Getting Ahead

What Does the Future Hold When It Comes to Technology? Just Ask This Innovation Expert

person with blonde hair in a ponytail wearing a pink blazer in front of a blue screen
Karina Rempel, the Head of Strategy and Future Trends at Siemens Digital Industries, Factory Automation, Technology & Innovation.
| Courtesy of Siemens

For many people, thinking about what the future holds is merely an exercise in daydreaming. But for Karina Rempel, it’s her job. As the Head of Strategy and Future Trends at Siemens Digital Industries, Factory Automation, Technology & Innovation, she is responsible for helping to figure out what’s to come at the company in the areas of technology and innovation—and she finds it incredibly fascinating.

“The world is changing faster and faster, and technology makes a major contribution to this acceleration,” she says. “A career in tech allows me to actively shape the future as new technologies are increasingly relevant in all areas of life, including industry, infrastructure, transportation, and healthcare.”

Rempel joined Siemens in 2016 as a working student, and has since worked her way up to her current leadership role.

Here, she talks about the career development opportunities at Siemens, what it takes to be a good leader, and why having endless curiosity has helped her succeed.

What was your experience like as a working student at Siemens? How did it help prepare you for a full-time role at the company?

Through my work-study activity, I was able to directly apply my theoretical knowledge in the field of innovation. I was very lucky to have a great manager who encouraged me a lot and gave me many tasks. I definitely grew from these challenges. As a working student, I was already able to actively design an innovation platform for submitting ideas and work closely with the developers. This also taught me what it means to drive innovation within a corporation with all its facets.

How did you know Siemens would be a good fit for you?

I was excited to see that Siemens offers many opportunities for personal and professional development. I have noticed through my mentors and my manager that the possibilities are endless at Siemens. Especially in my department, diversity means not only supporting more women to develop into leadership functions, but also people of all ages and nationalities with different ways of thinking. Especially in innovation, this diversity is essential—and at the end of the day, that’s what makes us so successful.

You have grown from a working student position to a leadership role in just five years. What has helped you succeed at Siemens?

Siemens offers many great training measures. Despite this, it is important to actively take your development into your own hands because it is not a matter of course that you develop so rapidly as a young person. I am especially grateful to my current manager for entrusting me with this role. He always takes the time to discuss and reflect with me so that I can develop in all directions. That is very important and valuable for young talents in order to grow faster and take on more responsibility.

I have met many great leaders at Siemens and some of them are my mentors. Mentors are also incredibly important and have supported me in my growth journey as I can learn from their experience.

What are you responsible for in your role?

One of our biggest goals in the area of technology and innovation is to generate customer value with our vision of an autonomous factory. In our case, strategy means shaping the path to the vision together with our technological experts.

In addition, I am responsible for identifying new trends and new arenas using strategic foresight methods as well as helping to find the right partners for our innovation ecosystem. For example, we work closely with other large companies and exchange ideas on how corporate innovation can work successfully. We have also realized that it is extremely important to share our insights both internally and externally. That’s why marketing and communications are very important to us. These areas are also my responsibility.

What’s an example of a current project you’re working on?

We are working on modeling end-to-end innovation, starting with the identification of new opportunity fields and scaling with business building activities. For example, a new element in our innovation framework is to use open innovation platforms to obtain information about customers and their pain points. We design solutions based on this information. Customers don’t buy technology, they buy solutions to their problems.

What skills does it take to succeed in your role, as someone who is focused on future innovations?

In the area of innovation, you need a lot of of curiosity, a willingness to experiment and learn, and the ability to let things go if they turn out to not be feasible. Then you have to start again with new projects and put all your passion and energy into them.

Networking inside and outside Siemens is very important in order to be able to identify trends at an early stage. You have to be involved in innovation ecosystems to learn continuously from others and to give others the chance to learn from Siemens as well.

What is the culture of management like at Siemens, and how does it help employees succeed in their roles?

I believe that mutual trust is an important basis for developing potential. Being a leader is not an innate strength, but rather something that you have to learn. Other important characteristics of good leaders are “walk the talk,” empathy, and asking the right questions at the right time. So you have to develop a sense of what the individual personality needs and create the best possible framework for the respective development of the employee. I’m noticing this mindset more and more at Siemens. Leadership at Siemens means bringing people of different origins, genders, and generations together and creating the best possible results.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a similar career path?

Believe in yourself, look for people who can and want to support you and also believe in you. Focus on your strengths and don’t obsessively try to compensate for your weaknesses. Instead, surround yourself with people who are strong in the areas where you aren’t. The best marathon runner will never become an equally good sprinter and vice versa.