Seven questions to our Digital Strategist, Stefan

Seven questions to
Digital Strategist,

Machine learning

Stefan Schmechel (Digital Strategist, Berlin Office), written by Sonja Felix.

If you hadn’t ended up in the strategy sector, then …

…that would have been a great pity! Working in the strategy field offers me many facets and constantly challenges my creative and analytical potential. Being creative in my profession is something substantial to me, whether in my former job as a product designer or later as a consultant for innovation projects. A quote by Linus Carl Pauling describes this quite suitably:

“One must not only have more ideas than others but also have the ability to decide which of these ideas are good.”

It means that it is not enough to develop a large number of ideas because you have to be able to evaluate them and prioritize the most promising ones according to the framework conditions and objectives. In practice, this is often very complex. Methods, knowledge of current developments, and learned process flows can support this. However, this cannot replace the right mindset and your will and intuition based on experience. In addition, working in the strategy area offers the opportunity to pass on your knowledge to others. Therefore the social component, the ability to empathize, is of enormous importance not only during workshops but also in direct exchanges. It also helps to understand the needs that are not articulated. I would not want to miss all that. That’s why, if I hadn’t ended up in the strategy sector, I would have put a lot of effort into gaining a foothold there as quickly as possible.

What makes your daily routine at work special?

That’s exactly the point! This daily routine, the so-called routines that run through the working day as you might know them from classical professions, basically doesn’t exist.

Depending on the client and the project, there are different focuses with very specific and diverse requirements. On the one hand, this makes the job very exciting and varied, but at the same time, it is also challenging. The saying “you never stop learning” takes on a very understandable meaning for me. I can use the knowledge I have acquired over the years and the methods and skills I have learned to quickly familiarize myself with new projects. Nevertheless, you always have to deal intensively with the specific needs of the client and their individual framework conditions and often delve deeply into their industry-specific topics to ultimately develop custom-fit and sustainable solutions. On the one hand, it helps to be curious about the unknown. Still, on the other hand, you should not be afraid to ask naïve questions from a position of observation to be able to question the status quo for the benefit of a better solution.

If you could get an Avenga colleague to come to your home office, that would be…

That is a lovely idea. I would like to invite every colleague to my home office for a week, on a rotating basis. There are an unbelievable number of inspiring and talented personalities from the most diverse fields here, from whom I can still learn a lot. And of course, in the current situation, it’s also nice to toast successes in person while at the same time raising the level of interpersonal relationships to a well-known level. At Avenga, we are also lucky enough to be able to grow together as a team through our various meeting formats and from the intensive exchange among each other, even in these times of coronavirus, and to feel welcomed and appreciated as a newcomers to the team. To answer your question specifically:

I would first invite Malte Valenciano to my home office, the team leader of the strategy team.. If only out of self-interest, to benefit from Malte’s immense experience and broad knowledge. So Malte, you are always welcome.

A package holiday or road trip?

Hmm, somehow something exactly in between. For me, a holiday means slowing down on the one hand and gaining new experiences on the other. Of course, you can relax on a beach somewhere, stretching out all your limbs. However, you don’t necessarily have to travel far to do that, as you can just go to the nearest lake in the evening or on the weekend.

My favorite way to travel is on the saddle of a bicycle, getting to know the country, culture, and people, and soaking up the impressions with a light breeze. At least as long as it’s not uphill!

Maybe it wouldn’t be considered quite a road trip, but one of the most exciting times my girlfriend and I had was during the so-called donkey trekking in the Italian Abruzzo, so therefore, it is more of an off-road trip. Together with two donkeys, we spent several days hiking, enjoying nature, and seeing the vastness of the mountain landscape. The fact that the accommodations were partly without electricity and running water only made this experience even more unique. These impressions are still deeply anchored in my memory, and I lose myself in them from time to time, retreading the path in my mind.

What is your favorite event at Avenga?

At Avenga, we have many great formats, from developing and implementing your own ideas in hackathons to promoting health through yoga or fitness classes. My favorite among these events is called “Tool Time,” where we regularly update each other on interesting topics in an inspiring atmosphere. Not only methods or tools are scrutinized, but also processes or the best practices of different process models. Sharing knowledge with my colleagues is fun and at the same time brings the different departments closer together and expands one’s own as well as the common knowledge horizon.

Luminaris, heroes, role models, influencers: Who would you like to meet in person?

I think it’s more important to try to be a role model by developing yourself accordingly rather than having role models yourself. But, of course, there are people I look up to, especially those who act for the good of others and pursue the big picture with a lot of wisdom. And, I honestly believe that there are many of these people in our society and our environment. If I had to decide today which “famous person” I would like to meet, many personalities from world politics would come to mind, but also innovative pioneers from the tech sector and creative talents such as designers, artists, or actors. However, if I had the possibility, I would like to meet Jack Kornfield in person. He is a Buddhist teacher who inspires many people and has a deep understanding of life and is an embodiment of finding happiness within oneself.

What are three things that motivate you at work?

Oh, I could say a lot about that, but I’ll try to keep it short.

Basically, it’s the desire to help my clients and colleagues achieve project success with my experience and expertise. This pulling together while working towards a common goal is an excellent motivator for me. In this situation, you grow together through intensive project work while getting to know each other better, and in some cases, friendships develop. Appreciative praise or an expansion of cooperation beyond the planned framework are good measurable indicators that show me how my work is of value and further strengthen my joy for my daily tasks and challenges.

Additionally, I have adapted my working environment to my home office to meet my specific needs. Therefore, I am surrounded by many plants, and there is always a cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea on my desk. This green oasis is dotted with photos of people who are important to me, and the sight of them motivates me, even in stressful times.

And, of course, my work and my girlfriend’s work serve to enable our family to do what is important to us. So the fact that I can combine this with an activity that fulfills me and corresponds to my interests and abilities is a great fortune.

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