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Lessons Learned: Andreas Mueller-Schubert

Andreas Mueller-Schubert's sister was as close to the action as anyone on the night of November 9, 1989 when the opening of the freedom floodgates led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, that reviled ...


January 1, 2002  


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Andreas Mueller-Schubert’s sister was as close to the action as anyone on the night of November 9, 1989 when the opening of the freedom floodgates led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, that reviled symbol of the Cold War built by the Socialist East German Communist Party almost 30 years earlier.

The fall of the Wall, which united a city that had been separated by foreboding concrete slabs, miles of barbed wire and 302 watch towers that cut through 192 streets of East and West Berlin, had an emotional and lasting effect on Mueller-Schubert, who at the time served with the West German Air Force.

“My sister who lived in Berlin, phoned me at 3 a.m. and told me, ‘the Wall is down and the world is changing – turn on the TV and watch what is happening,'” the VP of Siemens Canada Ltd.’s Information & Communications Division in Mississauga, ON, recalls of those heady first days of German re-unification. “I sat there crying. I never believed this would happen.”

Lessons were learned in the days and months that followed, many of which would play a role in determining who he would work for and where he would live. The most obvious was just how different East and West Germans really were.

“It’s amazing how a regime can change the mindset of a people,” says Mueller-Schubert, who spent 12 years in the military. “I remember one of the famous food stores in Berlin had to close down every two hours to fill up the shelves. The demand was unbelievable. Some didn’t even know what a banana was. One of the hottest selling items was a banana.”

YEARNING FOR NORTH AMERICA

Those stark differences between east and west, convinced Mueller-Schubert, who during his stay in the Air Force earned degrees in both electrical engineering and business administration and reached the rank of captain, that the North American market and not Europe, was the place where he wanted to be. He had received his first taste of life in North America in 1987 when he spent a year in San Antonio, Texas learning about the intricacies of the Raytheon Patriot Air Defense System, a weapon that in later years would play a major role in the Gulf War.

Five years after the fall of the Wall, he was given an opportunity to pursue a “fascination” with both international business and engineering when he signed on with German computer and telecommunications giant Siemens AG.

“Siemens is known as a very strong engineering company,” he says. “It’s always been very much focused around how can we use technology to enhance life.”

It also helped that the company, which last year had sales of $110 billion, provided plenty of room to move around. At last count, Siemens had offices in 190 countries around the world.

ONE OF 3,000 RISING STARS

Based at corporate headquarters in Munich, Mueller-Schubert worked in the marketing department of Siemens’ public communications group before being named director of a group responsible for market assessment and consulting services. His first foreign assignment came in 1996 when he joined a sales organization and became involved in several IT and telco projects in the U.S., Venezuela and Brazil.

A promotion and North American posting followed in October 1998 when he assumed his current position. The 38-year-old vice-president who was recently appointed to the Oberen, Feuhrungskreis — a type of higher executive circle within Siemens AG, made up of 3,000 rising stars — is responsible for the ongoing development and implementation of sales, marketing and overall business development strategies for the division.

THE CONVERGENCE VISION

Given the range of products and services that the division is involved in, it is a broad mandate. Information & Communications currently focuses on four core markets in Canada: local and wide area networks for voice and data converged services; enterprise network applications; wireless devices, applications and infrastructure solutions; and home networking products.

“If you take all four areas, what we see as a key driving factor is the convergence of data and voice technologies,” he says. “Our vision is to drive this convergence, to bring the reliabilities and features of the voice side that we’re all used to and now add the flexibility of the data side to it to enable new types of services.”

There will be an assortment of services spawned by advances in both the wireline and wireless world, but if they are to succeed, Mueller-Schubert suggests that for the good of the corporate customer, standards will have to play a critical role.

“Even during these hard days that we’re going through now in the telecom industry, if a company supports the right set of standards and understand the needs of their customers then they’re going to be successful,” he says.

To that end, Mueller-Schubert believes that any advances that occur on the road to full convergence — be it a fiber-based private network or a state-of-the- art GSM wireless network with GPRS packet data capabilities — will need to be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

“We need to create networks that tie nicely into the installed base and the billions of dollars that have already been invested,” he says. “This is where the standards kick in and where hardware from one vendor works with hardware from another.”CS

Paul Barker, a contributing editor with the Business Information Group, specializes in e-commerce and Internet issues. He can be reached at pbarker@corporate.southam.ca.


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