what I am passionate about, what elements MUST a position have to be satisfying, what gets me excited about coming to work).

Next, in order to identify my strengths and interests, I was able to formulate my Unique Selling Points, in other words, what makes me, Simon, unique or differentiates me from hundreds of other great candidates.

Exploring my strengths, interests and USP and getting them into a one-pager and a CV format has been hard work and took me a few months. An excellent self-help reference in this process is "What Color Is Your Parachute" by Richard Nelson Bolles, providing me with helpful insights and a breakthrough.

Simultaneously, I met with quite a few trusted people who know me well privately and/or professionally. Moreover, I listened to the story of people who operate in small businesses such as entrepreneurs, consultants and private equity. These interactions supported me in defining my favourite working conditions and revaluing that a large corporate working environment, which I was in for 20+ years, fits me well.

Were there any surprising aspects that you have learned about yourself?

That I intuitively took my destiny into my own hands, did not accept the status quo and my willingness to sacrifice.

How did your professional and personal environment react to your decision to change into Account Management?

Very positively. My environment is very glad to see me enjoying my new role and being valued by the team. Moreover, the sales team is open to diversity and interested in getting different perspectives from someone who had global positions and was sitting at the other side of the table for 15 years.

What I had not expected at all was that people in my environment would see me as a role model by living the circular career model and going after a role with less job points - and less stress -, which I really wanted to do. This includes younger ones who are not at their height of their career yet, wanting to learn more.

You mentioned the book “What Color Is Your Parachute?”. Which guidance was particularly valuable to you?

What got me most was The Self-Analysis Summary, i.e. What do I bring in? What am I looking for? Secondly, the power of the CARL-Model: C = What was the Challenge? A= What did I do (action)? R = What was the result? L = How can you leverage/What did you learn (and would I do differently)?

Thank you very much, Simon!

Simon van den Oever online