Business Development Manager
Sensor: confidential, still in development
Favorite spot at Sensirion’s headquarters: Coffee Machine
Drink: Augustiner beer
Music: German hip-hop
Sports team: San Francisco Giants (baseball)
Travel destination: South Africa
As a high-tech company, Sensirion has an obligation to continually improve existing products and develop new ones in order to keep up with the latest trends and satisfy customer requirements. To help accomplish this, Sensirion has a department entirely devoted to innovations and new ideas. Indeed, there's no shortage of ideas at the company, which is why the Sensor Innovation department always receives more product ideas than can be tested.
Customers are the most important drivers of these ideas, since they tell us how sensors can be applied for their purposes. After these discussions, it’s up to us to develop the relevant technology. In addition, a lot of ideas come from our employees in the Research and Development department (R&D). They often discover and come up with technologies that quickly raise the question of how they can be implemented in our sensor solutions. Finally, global trends such as self-driving cars represent another significant source of innovation. In addition to the obvious areas of application for sensors in the car such as distance measurement, often entirely new fields arise; for example, in comfort or entertainment functions, since the driver has little to do with the driving.
Sensirion thus collects a variety of ideas that are examined for marketability and feasibility. This is Kristian Baumann’s job, who works together with seven colleagues in the Sensor Innovation team. The team brings together representatives from the Marketing and R&D divisions; the latter assesses technical feasibility and performs measurement and lab tests. Members of the marketing group, on the other hand, determine if an idea is truly inventive and if there is a market for it. The principle of Lean Innovation plays a key role in this process. This means that as many ideas as possible are researched over a short period of time and with as little effort as possible. As soon as a good reason emerges to no longer pursue the idea, it is abandoned before too much time and money has been expended. When resources free up again, the division management chooses the next idea, which is then handled by a team of two, one from Marketing and one from R&D.
This allows Kristian to research commercial aspects while simultaneously working on some five or six projects that potentially overlap, but still each include something completely new. A large part of his work is taken up by customer discussions with developers and innovators, via telephone or on site.
Who can better say what sensors they will need for the future than the customers themselves? Kristian also carries out a lot of online research, although since Sensirion employees often have a great deal of knowledge and experience, discussions with them are a valuable source of information. Usually, it's possible to find someone who wrote their doctoral thesis on the topic in question, or brings other experience with them from the relevant market.
It’s no coincidence that Kristian chose a career that walks the path between research and innovation. After obtaining his degree in physics at the Technical University in Munich and doing a year of research at a computer manufacturer in Zurich, he wrote his doctoral thesis on quantum optics at ETH Zurich. He then spent a year in one of the epicenters of innovation – Silicon Valley, where he studied ultra-cold quantum gases at Stanford University as a post-doctorate student. It was at a bar in Palo Alto where a friend of a friend talked to him about Sensirion, the acquaintance’s former employer, that finally led Kristian to apply to the Swiss high-tech company.
After a year here, Kristian had the exciting opportunity to switch to the Marketing and Sales division from R&D and thus develop his skills in an entirely new area. He currently acts as the interface between customers, development, sales and product management, making for an exceptionally varied working day. At the same time, he is repeatedly given the opportunity to present his projects to management, and ideally they make the leap into product development. “It's extremely satisfying when products you have developed in theory make it into the hands of customers.” But the most exciting thing is the people:
So many intelligent and interesting people work at Sensirion – from chemists and physicists to electrical and mechanical engineers – all with fascinating backgrounds. It's a blast to work with them each day.