Guest Author: Verena Schindler | T-Systems GmbH

On September 22, 2020 the time had come: The kick-off of the new qualification program Digital Enabler (Incubator) gave the starting signal for a unique learning journey around technology and innovation in the field of digitalization. 45 young talents from different business units in Germany, Austria and Switzerland will work on innovation projects over the next nine months – with the support of the CTO Office and digitalization experts from T-Systems as well as lecturers from the RWTH Business School. The program will end with a pitch in front of the T-Systems CTO with the opportunity for further funding.

Among the participants in the kick-off event, which was organized via video conference, were not only the 45 young talents who will take part in the program over the next nine months, but also T-Systems CTO Maximilian Ahrens together with Daniel Sialkowski from his team. In addition: Participants and graduates of the Digital Engineer program, who will act as mentors, as well as representatives of the RWTH Business School and the T-Systems Learning & Development (L&D) team.

Practical focus and exchange at eye level

After a short welcome by Prof. Torsten Oliver Salge from RWTH Business School and Dominik Ohl from the HR Tribe L&D, the participants started to get to know each other in small groups. Back in the plenum the expectations of the participants were discussed. Among others, they expressed the desire for a strong practice transfer and implementation possibilities. Oliver Salge could confirm that they are in the right place with the Digital Enabler (Incubator). He assured the young innovators that this was not a classical training. Instead, “we want to make a difference – not just talk, but also do and implement something”. The focus was on the innovation project and much emphasis was put on “exchange at eye level” with lecturers, partners, mentors and among each other.

Keynote speech by CTO Maximilian Ahrens

One of the highlights of the kick-off was the keynote speech by program sponsor Maximilian Ahrens. He shared his own experience of starting a business and explained that failure in developing innovation was part of it. About nine out of ten start-ups did not work – no reason to get discouraged! In addition to the right timing, one of the key success factors in developing a good idea is a great team. Therefore, teamwork will also be a top priority for the Digital Enabler in the coming weeks.

Maximilian Ahrens also presented the Innovation Incubator – a campaign in which T-Systems employees have the chance to contribute ideas for portfolio innovations and – with the support of the CTO team – to develop them for real offerings in order to generate real added value for the customer. This is exactly the interface to the Digital Enabler program – the ideas developed during the nine-month duration will be pitched in front of the CTO Office and, if they are convincing, implemented with appropriate support. Maximilian Ahrens emphasized that “PowerPoint and Excel are not the truth” and that it was necessary to get to work and develop prototypes for the customer: “Make your hands dirty!”.

What's next?

The prerequisite for registering for the program was the submission of an innovation idea, as an individual or in a small group. Currently there are 25 ideas, from which eleven varied project teams have been formed. Next step is the project kick-off on September 30, in which the groups work intensively on their innovation project for the first time. Afterwards they will pitch their consolidated idea in the plenum and receive feedback. In this context they will also get to know their mentor. In technology labs, seminars on innovation methods and a course on technology & innovation management, the participants will also receive the corresponding theoretical and methodological background. At the end of the program, the graduates will receive an Expert Certificate from the RWTH Business School, which can be also credited to various master programs. That the young talents were motivated could be felt – even virtually. Certainly, a good prerequisite for driving forward exciting technological innovations. All that remains is to wish all the participants a lot of success in this extraordinary development journey!

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