David Zehnder


David Zehnder is head of the Leister Academy at Leister Technologies AG since February 1, 2018. A lot has happened since then.

In an interview with Silke Landtwing, Manager Corporate Communications, David told us how he came to Leister, where he was before, what he has created here and what his next big goals are.

David, how did you get your job at Leister Technologies AG?

That was a happy coincidence. I know Michael Sigrist, Chief Human Resources Officer, from the gymnastics club BTV Lucerne. During a gymnastics event, we got to talking and I told him that Edwards Lifesciences AG, my employer at the time, was closing its Swiss location and that I was looking for a job. It was precisely at this time that Leister Technologies AG advertised the position of Team Leader, Leister Academy. Michael informed me about it and encouraged me to apply for it. I looked at the job advertisement, found the job exciting and, after an interesting telephone conversation with Livio Barbagallo, Vice President, Industrial Heating & Laser Systems, I applied for the position. Then it all happened really fast; Two job interviews, contract signed and I was already at Leister.

Do you have experience developing and training employees?

Originally, I trained as a chemical lab technician. I liked it a lot because the job is very versatile. I worked for a total of four years as a chemical laboratory assistant and then joined Mettler-Toledo (Switzerland) GmbH, where I worked in customer support and marketing. It was then that I began to look more deeply into the topics of training, development and education, and laid the foundation for my future professional career.

My next job was with Roche Diagnostics International AG in Rotkreuz where I worked as a Senior Support & Training Specialist in the "Global Customer Support" department. During my 11 years at Roche, I completed a degree in business administration. After graduating, I wanted to transition as an HR business partner at Roche. I even had the OK for it, but then - as is the case in life - I was suddenly offered the exciting opportunity to start in a management position as "Head of Training Department" at Edwards Lifesciences AG in Horw.

At Edwards, my team and I set up a training department to instruct cleanroom employees within half a year. During the training sessions, the employees were enabled to manufacture artificial heart valves in cleanrooms. Here I was able to apply both my previous professional experience in training and development, as well as my knowledge from my studies, in an ideal way.

And then to Leister - heart valves and hot-air devices - how does that go together?

(laughs) It doesn't fit at all. These are two completely different worlds, but there is one thing they all have in common: the quality of the product. It is vital in heart valve manufacturing. At Leister, quality is one of our most important promises to our worldwide customers, one that they trust and rely on.

Since you've been here, you've made a lot of changes related to training at Leister What have you been able to change for the better?

We have expanded the range of "Technical Training" courses. The entire structure of the training was revised and brought to a uniform level. The processes were examined and standardized. The methodical and enlightening procedure for the training courses was also further developed. All of this couldn't have been done without my training crew, which consists of several, experienced Leister experts.

We have also published more than 50 new how-to videos on YouTube since 2018. Many thanks to the MarCom team for this incredible achievment. Also, thanks to the Digital Transformation Team, we have carried out initial tests with Microsoft's HoloLens (Mixed Reality Device) so we can eventually offer remote repairs. Since the beginning of 2018 until today, we have trained and educated a total of 263 specialists from our national companies and sales partners. In order to conduct the repair and service trainings at our headquarters in Kägiswil (Switzerland), we needed an additional room. That is why we built a new training room in 2019. Since May 1, 2019, this room has been in use for training.

Your area of responsibility is very interesting and versatile (e-learning media, welding training, concepts for sales training, etc.). Where do you set your personal focus?

In addition to training our customers and sales partners, it is particularly important to me to support our own employees and give them developmental resources. The sales training is a first step and will be offered in 2020 for specific target groups in Switzerland.

What learning and training opportunities can our employees, customers and sales partners expect in the coming year?

I am currently working on the introduction of a learning management system where all learning activities are administered, documented and organised. Employees of Leister and our sales partners will then have the opportunity to complete training sessions tailored to their individual area and topic. This will enable us to reach the employees in our national companies and the employees of our sales partners even better and faster.

In addition, there will be regular, so-called “micro-learnings” for our employees. These are short learning sessions that cover various topics that are useful for daily work.

It is also important to me to expand our range of e-learning media. In concrete terms, this means developing our "Technical Training" in the direction of a blended learning setup. Blended Learning is a mixture of classroom training and the use of e-learning media. Learning activities thus take place before, during and after the "Technical Training".

It is of course planned that other areas of the Leister Group will also benefit from our e-learning media. The training plan for our employees in the national companies and sales partners for 2020 has now been completed.

Are there trainings for our customers too?

If required, our experts from the various business lines provide equipment and application training directly on the customers' premises. We would like to make these even more professional and expand them further. Webinars are a supportive channel used to inform our global customers about product launches and product innovations. We would like to use such webinars in the future.

Together with Martin Kubias, International Sales Engineer, we are currently developing a training program for our customers in the Laser Plastic Welding business line. We would like to show both new and current customers the different possibilities of laser plastic welding in a two-day workshop and make them more familiar with it.

When you look back and you look forward: Is there something you are particularly proud of or particularly happy about?

I think it's great that the Leister Academy has now become so well established. I am thrilled to see the commitment from the trainers from our various business lines and their support during the training sessions. By the way, a big thank you to the reception team at our headquarters, who actively help with training administration and organization. In March 2020 Sandra Müller joined my team and supports me in all learning and training activities. I'm really thankful for her help.

When people come to me after the training and tell me how much they have learned, what they have taken away for themselves personally and for their work, it is always a huge success for me. This shows me that we are on the right track and that we are doing our job well. I am generally pleased when people are motivated to acquire knowledge, learn something new and approach things with curiosity.

You wanted to know if there was something I was particularly happy about: Yeah, there is. My job is very versatile and I can say that there hasn't been a day that I haven't enjoyed going to work.

What are your next big goals?

I am currently completing an additional training course in e-learning design and I am already looking forward to putting my new knowledge into practice.

In addition, our training program provides the opportunity for the training and education developed here to also be offered locally for our country subsidiaries. This is done in a train-the-trainer setup. Our trainers in Kaegiswil pass on their knowledge to future trainers in the national companies within the framework of Train-the-Trainer. Naturally adapted to their respective needs and cultural differences. We would like to start this during 2020 at Leister USA and Leister China.

Our Repair & Training Center is currently being modernized and digitalized, while processes are being simplified, distances are being shortened and so on. The idea behind it is to transform the current Repair & Training Center into a "showcase workshop". The next goal is then to ensure that repairs are carried out in the same way worldwide. This means adjusting both the equipment required and the processes.

So you won't be bored anytime soon. Speaking of which, with your busy schedule, do you still have time to pursue private hobbies? Or, to put it another way: What does David Zehnder do when he's not at Leister - as a balance to your job and to recharge your batteries?

Yes, absolutely, I look for a good balance. We are a sporty family, always on the move and mostly on the road. Preferably in the mountains. In summer for hiking and in winter for skiing and snowboarding.

I still have a connection with gymnastics and go to the bar training at the BTV Lucerne gymnastics club on Friday evenings. I meet Michael Sigrist there as a spectator when he accompanies his son. If I make it, I'll even take part in the gymnastics festivals.

Over lunchtime I go to Top Gym Fitness in Sarnen two to three times a week for strength and conditioning training. And if there is still time besides family, friends, study and work, I like to jump out of airplanes, of course always with a parachute (smiles). I need a balance to my job, where I can work off some energy. It's good for me and gives me new energy.

Thanks for the interesting conversation. We are delighted that you are with us and that your Leister Academy is bringing a huge boost to our training and additional education. We wish you continued success, joy and motivation in your diverse job, a successful completion of your training and that your parachute always works.