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A Conversation with Axel Timme About Developing Life Skills and Finding Your Purpose

Axel Timme is a Senior Management Consultant with extensive background in the automotive industry working for numerous companies including Volkswagen AG in Germany, Volkswagen Group of America, and Porsche Consulting. He has held positions ranging from logistics/IT intern and project buyer, all the way to his current position as a Senior Management Consultant with Porsche […]

Axel Timme
Axel Timme

Axel Timme is a Senior Management Consultant with extensive background in the automotive industry working for numerous companies including Volkswagen AG in Germany, Volkswagen Group of America, and Porsche Consulting. He has held positions ranging from logistics/IT intern and project buyer, all the way to his current position as a Senior Management Consultant with Porsche Consulting.

He received a Bachelor and Master degree in Industrial Engineering from Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg. During his time there, he received an award from the Volkswagen Student Talent Program. Also during his studies, Axel was a key member of VDI, which is the German Engineers Association where he was responsible for the yearly budget, planning tours, excursions, workshops, and events, as well organizing workshops with Volkswagen while in close collaboration with the logistics institute of the University of Magdeburg.

In his professional roles, Axel gained strong expertise with proven work history in Business Model Development, Go-to-Market Strategies, Customer Experience, Sales Transformation, Technical Change and Launch Management, IT Project Management, Operational Excellence, Factory Cost Optimization, Electrification, and New Mobility.

Axel currently resides with his family in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

My life has been like a race since I made the decision to get out of my comfort zone once again and left Germany for an extended internship at Volkswagen Chattanooga in 2012. I also lived in France for a year during high school. Now it was time to repeat the challenge – in a professional environment.

Why a race? I landed in Chattanooga, Tennessee and 3 months later I started dating my future wife. One year later, we were engaged, another year later, we got married, and 16 months years later, my son was born. All this happened while also being apart for a year, as I had to return to Germany for my Master studies. In 2015, I started my first full time job and bought my Porsche Boxster right away – just like being on a racetrack.

With being married and taking on a corporate responsibly in procurement, I felt settled for the first time. However, I knew working in a cubicle would not be the type of job that I would be doing for the rest of my life. I had to look for a new challenge and started a new role with Porsche Consulting in Atlanta – back on the racetrack! The need for constant change is a big challenge with a family to support. My role in the management-consulting world offers me the changes and challenges which I need. It also allows me to offer my family a stable environment and my wife to take car of my son full-time – time for a boxenstop!

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

Today’s world can be very stressful and causes distraction from the important things. In consulting, we have to process a lot of information very fast, in different locations or time zones, for different clients and co-workers. However, the key is to deliver great results as the clients expects and pays for it. When being unfocused, I take a step back and try to see the big picture – personally and professionally since both affect each other. How does the bigger picture look at 38,000 feet? What is the overall purpose and strategy? If you answer the why first, then you can get to the what and how.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

The world is full of opportunities – especially for people who are smart and hard workers. Feeling the stress of graduating and having to find your first job can put us into a place where you don’t make the right decision. It is important to understand all the options and not just choose the first option available. I ended up choosing a first option as I was married for 6 months and needed a job. My wife told me to make sure that I was doing the right thing, but I went with the first opportunity. Luckily enough for me, the first option ended up being a good one.

What is one lifestyle trend that excites you? (could be something like Hot Yoga, Healthy Eating, Wearable Exercise Technology)

In summer 2019, I decided to rapidly change my lifestyle in order to become healthier. We had training on getting better sleep by increasing the amount of deep sleep to at least ninety minutes. I knew that my lifestyle caused problems to my sleep efficiency and I started to become tired. During this training I learned about key elements of better sleep, such as sleep cycles, strict bedtimes, wake up times, exercise, food, impact of blue light, etc. I recognized that it is very hard as a consultant to meet any of these requirements but I made a choice to change my perspective on this.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

My wife and a co-worker are the biggest influencers in my life. My wife is the foundation of our family and helps me to get back down to earth and to see what matters in life. I leave my house on Monday mornings at 4:30 AM to get to the airport and usually come back on Thursday or Friday evenings after a two hour drive back from Atlanta. Being on the road and in the air so much with long working hours, there is simply not much time to reflect. My wife certainly pushes me to take time and think in order to understand who I am and what is important in life.

Certainly, my wife and I had many challenges to overcome. Our life was on a fast track since we met without much time to rest or to reflect. But also, we had financial challenges to face as I am the only one working since our son was born. My co-worker has a good ear to listen to my challenges and he was able to give me good advice as he went through the same challenges himself. He truly has the capabilities to inspire and motivate people to do the right things and has helped me to achieve my goals and make good decisions.

What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned?

Know who you are and what your purpose is. Everybody should be aware of their own purpose in order to make the right decisions. Some people might think it is hard to find a purpose in consulting, as you don’t work for a health care provider or non-profit environmental company. However, purpose is not about who you work for but what defines yourself. When I think about my purpose, I put my family first to make sure that I provide a secure and stable environment for my son and wife. Secondly, I like to enable change in order to make the world a better place. Change starts with the mindset of people, which is certainly the biggest barrier to cross. However, in consulting we have many opportunities to enable change at the C-level by challenging the status quo and thinking outside of the box. Personally, I drive for change with focus on sustainability and people focus.

What do you think it is that makes you/someone successful?

In todays world, you must be a good listener – it’s as simple as that. For sure, there are other skill sets you need to be successful in a company. However, today more than ever, it is important to listen to your customer. Obviously, this applies to businesses as everybody talks about customer centricity. At the end of the day, this also applies to our personal and business relationships. It is about being able to listen to your hiring manager in your job interview to understand the needs of the organization and for you to realize if this is the right fit for you. Moving on, it is important to listen to you co-workers and manager to establish and maintain a healthy and efficient work climate. Lastly, it is about being able to listen to your family, your spouse, or children to understand their needs. No matter if it is personal or professional life, listening is one of the best skill sets to own as it puts you into the pole position – if you know what the other person needs you are one step ahead of the rest.

How do you stay motivated?

As I mentioned earlier, you need to have a purpose to life. I would like to use a John F. Kennedy anecdote to better explain why.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. “We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share…I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” People were following his purpose and a janitor once said, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”.

Having a defined purpose in mind you should also ask yourself this very important question: “why I am enjoying myself”. I you can answer this question then you can face any challenge in front of you!

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

I want to be a role model for my son and family while being strong when times are challenging and to provide them with most possible comfort and safety. Being a role model for my son will be the source for him being a role model in the future as well in order to make the right decisions for himself and his loved ones. At work, I would like to be perceived as a leader who provides a fair, inspiring, and enjoyable work environment with the purpose of leaving a positive and lasting impact in the world. We will achieve this by constantly challenging the status quo in our own organization, clients, and of course ourselves to make the best future relevant decisions, for generations to come.

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