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David Zehnder

Teamleader Leister Academy, Leister Technologies AG

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.



Iris Gisler

Human Resources Manager, Leister AG

Iris Gisler


Always in a hurry, always with a warm smile whenever we run into her, and always asks: «How are you?». This is how everyone here knows Iris Gisler. In an interview with Silke Landtwing, Corporate Communications Manager, Iris Gisler talks about where she gets her energy from and what she enjoys most about her job at Leister AG.



Iris, you joined Leister AG in December 2013 as the Human Resources Manager. What brought you to Leister?

It was a lucky coincidence. I took a trip around the world and when I came back was looking for a new job. Leister had just advertised the position of Human Resources Manager. And because I grew up and have roots in Obwalden, I knew Leister of course – also because my brother has worked at the company for more than 25 years now – and so I applied. I remember exactly what I said to Michael Sigrist, Chief Human Resources Officer, when he called to tell me that I got the job: «Mr. Sigrist, you have no idea how happy you’ve made me.»


I really wanted to work at Leister, because both the sector – machinery and industry – and the international setting appealed to me. It was something completely new for me, which was exactly what I was looking for.



What kind of training does it take to do a job like this?

I began with a business-related internship in an insurance company and then continued to work in the insurance industry. While working, I also completed my training as a Swiss-certified insurance specialist and then added training as a Swiss-certified marketing planner. However, I soon realized that not all facets of marketing appealed to me equally; neither market research (statistics) nor calculating market shares within distribution channels; they were just too dry for me.


I was lucky and got a job in the human resources department at AXA Winterthur. As the Human Resources Manager, I was suddenly responsible for around 70 trainees within a business unit and was also the contact person for staff working in the claims department. I was pretty much thrown into the deep end of the pool at the time, but I soon learned. I completed my training as a Swiss-certified HR specialist during my employment there. I was also lucky to have the support of trainers with many years of practical experience, not only at the beginning, but down the line as well.



How long did you work at AXA?

I was with AXA for 16 years, in various positions. I started in an agency as an «internal sales representative»; later, to fill in for my supervisor who became ill, I also did some work in external sales. This means that I visited and advised insurance customers at home. After spending some time in England to learn English, I was offered two temporary positions, first as an administrator in the key account and brokerage business and then in the claims department. I then transferred to the training center and trained prospective external sales representatives. On January 1, 2005, I joined the Human Resources department, where I stayed until leaving to travel around the world.



Education is one thing – personality and experience are another. If you had to describe yourself with three adjectives, what would they be?

You're asking me questions that I usually ask the candidates I interview (laughs).

I think I'm quite positive. I am solution-oriented and usually in a good mood.



Yes, that's exactly how I see you. You always seem cheerful and full of energy. What’s your secret?

Some of it is just my personality. I think life is easier with a positive attitude. When you’re grumpy all the time, it comes back to you. Besides, I enjoy my job a lot.


I draw peace and energy from nature. For instance, I like to go jogging or walking. And I enjoy peace and quiet after work, just having some time for myself. I read a lot and on weekends I like to cook something special.



What’s a normal day like in your job?

I'm at the office early in the morning because I need a bit of time to get «warmed up». From 7:00 to 8:00 a.m., I take my time answering e-mails. I usually schedule interviews with applicants from 8:30 a.m. onwards. After the interviews, I follow up with candidates or get ready for other appointments. I structure my day in blocks because structured work and being well prepared for a meeting are very important to me.


I have more appointments in the afternoon. Basically, my day consists of meetings with supervisors, employees and applicants, including meeting preparation and follow-up.



Are there also things you would like to change or improve?

We have the potential to make our company even better known, especially among students. This is why we intend to continue to cooperate with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU), such as through periodic specialized lectures. And of course, we would also welcome a closer cooperation with other universities.


The team in charge at the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg visited us here in Kägiswil. We had the opportunity to thoroughly present our company as well as hot air and laser welding.


The Rapperswil University of Applied Sciences (HSR) and the Northwestern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences (FHNW) in Brugg-Windisch will be part of the program starting in 2020. At these universities of applied sciences we focus primarily on events that deal with the professional future of students.


Of course we will be back next year for the contact meeting at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU) and at the Polymesse at the ETH Zurich. We meet a lot of interesting people at these student job fairs and, of course, potential employees. We talked to a lot of students at the HSLU’s 2018 contact meeting, for example, and three of them decided to take a job at Leister that same year.


From left to right. Jürg Bühler Head of R&D Platforms and Rafael Fanger, Design Engineer Technical Textiles, both Leister Technologies, and Iris Gisler, Human Resources Manager, Leister AG, at HSLU contact meeting 2019 in Lucerne



And, I have a personal goal. The entire employment application market is in a state of flux. People actively submit applications less frequently. Instead we have to find and recruit them through various channels – such as social media platforms. Digitization is changing the way we work and how we work together. That is why I am pursuing training in this area and completing the CAS Work 4.0: Digital Collaboration & New Work 2019. I am now 46 years old, so I still have 20 years of work ahead of me with the challenges of an emerging digital transformation. It’s important to me to respond to changes appropriately and at the right time.



How has Leister changed since you started working there in 2013?

Leister has grown bigger and bigger. Before constructing our new production facilities, which were ready for occupancy in July 2019, we were nearly out of room for new employees. When I joined Leister in December 2013, we had 600 employees worldwide; as of August 2019, it is now around 900.



What are the special highlights of your job or what do you like most about it?

What I enjoy the most is the contact I have with people: internal or external. I also enjoy the versatility of my job. Working just with numbers wouldn't be for me. And I really value working with my colleagues at Leister, because our relationships are based on trust.


Leister is an exciting company. While we are at home in one of the smallest cantons in Switzerland, successfully operate worldwide. I like the down-to-earth atmosphere and, at the same time, our company’s innovative strength.



What's next on your schedule?

An interview with a candidate, of course I am not allowed to tell you the person’s name.



If I'm looking for a job at Leister, how and where is the best place to apply?

The best way is online in response to an advertised position or simply spontaneously, because I also like to review unsolicited applications.



Thank you for the interesting interview and the insight into your professional development. And of course, I wish you the best of luck with your continuing education and loads of energy for your high-power job.



Lars Gehrke

Application Engineer, Leister Technologies AG, Laser Plastic Welding

Lars Gehrke

"Two left hands and all thumbs? I don't need that in my job. What I need is craftsmanship and a feeling for our customers and their individual needs."


Engineer Lars Gehrke from Leverkusen, Germany, has profound knowledge of laser welding, including theoretical and practical. In a three-year research project of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), he was involved in laser-assisted housing production for e-vehicle batteries. In his part-time master's program, he was able to perfectly expand his professional activities - laser welding, laser marking and process monitoring.


Why did you apply to Leister as an application engineer in the field of laser welding?
Leister offers a wide variety of laser plastic welding processes. I am particularly interested in pyrometry for the determination of heat radiation. This is a widely used method of process monitoring.


Which tasks are your most important?
The development and construction of laser welding processes for our worldwide customers is, among many others, my main task. The reason this task is so important stems from our customers needing different solutions due to different product requirements. For example, the selection of the laser, the optical components and the process variant.


What is your most exciting part of your work?
Craftsmanship and the challenges of direct customer contact. It gives me pleasure to work out a solution together with the customer, that's tailored to their needs.


How would you describe your team of colleagues?
Hands on mentality, solution-oriented, team player. My boss always says, "Who has two left hands and all thumbs..."


What characterizes your team?
There are four of us on the team and we're all very similar in some aspects. We all have manual skills and we are not afraid to get involved. Our cooperation is also characterized by a willingness to help.


Would you recommend your friends to work at Leister? If so, why?
Yes, for professional reasons. Since most of my friends live in Germany, a job at Leister Technologies AG in Switzerland would involve them moving abroad. You have to be ready for that.


If someone was interested in a job at Leister, what would you recommend or tell him/her about Leister?
In my experience at Leister, working with new people every day brings a lot of pleasure to my job. Many of our customers come directly to us in the laser laboratory and we're able to work together to develop the right solutions for their products.


Since we spend a lot of time working with customers, it's important to be a great communicator so you can understand their needs.


Of course, you should have a good knowledge of the laser welding process, both practically and theoretically.


If you would like more detailed information, please send me an email to lars.gehrke@leister.com


Do you have the opportunity to develop yourself professionally at Leister? What are you aiming for?
My current goal is to make the best use of my knowledge from my time as a research assistant at the LaborLaserTechnik (LLT) of the Rheinische Fachhochschule in Cologne, Germany, in the industrial environment.


At Leister I am currently being trained to handle the robot, but this will certainly not be the last of my professional training.


Did Leister promote you professionally, recommend further training courses or support you financially, for example?
Yes, I have already attended various internal training courses. For example, courses to improve my knowledge about the Leister product portfolio.


By the way, the photo shows a robot with a Leister globo optic next to me. The "Globo head" was developed by Leister and is used for contour welding of big components. For example, the Globo head is used to weld the rear lights of cars.


What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love the mountains so I like to go hiking, jogging and enjoying the view of the wonderful lakes. As a former city person, I enjoy this relaxing contrast. One of my favorite things here are the beautiful Swiss cows.


Thank you for the interesting interview. We are glad that you have decided to work for Leister. We wish you much success in your exciting tasks and look forward to continuing to work with you.

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