Berlin, 06/28/2019

TMB19: Cool Heads, Hot Ideas

The winning team
Amiaz Habtu and Thomas Rabe
Immanuel Hermreck

Subject: Employees
Country: Germany
Category: Project

Bertelsmann recently hosted its 12th “Talent Meets Bertelsmann” career event in Berlin. 54 students from all over the world traveled to the three-day event. In workshops, they developed data-driven business models and presented their results to a panel of judges comprised of top managers from the Group.

When you have five hours to think up an innovative business model, develop it in a team, create an appealing presentation, and present it to a high-caliber panel of judges, you really don’t need temperatures of 33°C (91.4°F) to work up a sweat. But even this week’s heat wave didn’t stop the 54 students who had traveled from all over the world to Berlin for the “Talent Meets Bertelsmann” event from keeping a cool head on stage. This is the twelfth time Bertelsmann has hosted the career event, often known simply as “TMB,” – and it had received more than 1,000 applications from 116 countries, from Spain and Brazil, to China, Russia, Tanzania, and Tunisia, Germany and the U.S. The group of participants who were finally invited was accordingly international. Over a total of three days they were given the opportunity to get to know Bertelsmann’s worldwide businesses, exchange ideas with executives and company representatives, and learn about career opportunities within the Group.

“We are delighted with the steadily growing popularity of Talent Meets Bertelsmann,” said Bertelsmann’s Chief HR Officer Immanuel Hermreck, who welcomed the participants to Bertelsmann Unter den Linden 1 in Berlin on Tuesday morning. “With around 1,000 applications from 116 countries, the event impressively reflects Bertelsmann’s internationality and diversity. Our TMB network now comprises over 600 alumni. Since the launch of the event series, we have recruited around 160 participants as permanent employees or interns.”

On Monday, the students had already been welcomed by Hays Steilberg, Executive Vice President Corporate HR, Executives and Talent, and Pamela Taylor, Director Employer Branding & Talent Acquisition. Jendrik Timm, Head of Strategy & Data Analytics at RTL Nederland and a TMB alumnus himself, then introduced them to the video-on-demand platform Videoland, and by creatively setting up their workspace and also making a short film about their team, the participants got to know each other better on the first day of the event. On Tuesday morning, however, they “got down to business”: Each team was given its own case study, regarding a given Bertelsmann division. The focus was on the development of data-driven business models and the use of new technologies such as cloud technology or artificial intelligence. Two employees from the respective division supported the participants by serving as coaches and providing valuable tips and insights into the relevant market environments. The concentration at Bertelsmann Unter den Linden 1 in Berlin was palpable as discussions and deliberations took place. Pieces of paper and flipcharts full of notes covered tables and lined the walls. The sound of typing fingers flying over laptop keyboards filled the room at all times, and colorful paper and large cardboard boxes slowly grew into creative elements for the subsequent presentations.

After the time allotted was up, the event moved from Unter den Linden 1 to the Festsaal Kreuzberg concert hall on the edge of the Treptow district in Berlin. Inside the red-brick event venue between the Spree river and the Flutgraben (flood channel) the participants were greeted by a nine-strong panel of judges comprised of top managers from the Group. Besides the members of the Bertelsmann Executive Board – Chairman & CEO Thomas Rabe, CHRO Immanuel Hermreck, CFO Bernd Hirsch, and CEO of Penguin Random House Markus Dohle – the judges included Núra Cabuti, CEO of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, Rolf Hellermann, CEO of Arvato Financial Solutions, Julia Jäkel, CEO of Gruner + Jahr, Dominique Kulling, EVP of BMG, and Gabriella Vidus, CEO of RTL Hungary. This event was moderated for the second time by the presenter Amiaz Habtu, known among other things from the successful Vox format “Die Höhle der Löwen.” After welcoming the guests, including the Chairman of the Bertelsmann Supervisory Board, Christoph Mohn, Amiaz Habtu got the audience in the right mood with the Queen classic “We Will Rock You” before the really hot phase of the day began. The teams presented their results in just ten minutes each. In their evaluation, the judges considered not only the practical relevance of the idea, but also the financial plan prepared by the group, and a convincing and entertaining presentation by the whole team. In a subsequent Q&A round, which also lasted ten minutes, the judges put the students to the test once again, firing questions that were sometimes difficult to answer.

In the end, the panel was won over by the Penguin Random House team, which in the form of a fictitious television show called “Random Talk” presented how the publishing group can publish books that are tailored specifically to readers’ interests based on online search queries. The members of the group played various roles as guests or moderators of the talk show and caused some amusement among the audience, and not only with their book “Herbalism for Witches,” the result of their analysis of data on current trending topics. “It was an excellent format, very entertaining,” said Thomas Rabe, summing up the judges’ decision. “The whole team was involved and the use of data was very clearly defined. Furthermore, the team was very well prepared and the show’s title, ‘Random Talk,’ was perfect.” The group will soon be able to discuss whether and how their model can be implemented in real life with the employees at Penguin Random House. Because their presentation earned them a trip to New York, where they will visit not only the publishing group, but also BMG. Team RTL Group, which developed an Alexa skill for TV formats, came second, earning a trip to RTL Nederland and Videoland in Amsterdam. Team Bertelsmann Education Group came third and looks forward to visiting G+J in Hamburg. Its task was to develop a business model that would enable Relias to meet the growing need for home care, increasingly targeting private customers in the process. 

“What always impresses me from year to year is the young people’s self-confidence on stage,” said Thomas Rabe congratulating all the participants. “Standing up here with people you’ve never met before and presenting a business you didn’t know before – to people who have been dealing with these businesses for years – that’s a tremendous achievement.” After which the visibly relieved participants were able to celebrate the end of an exciting day. BMG artist Roosevelt provided suitable music in an exclusive concert, ensuring a full dance floor at the Festsaal Kreuzberg with his synth-pop sound and tracks like “Under The Sun” and “Shadows.” However, the twelfth edition of Talent Meets Bertelsmann was not over yet. On Wednesday, the participants received detailed feedback on their group presentations and individual performances. At a “Career Market” and in various presentations at Bertelsmann Unter den Linden 1 in Berlin they were also able to learn more about the activities of the individual divisions and about various HR programs at Bertelsmann.