It was 9pm Changzhou time when we spoke to Alexander via video conference. It was very hard to tell if he was in a real or virtual apartment – his background seemed almost too perfect to be real and yet there were no imperfections around the outline of his body. In fact, it was real, and the explanation Alexander gave for its ‘perfection’ was that he’d moved to China at the beginning of the year, started in a very busy role in a new company, and had only recently moved out of corporate accommodation. Another, equally plausible explanation, as we’d deduced by the end of the call, was that Alexander’s immaculate apartment was indicative of one very valuable attribute: his sharp eye for detail!
“I’m passionate about designing and developing machines from the ground up,” Alexander explained. “I remember, leading up to my first patent for my previous company, I was given the task of product responsibility – solving customer problems, reducing costs, and generally maintaining the upkeep of the existing product – but I was forever devising ways I could improve it.
“When I realised that the new concept I’d designed was working, I was determined to build it from scratch. Upon reflection, it was maybe not the smartest thing to do because it proved to be extremely time intensive, let alone controversial among colleagues, but I certainly learned a great deal in the process that I could use in the next project!” he added, smiling.
His labour of love – others call it a career – recently led him back to China, coincidentally to Changzhou, the same city he’d lived in some 17 years ago, a year and a half after his apprenticeship at a previous company in Switzerland. This time round, with 15 patents behind him and a wealth of experience in the field – and a top notch EMBA from the University of Zurich – Alexander returned to his old stomping ground as Chief of Technology for the company Karl Mayer China, a leading force in the textile machinery manufacturing industry.
In his role, Alexander leads 130 people across ten departments, from R&D to product management, testing, quality and purchasing, all of which have a focus on technology development. Until now, in his previous company, Alexander was solely focussed on the outputs of just one department: research and development. “In this new role, I’ve been covering a wide range of new topics and managing lots more people. There have also been a few instances when I’ve had to call on some of those recently acquired powers of persuasive communication from my time on the EMBA,” he joked.
“With hindsight, it’s difficult to say whether the EMBA got me this role, but I must say that it has given me more credibility and could have provided greater justification for my boss to appoint me in this role. The tools that I picked up in the EMBA, contributed hugely to me developing the role that technology plays at my company, as well as to making this role a success,” Alexander added.