Interviews with colleagues

Who are OTTO employees and what jobs are they doing? What is their career advice to future OTTOnians?

Our interviews with colleagues from different departments get you a glimpse of our work environment before you try it out yourself.
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Patrick Uhter, System Developer
 

What is the job of a system developer, and what can he tell us about his job, his projects and colleagues? This is what we were interested in, and this is why we interviewed our colleague Patrick Uhter, System Developer with the Otto Group.

What is your name and your job with us?

My name is Patrick Uhter and according to the job description I'm a system developer. Yet things are structured in a way that I fill a number of different roles. Specifically it means that I work as a system developer, project manager and escalation manager on a daily basis.

Which division are you at?
I work in the department “stock management” of the Otto Group's IT division (GTP – Group Technology Partner).

How long have you been working for us?
I've been with the Otto Group for almost 4 years now.

Why did you choose to work for the Otto Group?
Before joining I had been working for medium-sized software developers, and I was enticed by the in-house IT of a global player. The Otto Group as Europe's biggest mail order house was particularly compelling.

What are the specific challenges with your line of work?
We use a number of different interlinked software systems for dealing with the group-wide processes. Along with the specific demands of the different departments this results in a complex system and process environment that we have to get to grips with. Even if this is not clearly evident from the outside, to do our business there is a lot of IT under one bonnet.

What are you most proud of?
Nothing in particular, actually, but rather of my daily work and the software system that we have managed to set up and support here.

Why?
If you look at the benchmark data of the system and see how many daily transactions and data points it covers, and how many hundred thousands of items and packages leave the warehouse every day, then you know that you don't only do a good job yourself, but that you're part of a professional and well coordinated team.

Tell us about your colleagues and your team!
We are 14 people including business analysts, project managers and software developers. With this composition we are fully able to respond to the demands from the departments, starting with the consultation, to the analysis to the actual programming. And with an average age in the mid 30s, we have a good mix of “juniors” and “old hands”.

We are constantly looking for new employees – what, in your own words, is the main argument for seeking out a position in your division?
We are adding to our team both in terms of specialist/organisational positions and technical positions. So if you have a liking for complex IT projects, this will be right for you – whether on the conceptional level in close collaboration with the departments or as a software developer.

Uwe Kolk, Director IT-Services
 

What is your name and your job with us?
Uwe Kolk, Director IT Services. I am responsible for the heart of IT services: The project management, the product management, the software development, the data centres, the operation of the online shops and that of SAP, in short everything relating to IT with the exception of the P4P programmes. My organisation includes more than 30 departments and more than 650 employees.

How long have you been working for us and what is your professional career?
I have been with the Otto Group since 2009, starting as the Director of Infrastructure Operation of the GTP. Before that I was an independent business consultant for nine years, working exclusively abroad. And before that I was CIO of the publishing group Bauer, Hamburg. I am a trained retail salesperson (textiles), worked for two years as an assistant and then studied business computer sciences.

What is the GTP?
The central IT service provider for the multichannel retail and logistics firms, as well as for the Otto Group.

What are the specific challenges your division is facing?

We are faced with an enormous technological change, moving away from in-house solutions towards standardised products, bringing about an extensive adjustment of the IT architecture. Moreover, we have to manage the cultural and organisational change from an internal IT to a service provider.

What are you most proud of when thinking of your employees?
Their commitment and their loyalty to OTTO.

Why?
Because those are important and dependable virtues.

Tell us about your colleagues and your team!
My team is a colourful mix of specialists and generalists. We have embarked on a long journey from being an internal IT division to being a service provider. In an industry benchmark the GTP comes in among the 50 biggest German IT system houses. The journey leads us through great landscapes as well as through deserts and steep mountain passes. Some participants settle down somewhere, others join the group along the way. It sure is exhausting, yet in the end we will all have had lots of enriching experiences and impressions.

What open positions do you have available and what is your ideal candidate?
There are a number of positions with different technical, organisational or personal-cultural challenges. The ideal candidate will display experience, courage to change, an entrepreneurial approach and passion for success.

We are constantly looking for new employees – what, in your own words, is the main argument for seeking out a position in your division?

At GTP, you have a great sphere of influence both in terms of content and technology. The extensive change process opens up room for action, challenging, developing and fostering your own personality.

Markus Hagen, IT Architect
 

IT offers lots of exciting jobs and great colleagues. Today we present Markus Hagen:

What is your name and your job with us?

My name is Markus Hagen and I am 33 years old. As IT architect I am responsible for the entire IT architecture of the Otto Group – the keyword is Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM)

Which division are you at?
I am part of central architecture – THE central point of reference for all architectural questions around our IT landscape.

How long have you been working for us?
I started 5 years ago as a business analyst in IT. My tasks have continuously evolved over the years, and for the past 2 years I've been working as an architect on the design of the IT target architecture.

Why did you choose to work for the Otto Group?
I found the issues at hand very interesting at the time, and so far nothing has changed about that. I just enjoy finding the right IT solutions to the demands of the business side.

I particularly appreciate the opportunity to further develop on a high level, both professionally and technically – yet that's only possible when you get a chance in your day-to-day work to gather real expertise. With the Otto Group, this becomes possible.

What are the specific challenges with your line of work?

I very much appreciate the versatility of my work. I contribute to the building of the IT target architecture, work as a consultant for important projects and, as a type of “construction supervisor”, have to make sure that the structure complies with architectural rules. That's only possible when I'm always on top of things, both professionally and technically, and that's not always easy.

What are you most proud of?

A preliminary study on a Business Intelligence Architecture, which I conducted. Our goals was to analyse and optimise supplier terms and conditions group-wide.

Why?
I just think it's wonderful to see how something that I have pre-structured is being successfully implemented group-wide. The system now in operation saves the company real money, month by month!

Tell us about your colleagues and your team!
We are a mixed team, with a broad range of technical and professional expertise. Some colleagues are consultants; others have joined us coming from a variety of corporate divisions.
We all have a strong understanding of technology, and we're able to think abstractly as well to network our ideas. It goes without saying that we are all very good at evaluating IT systems;-)

We are constantly looking for new employees – what, in your own words, is the main argument for seeking out a position in your division?

Where else do you have the opportunity to significantly impact the IT architecture of a global corporation with your own ideas and creativity? If you are looking for technical and professional challenges, we are just right for you!

Sven Wündrich, Team Lead Department SMEs and Fulfilment
 

What is your name and your job with us?
My name is Sven Wündrich and I implement product-related projects with my colleagues. Our product AMOS is a mail order solution for the Otto Group, which is particularly used by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as to complete fulfilment services.

Which division are you at?
Within the GTP, the IT service provider of the Otto Group, I work in logistics at the Dresden site.

How long have you been working for us?
Since October 1994, and I still enjoy going to the office every day. I was able to turn my hobby into a career, and not everyone is this lucky.

Why did you choose to work for the Otto Group?
Seriously? It was more of a coincidence at the time, because I discovered the job opening at the employment centre. Only after I had started working for the Otto Group did I realise the advantages it offered compared to other employers, including the working time model, regular advanced training opportunities and a number of attractive development tracks. I would definitely apply for a position with Otto again.

What are the specific challenges with your line of work?
For me it is always a challenge to understand the specific ideas and desires of our clients, and then to consult them in a helpful manner and adapt the software in a way that meets their needs. Of course, all of that has to happen in time and on budget.

What are you most proud of?
Our speed.

Why?
We are able to implement and introduce new business models within just a few months. I think that's cool.

Tell us about your colleagues and your team!
Without colleagues you get nothing done. Only by cooperating with others do you get the results that our clients expect. Each employee has his strengths, and he has to use them in a well-directed way. I think that a pleasant working atmosphere is key to doing a good job.

We are constantly looking for new employees – what, in your own words, is the main argument for seeking out a position in your division?
To master logistical processes with the help of IT provides a lot of variety, and boredom remains a foreign word.

Alessa Sievers, Division Category Management (Business Development)
 

When did you start working for OTTO and what is your job?
My internship in Business Development with OTTO runs from the beginning of March until the end of August 2012. Then, till the end of December, I'll finish my master thesis, thus wrapping up my MBA :-)
My tasks include, for instance, the support of the Dutch Consignment Partners V&D (approximately 50 stores + webshop). This comprises the following activities: product selection and expansion, sales and style analyses, marketing events and promotion, merchandising and inventories. Moreover I support additional wholesale partners and work on internal projects.

What is your field of study?
I'm completing a programme at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW). I graduate in “Multichannel Trade Management in Textile Business”. It's a three-semester, bilingual MBA programme with a three-month internship period, and it includes field trips to Italy and Istanbul (visits of textile production and finishing mills).

What does the programme cover?
You learn the business administration basics with a specialisation on textiles and fashion. So it's a combination of business administration classes (business administration, controlling, buying and marketing management, international trade and globalisation, international business law, intercultural management) and fashion-related classes (Supply Chain Management, CSR, TQM, product management, collection development, textile technology). Practical application is the key, and that's guaranteed by the close connection to the Otto Group in general and through projects with members of the Otto Group in particular. I actually got to work with OTTO on the project “market entry in Brazil”, and with BAUR on “development of a product range in underwear and swimwear”. Moreover we get to attend presentations such as one by Lars Brau (menswear Brau).

What do you particularly like about your internship?

I have great tasks in an exciting as well as constantly changing and developing line of action. From the start I was given a lot of responsibility, so I can work very independently. I also love to be included in decision processes, being a full team member as an intern/master's graduate, working in an atmosphere with great team spirit. For me, getting an all-round insight into future-oriented projects has proven invaluable.

What are you planning on doing after your internship?
I was offered an entry-level position following my master thesis starting next year – and I'm all fired up to meet the new challenges and actively engage them :-)

Tell us something about your team
I work in a young and open-minded team that has welcomed me with open arms. We have a great inner cohesion and mutual support. Our work atmosphere is performance-oriented yet relaxed. We are all full of energy, trying to get things moving and exploring new paths with many new ideas.

How would you characterise working for OTTO? What makes it special?
My experience has shown that OTTO offers excellent training and development opportunities! The master programme was thus the perfect complement to my bachelor in “Fashion and Design Management”. The possibility to do an internship and subsequently write you master thesis within the Otto Group is ideal, and it is only topped by the prospect of direct entry right after graduating. LASCANA is a company with a vibrant start-up atmosphere and a still manageable number of employees, allowing for lots of personal contact and exchange, while benefiting from the experience of a great corporation in the background, which is very enriching. Last but not least, the work within the exciting and successful product ranges (underwear and swimwear) is special in and of itself.

What do you do in your spare time?
I love to travel :-), including city trips on long weekends: May in Berlin, June in Vienna, and in July I'm going to Paris with my best friend! Also backpacking trips to Asia/ Africa/ South America, in order to discover far-away places and cultures. Or simply to Schleswig-Holstein where I grew up, or to St. Peter Ording at the North Sea.

What is a must-see or must-do in Hamburg?
Enjoy the flair of the Elbe! There are several possibilities :-) After knocking off work you can drink a shandy a the Beach Club St. Pauli, go for a bicycle tour along the Elbe up to the romantic Treppenviertel (stairs-quarter) in Blankenese, go through the old Elbtunnel to have a barbecue on the other bank of the Elbe and play some Cross Golf or experience the lively atmosphere at the fish market after a night on the town.

Martin Vögtle, Head Category Strategy and Management Hardware
 

What made you apply for a job with OTTO?
In essence there were three aspects that made OTTO attractive as an employer for me: First the exciting challenge to to be part of a shift to an e-driven company, in particular during times of dynamic market conditions. Second to have the opportunity of working in a newly created area of Category Management. And third the four sub-categories multimedia, household electronics, furniture and house and home textiles, which, because of their strong online affinity, provide the perfect basis for the further development of OTTO's strategic outlook.

What are your specific tasks in your department?

Strategy and Management Hardware comprises four areas of responsibility. These include the strategy and positioning of the category hardware, the group-wide marketing coordination (national/international), the coordination of E-Commerce as well as topics and projects relating to supply chain management.

What makes your work interesting?

To gear the different expectations from four heterogeneous sub-categories towards a holistic management of durable consumer goods is clearly bringing about challenges and change. You basically have to face new situations in real-time. At the same time, Strategy and Management is a central point of contact for many other company divisions. Therefore you are very close to the company ,pulse‘ and get a good idea of what's moving and what's moving us.

What advice would you give to a job applicant?

In my opinion, it is an absolute imperative to have a clear idea what direction you want to take and what your motivation for the application is. I personally make sure that the applicant has familiarised himself with the job specification and that he is able to promote his skills in this context.

What has been your professional career with OTTO and what are your recommendations to young professionals?

After graduating in September 2002 I started in marketing with APART, eventually working as Head of Multichannel Marketing. After the insolvency I checked a number of options and made a conscious decision to continue my career path with OTTO looking for a new challenge.

How do you find the (work) atmosphere in your department? (please feel free to tell us more about your colleagues and your team)
All in all I found it a very open and dedicated work environment, whi ch made it easy for me to integrate – despite the fact that I had previously worked in the fashion field... I would like to thank all my colleagues for that!

What do you do in your spare time?
As for everybody, spare time is a very valuable resource. Whenever possible I spend it outdoors, since that's the best way for me to recharge my batteries. I particularly enjoy running, bicycling, inline skating and skiing.

What is a must-see in Hamburg?

There's a lot – Hamburg is an incredibly diverse city in terms of sights, culture and nature. My personal TOP 3, which we usually go through with visitors, are the harbour, the historic warehouse district and a canoe trip on the Alster.

What blogs do you read?
TWOFORFASHION ;-), THE SATORIALIST, MY DIGITAL HOME

Why should anyone apply for a job in your division?
Because employees get the chance to work very independently, having a great range of possible action in a dynamic environment of a newly created division.

Christian Conrad, Category Manager HAKA YoungFashion
 

Our colleague Christian Conrad has been with OTTO since 1996, having gone through a number of career phases. We are happy to have reached him for an interview. Enjoy reading!

What made you apply for a job with OTTO?
Back then, as a “youngster”, I was simply impressed by the sheer size and number of different companies. Today we are talking 123 group companies in over 20 countries...as a high school intern, however, I was even impressed by the escalators in the head office ;)
In general I was always interested in buying, combined with the contacts to suppliers in the Far East, and here OTTO was “the” main address in Hamburg...

At the time, OTTO was already the leading innovator and promoter of sustainable business practices. One example is the “Code of Conduct” with its suppliers, which defines and imposes social standards. Moreover, OTTO first offered its products online as early as 1995.

What are your specific tasks in your department?
I am responsible for the entire management of the selection of product ranges for the category YOUNG-Fashion in HAKA (menswear). This includes managing and developing our own clothing range as well as evaluating and choosing external brands, in order to put together a client-friendly and internationally attractive assortment. We are also responsible for equipping and staging our product lines and collections across all the different platforms in Germany and abroad, such as online, print (catalogues/flyers). In all of that, of course, we always have to focus on economic viability.

What makes your work interesting?

Always having to face new market situations and demands, but also the mix of creative and analytical tasks...yet you always have to be ready to be measured, since a collection's success or lack thereof becomes obvious relatively quickly. As to the travel opportunities that the job entails, I'm sure that only few would snub their noses at that :-)

What advice would you give to a job applicant?

For me, the apprenticeship in the stationary trade was extremely helpful, and I would definitely do it again. After all, nowhere do you get closer to the point of sale and the customers' needs. I can safely say that I'm a product type ;-)
From today's point of view I would try to do one or the other internship abroad (possibly in the Far East).

What has been your professional career with OTTO and what are your recommendations to young professionals?

I did an internship in buying with OTTO, followed by a well-proven path: first intern, then Assistent Product Manager, Junior Product Manager, Product Manager, Senior Product Manager, and finally Head Category Manager YoungFashion (starting with KOB then SPORT and today HAKA).


How do you find the (work) atmosphere in your department? (please feel free to tell us more about your colleagues and your team)
I think that we have a very good and collegial atmosphere, including to neighbouring departments. We closely collaborate in the team, everybody helps and supports one another. After work some colleagues spend their spare time together, which surely promotes an agreeable and collegial climate.
OTTO is definitely a leading employer when it comes to benefits or facilities on the OTTO Campus, such as the fitness lounge.

What do you do in your spare time?
I love to just spend time with my family, go for an “old-school” downtown shopping tour or visit the home matches of the HSV soccer club, which definitely isn't so easy at the moment;)

What is a must-see in Hamburg?
The new HafenCity, and because of my own passion, I strongly advocate visiting the Hamburg Harley Days.

What blogs do you read?
Two4fashion and Exciting commerce

Lena Giesler, Category Manager Actionsport
 

Our colleague Lena Giesler has been with OTTO since 2002. We are glad that she took the time to talk about her responsibilities and experiences.

What made you apply for a job with OTTO?

Lena Giesler: The main reason for applying for a job with OTTO was my own personal interest in fashion. On top of that I liked the extensive training opportunities, the size and international scope of the company as well as Hamburg as a location.

What are your specific tasks in your department?
I am responsible for the Category Management Actionsports, one of 4 categories in the sports division at OTTO. Among other things I select the product ranges and develop our own brands, and I place and present our product lines on- and offline. A large part of my job is to negotiate with brand and production market representatives.

What makes your work interesting?

Every day we are facing new, exciting challenges, especially in the fast-paced world of trends in fashion and sports, but also in the catalogue and online business. I am always in touch with a number of sport brands suppliers and in-house interfaces, thus meeting a lot of different people, which I find particularly valuable. Whenever I do store checks or visit trade fairs at home and abroad, I get to know new cities, countries and cultures.

What advice would you give to a job applicant?
Find all the information you can about the company, its values, opportunities for employees etc. And, whether in a written application or personal interview, don't try to pretend you are someone that you are not – it never works.

What has been your professional career with OTTO and what are your recommendations to young professionals?
After my Abitur (general qualification for university entrance) I started a three-year wholesale and export training programme with the addition of business assistance and accounting. After successfully completing the program I accepted the offer to become a buying assistant. Then, after a part-time, intensive graduate programme at the AMD Academy for Fashion and Design in Hamburg, and a several-week-long internship abroad in Asia, I was promoted to a junior position in buying and was later confirmed as a senior buyer. Last year I had the chance to take part in the group-wide buying development program and, shortly after completing it, got a position as category manager.

Careers like mine are not an exception with OTTO, confirming what a difference the great range of training and education programmes makes, provided you are motivated to take advantage of them. I would recommend young professionals to use those opportunities, take your own initiatives and express interest in continuing education.


How do you find the (work) atmosphere in your department? (please feel free to tell us more about your colleagues and your team)
The sports division at OTTO is known for its above-average, and good work atmosphere. We are a young and dynamic team with lean management structures and clear chain of responsibilities. Our collection means fun for us, thus we are very successful with it. Colleagues trust one another, and all of that combined leads to a strong demand for trainee and internship positions in our division.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love travelling and sports (as befits our division :-)) and I enjoy the most beautiful city in the world!

What is a must-see in Hamburg?

Alster, Elbe & the harbour!

What blogs do you read?

Two for fashion

 
 
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Career tips

Why is your work at OTTO your dream job?

I found my dream job because I have the opportunity to learn something new and because we show successfully how agile and cross-functional teamwork is working in a big corporate group.

 
 
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