Girls‘ Day 2019 at Covestro

Girls‘ Day was fun this year. First I showed them a short presentation about „Girls in IT“ …

Then I let them play a coding game, which turned out to be suitable for girls in the age of 13-14 years without programming background, They programmed Angry Birds that had to chase Pigs. The 18 girls worked in teams of three and it was real fun watching them discussing different strategies an approaches.

Here is the game

Our Family Tattoo

This is our family tattoo we got last year. It is a reference to a song that has become our family anthem over the years:

„Our House“ from Crosby Stills Nash and Young:

„Our house is a very, very, very fine house
with two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy ‚cause of you“

<3 <3 <3 

Birds fly to the stars

That’s our family crest for some years. It comes from a scene in one of our favorite movies: „Moonstruck„. The dialogue is actually rather prosaic. Cosmo Castorini the plumber has an affair and gives her a hand chain with birds and stars as pendants during a secret rendevous. He says: „Birds fly to the stars – I guess„.

I sketched the blueprint for this installation in Powerpoint (…) and sent it to a glassblower. Here is the result:

Birds and Stars

Recycling old Calendars

When surfing an auction site I found a pocket calendar I possessed in my early youth: the Ensslin-Schüler-Taschenbuch 1974.

As a ten-year-old it fascinated me, because it not only contained the calendar of that year but also useful information like a complete survival guide (how to navigate without compass, to make fire, to source water, to build a tent,  to track foot steps, to use morse code, to leave signs, …), a table that allows to calculate the week day for any given date and a contest on how many different objects can be put into one matchbox.

When I considered buying it, I thought it would be useless because the calendar would not match this year’s calendar. But, what would a calendar need to match to another year? A given date (eg. Jan, 1st)  has to fall on the same week day and both years have to be either leap years or not.

I wrote a small program that compares different years for these conditions and found that I could reuse this calendar of 1974 again in 2019. However, many public holidays like (Easter, Whitsun, German Carnival, Ascension Day, Corpus Christi) are floating and match in some years only.

If you use your calendar as a diary, you can find a lot of “on this day”-reminders in your old calendar.

On my way to the attic now

In year … re-use old calendar of … YC
Re-use old calendar of … in year …CY


Leaving My Comfort Zone

A comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress.
— From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

fysbigDuring my vacation with my wife and my 16-year-old daughter Lilli in Ireland this summer, I had to leave my comfort zone and to push my personal boundaries twice.

I try to do this once in a while to extend my comfort zone as you can see in previous entries on paragliding (also with Lilli) and on speaking in front of large audiences. I usually create a video which makes it it easier to recall these impressions later.

This time my fear of „wild“ animals and again my acrophobia were concerned.

The first video shows how the two of us climbed up the Diamond Hill (450 m / PDF-map) in Connemara National Park. The more we proceeded the more steep an complicated our ascent became. About 50 meters below the summit I found myself in a situation where I didn’t feel like going further nor like going back. Sitting on a wet stone in a cloud, I was looking a few hundred meters down. With the mental support of Lilli, I finally reached the summit and found, as she had already assumed, the way down much easier than going back to where we came from.

The second video shows a regular hiking tour where we had to pass a herd of bulls (only separated by a thin electrical fence, which not really should be an obstacle for a raging bull) and later three horses without a fence between us. While the bulls showed no interest at all when we went a small path between their fence and a stone wall, the horses came up quickly to inspect us and I (obviously successfully) tried to calm them down. As I’m not used to deal with cattle or horses nor seeking their company on a regular basis, these were very exciting encounters.

How a Police Detective changed my Life

girlsday-konfetti-smWhen I was a boy back in the Seventies, I loved to watch U.S. TV crime series like “Kojak.” Every time a murder occurred and the investigation got stuck, Kojak would say: “We’ve got to ask the computer!”

Then he and his team would go into a computer room and type in some clues on the crime, like male victim, brown hair, blue eyes, contusion on the back of the head caused by a blow with a blunt object.

Magnetic tapes in racks would spin back and forth and after a while the printer would start to rattle and print five or so names of suspects. Three of them would already have been in jail or out of the country and a fourth one probably dead at the time of the murder. Only one was at large. Kojak would tear the paper out of the printer — he knew exactly what to do next.

Of course, that all made a lasting impression on me. One night I asked my mother, “How did the computer know?” To my disappointment, she told me that computers didn’t know anything at all; they had to be fed with information first (as people used to say back then).  My interest in computers vanished for a while after that, until I went to college.

As a computer science major in the Eighties, I bought my first home computer. Later, at my first job with a U.S. computer manufacturer, I worked as a programmer and consultant on software projects for major corporations.

That is when I began looking for a computer that would give me answers I did not have to enter myself in advance. Even if it seems so, I am not talking about Google or artificial intelligence, augmented reality or big data. I was looking for something completely different. And I finally found it: at Covestro.

But let me back up first: when I joined Bayer in 2000, I suddenly found myself in the midst of major change and was faced with many new challenges. It was the beginning of e-commerce and many industrial companies were racing to set up their own sales platforms on the internet. Bayer had just resolved to form a team of 50 people for this purpose, half of which was to be comprised of existing employees and the other half of new ones like me.

On this international and diverse team, I worked independently as a Java programmer and project manager, which included trips to Pittsburgh, United States, to coordinate activities with colleagues there. I did not expect to experience that kind of dynamism, openness and agility in an industrial company.

The sales platform was a success:  for several years, our customers could use it to schedule, place and track their orders. We later used the same computer code again for other portals. But for me personally, the search I mentioned before continued.

After six years as an in-house “IT service provider,” I switched over to the client side.  As a project manager in Business Engagement at Bayer Material Science, I mediated all project phases between IT and the IT program and platform users.

In 2009, we then launched our Social Collaboration and Networking platform, and I took the first, major step toward my goal. As a user of comparable platforms on the Internet, like Facebook and Twitter, I quickly got involved and became an active participant in a rapidly growing community. It was logical for me to be the one to answer those first inquiries that came into IT concerning the use and sense of such platforms. It was the beginning of an avalanche of questions and I started giving training classes all over Bayer on the hows and whys of social collaboration. After a while, I was released from my job at the time to work full-time on training and education in this field. I even went to Thailand, Hong Kong and Shanghai in this capacity.

What I never had thought possible before happened: based on my interests and inclinations alone, I had picked this new job myself, with the help of an employer who supported and promoted me along my chosen path.  I began giving talks about our experiences and advancements in the field of social networking and collaboration at national and international congresses. Interest was very great among the professionals in attendance from companies, government agencies and other organizations, because many of them were either still waiting to see how things would develop, or had not had the desired success after launch and were in search of new ideas. I can well remember a talk in front of some 250 international professionals at a congress in Orlando.

This growing network of people at other companies is still a source of many new ideas for my job today, which is at Covestro, a young and exciting company. By “young” I mean not only physical age, but also the ability and willingness to constantly change, develop and question the status quo. Our CEO once called Covestro “an eighty year-old startup.” We can look back on a long tradition of invention and research, but by leaving the Bayer Group, we acquired the freedom we need to start afresh in many areas and tailor things to our needs.

Here at Covestro I have finally found the answer to the question I have been pursing for so long: where can I find a computer that can give me answers I don’t have to enter first myself?

While collaborating within our social network, we collect knowledge and ideas, and share opinions, but the result is often greater than the sum of the contributions of each individual participant. The network gives me answers to questions like “Who is a recognized expert in topic X?,” “Where can I find information on topic Y that was also helpful for other colleagues?” or “How can I, as a specialist, become visible to others?” – I can access all this information without having to enter it first myself.

The “computer” I was looking for is not a device full of electronics after all, but rather our company’s social network. But what sounds so trivial is of inestimable value to us.

Take the topic of innovation. Social networks and innovation are closely related to my mind, and this fact is also expressed in my further career. In addition to my responsibility managing Social Collaboration, I am now also head of IT Innovation. Apart from planning and supporting company-wide idea campaigns, I am currently preparing an idea campaign for over 480 IT employees worldwide, for example. Recently, I greatly enjoyed holding a guest lecture on innovation management at the Cologne Business School and also the Girls’ Day 2017.

In everything I do today, I naturally can build on knowledge and experience acquired in the past, but I mostly use my new-found “computer.” When it comes to “ideation,” meaning finding and developing ideas as a team, we at Covestro already have a well-developed culture of collaboration: the broad competence and high motivation of the participants encourages the finding of ideas, as well as commenting and voting on them. Our in-house counterparts to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, as well as chats and video conferences, round out the options we have for collaborating. These platforms help me to select the right tools, depending on the task, and leave nothing to be desired. When they occasionally do, then I can develop and discuss new ideas with my colleagues.

So if I ever get stuck with something, like Kojak did, I just say: “We’ve got to ask the social network!”

Guest Lecture at the Cologne Business School



Yesterday I had a Guest Lecture at the Cologne Business School on invite of Dr. Christian Lucas on „IT Innovation Management“. It was an exciting experience not to present to professionals but to students that have this topic in their curriculum and perhaps (psst 🙂) in their exam. It was also exciting because my daughter Maja, a medical student (*proud dad*) who is one of my biggest fans, could accompany und support me for the first time.

3D Printing – My first hands-on

Covestro Booth at the K-Fair

Last week in the Covestro Booth at the K-Fair I had the chance to watch a presentation of Autodesk.

It was about Additive Manufacturing (=3D Printing) and bringing Software, Hardware and Material  together.

Catalogs of materials with all its properties and specifications would be included in the design tool and help designers to choose the right material. Autodesk sees a $B market not only in fancy designs but especially in parts like sealings for cars (in the first step).

3D-Printers will be able to scale for industrial manufacturing at appropriate volumes and costs. With Additive Manufacturing no dies or tools as in traditional machines are needed upfront.

They mentioned a light-weight tool (Tinkercad from Autodesk) that can be used to create (not only) simple Objects in the Browser.

When done you can send the result directly to one of many 3D-printing providers with a few clicks. You can choose the material and order it. It will be printed within days or even hours.

You can also download the model and print it yourself!

Out of curiosity I created and ordered a small object of about 5x5x5cm that in the meantime was made of ABS for a few Euros. If have to admit: in this I am a member of the late majority.

My first 3D-Printed Object
My first 3D-Printed Object. It throws my initials („B.E.O.“) as shadows when lit from different angles.

With tools like this it is easy to create 3D-Objects and Prints without any expert knowledge and any special equipment.

Why not print spare parts for your household appliances? Some simply shaped ones in my car and my kitchen appliances, I had to replace recently, come to my mind.

I remember once having to replace „almost“ a complete car door, because a broken plastics part in the electrical window regulator was not separately available for order 🙂

With a 3D capture app (like the coming  Windows Capture 3D) the last hurdle of having to create a model first will disappear.

Where will it lead us to when people start to print their own parts and exchange self-made models that are good enough for a certain purpose? Will the material get as expensive as ink cartridges for paper printers are now? Will there be charge on it like there is for rewritable storage media?

Will business models based on the short life-cycle of products or their parts disappear?

We will see. At least I have got a nice and solid Pencil Holder on my desk now.