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News: 11/08/2019

Committed, motivated, David Zehnder – an interview with the Leister Academy team leader

David Zehnder has headed the Leister Academy at Leister Technologies AG since February 1, 2018. A lot has happened since then. In an interview, David talks to Silke Landtwing, Manager of Corporate Communications about how he came to Leister, where he previously worked, what he has since accomplished here and what his next big goals are.


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

It was a lucky coincidence. I know Michael Sigrist, Chief Human Resources Officer, from the BTV Luzern gymnastics club. We started talking at a gymnastics meet and I told him that Edwards Lifesciences AG, my employer at the time, was closing their Swiss location, and so I was looking for a job. It so happened that the position of Leister Academy team leader at Leister Technologies AG was being advertised at the time. Michael told me about the position and encouraged me to apply. I read the job advertisement, thought the job sounded exciting and submitted my application after an interesting phone call with Livio Barbagallo, Vice President of the Industrial Heating & Laser Systems business unit. After that everything happened really quickly: two interviews, a signed contract, and there I was working at Leister.


Do you have many years of experience in employee development and training?

I was originally trained as a chemical laboratory assistant. I really liked how versatile that profession was. I worked as a chemical laboratory assistant for a total of four years before joining Mettler-Toledo (Switzerland) GmbH, where I worked in customer support and marketing. This was my first in-depth experience with training, development, advanced training and further education, and ultimately laid the foundation for my future professional career.


My next job was at Roche Diagnostics International AG in Rotkreuz. Here I worked as the Senior Support & Training Specialist in the Global Customer Support department. During my eleven years at Roche, I completed a degree in business administration. After completing my studies, I wanted a change in perspective as an HR business partner at Roche. I even had the OK to make the change, but then – as often happens in life – I suddenly received an exciting offer to start in a management position as head of the training department at Edwards Lifesciences AG in Horw.


At Edwards, I worked with my team to set up a training department to train cleanroom employees within half a year. The training program taught employees how to make artificial heart valves in cleanrooms. I was able to apply what I learned, as well as my professional knowledge and experience in training and development.


And then to Leister – heart valves and hot air devices – what’s the connection there?

(laughs) There isn’t one. They are two completely different worlds. But there is one thing they have in common: quality. Quality is vital in the manufacture of heart valves. At Leister, quality is one of our most important commitments to our customers around the world, a promise they trust in and rely on.


You've changed a lot in terms of training at Leister since you arrived, and all within a year and a half. What exactly?

We expanded the range of «technical training» offered. The entire structure of the training courses was modified and brought up to a standardized level. The workflows were assessed and also standardized – to the extent possible. The methodical, didactic approach to training was also further developed. I would not have been able to accomplish this without my crew of trainers, which consists of experienced Leister experts.


Since 2018, we have also published more than 50 new how-to videos on YouTube. A big thank you goes to the MarCom team for this.


And we have conducted the first tests with the HoloLens from Microsoft (mixed reality device) with the aim of being able to offer remote repairs.


From the beginning of 2018 to today, we have trained and educated a total of 263 specialists from our national subsidiaries and sales partners.


We needed an additional room to provide repair and service training in the building at headquarters in Kägiswil (Switzerland). A new training room was prepared for us between February and April of 2019, and has been used for training since May 1, 2019.


You have very interesting and multifaceted responsibilities – you already have e-learning media, welding training and a concept for sales training – what is your personal focus?

In addition to training for our customers and sales partners, I find it particularly important to encourage our own employees and to create development opportunities for them. Sales training is a first step and will be offered to specific target groups in Switzerland starting in 2020.


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

I am currently involved in rolling out a learning management system to be used to administrate, document and organize all learning activities. Leister employees and those of our sales partners can then complete specific learning units, individually by segment and topic. This enables us to better reach employees in our national companies and the employees of our sales partners, even faster.


Microlearning, consisting of short learning units on various topics that are useful for day-to-day work, will also be offered to our employees at regular intervals.


I am also eager to expand our range of e-learning media. Specifically, this means developing our «technical training» geared towards a blended learning setup. Blended learning is a mixture of classroom training and e-learning media. Learning activities take place before, during and after the «technical training».


The plan, of course, is that other segments in the Leister Group will also benefit from our e-learning media.


The 2020 training plan for the employees in our national companies and sales partners has now been finalized.


Are there any training sessions for our customers?

Our experts from the various business lines provide equipment and application training directly on our customers' premises when necessary. We would like to make them even more professional and to expand the range of courses on offer. Webinar units are a support medium to inform our customers worldwide about product launches and product innovations, for example. We intend to use these kinds of webinars in the future.


Together with Martin Kubias, International Sales Engineer, we are currently developing a training concept for our customers in the Laser Plastic Welding business segment. We would like to show new and long-standing customers the different ways plastic laser welding can be used and give them a better understanding of the various applications in a two-day workshop.


If you look back on the past and into the future: is there something you are particularly proud of or are particularly happy about?

I think it's great that the Leister Academy has meanwhile become so well established. And I am pleased about how committed the trainers from our various business areas are to supporting me in the training sessions. A big thank you, by the way, goes to the reception team in our main office, which actively helps administer and organize the training. Starting in March 2020, Sandra Müller will join my team and support me in all learning and training activities. I'm really looking forward to it.


Success for me is when after the training people tell me how much they have learned, and what they are able take with them, both personally and for their work. It shows me that we are on the right track and are doing our job well. In general, I am happy when people are motivated to seek out knowledge, learn something new and are curious about things.


You asked if there was anything I was especially happy about: yes, there is – every day, actually. My job is very multifaceted and I can say that there has never really been a day when I didn't want to come to work.


What are your next big goals?

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


Our training concept also envisages offering the training and education courses developed here to our national subsidiaries on site. This takes place in a train-the-trainer setup. Our trainers in Kägiswil pass their knowledge on to future trainers in the national companies within the scope of the train-the-trainer program; adapted, of course, to their individual needs and cultural differences. We would like to launch the program in 2020 at Leister USA and Leister China.


Our Repair & Training Center is currently being modernized and digitized; processes are being streamlined, distances shortened, and so on. The underlying idea is to transform today's Repair & Training Center into a «showcase workshop». The next goal is for the repairs to be carried out in a standardized manner worldwide. This means adapting both the required equipment and the workflows.


And what are the next training sessions on the agenda?


Abdalahi ould Mohamed Abderrahmane, our Leister distributor in Mauritania and David Zehnder during welding training in Kägiswil, November 4, 2019


The Basic Plastic Welding Training is currently running from November 4 to 8, 2019. And the SEAMTEK Partner Training will be held from November 12 to 14, 2019. The last training session this year will be the Advanced Plastic Welding Training from November 25 to December 6, 2019.


You certainly no chance of getting bored. Speaking of which, with your busy schedule, do you still have time to pursue private hobbies? In other words: what does David Zehnder do when he's not at Leister – to balance out the demands of your job and recharge your batteries?

Yes, absolutely. I have a good and active balance. My family likes sports, is always physically active and usually out and about, preferably in the mountains, hiking in summer, skiing and snowboarding in winter.


I still enjoy doing gymnastics and go to bar training every Friday evening at the BTV Luzern gymnastics club. I sometimes see Michael Sigrist there as a spectator when he goes to watch his son. I even take part in the gymnastics festivals when I can.


I do strength and fitness training at Top Gym Fitness in Sarnen two to three times a week during my lunch hour. And if I still have time after family, friends, studies and work, I like to jump out of planes, of course always with a parachute (smiles). I need to balance out my job with something to help me let loose. It feels good and revitalizes me.


Thank you for the interesting conversation. It's nice to have you with us. The Leister Academy is giving us a huge boost in our training and further education. We hope that you continue to be successful, satisfied and motivated in your multifaceted job, that you successfully complete your further education and that your parachute always works.


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