“Respect for people and their know-how”

Wei Cai, 30, is Chinese and has been working for Global HTC (Heidelberg Technology Center) as a technical trainee in the Concrete Application & Development department since May 2013. After two initial months at HTC in Leimen, he will move on to a number of sites internationally in order to gain a broader base of experience. Before beginning the trainee programme, Mr. Cai studied materials science in Finland and Switzerland, focusing on building materials.

Eckhard Wagner, 50, is a German technical mineralogist (materials scientist) and has been working with HeidelbergCement for 22 years. He joined the department for Research, Development, and Consulting (FEB – Forschung, Entwicklung & Beratung) in 1992, and in 1998 began working for Heidelberger Calcium Aluminates. He joined the Global HTC R&D team in January 2007 and today heads the Concrete Application & Development department. Mr. Cai is his youngest team member.

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Can you tell us a little about what is important in your life?

My family and my job are very important to me. I always wanted to work as a materials scientist, so I am very happy to have the opportunity to develop new products – especially since joining the Research & Development department in 2007.

That sounds a lot like me. I have a passion for discovering new things, thinking about new ideas, and employing new technologies and methods. From what I have seen so far, I believe that this is the right place for me to achieve my goals and follow my passion. I’m not only thinking of the fact that I have gained so much knowledge since coming to HeidelbergCement. It’s also the way people here communicate with each other, how we all cooperate and learn from one another.

The strong team spirit is also one of the best things about HTC for me. Sometimes it almost feels like a family. And most of the people who have been with HeidelbergCement for a long time are proud to be a “Heidelberger”.

I want to add that, for me, fairness, respect, and responsibility are important values. Our company takes responsibility for its employees in a very fundamental way – by ensuring a safe work environment. Safety has been on the agenda for many years and has highest priority today. I cannot stress enough the importance that unsafe practices are not accepted at our company.

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What made you choose HeidelbergCement as an employer Mr. Cai?

What attracted me most were the trainee programme and the special assistance offered to young employees. I was also intrigued by the direct involvement of trainees in the real business of the company. As an employer, HeidelbergCement encourages us to grow and gather experience. That’s what I have encountered so far.

Working here gives me a very strong feeling of potential, and hope that I can contribute something. To power growth that is driven by unique products and services, innovation, and efficiency – that takes more than the work of just one department or HTC alone. We all have to pull together and share our knowledge to build the story of our company’s success.

And that is indeed one of the missions of HTC: We look for people with different backgrounds who have experience accumulated over long periods of time. We bring them together in one place to concentrate their knowledge with the intention of spreading it throughout the company. New for HTC is the step taken in recent years to internationalise the base of available knowledge. Today, there are at least 20 nationalities represented at Global HTC headquarters. Making full use of this knowledge for the benefit of the company is at the core of our work. For me, this environment offers a great opportunity – and one you don’t find very often in life.

I agree, working for HeidelbergCement is a great opportunity. When I get up in the morning, I look forward to getting to the office. The things I am working on are fascinating, not to mention fun!

And I must say that, in all the 22 years I have been working with HeidelbergCement, I cannot remember a single day that was boring. Anytime things started to get routine, a new challenge always came up. Sometimes it was a bit stressful and very demanding, but that’s what makes it so interesting.

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Mr. Wagner, you have been working with HeidelbergCement since 1992. This must have been a very exciting period for the company and its employees? 

Definitely. In the early 1990s, the political changes across the countries of Eastern Europe offered vast new opportunities. HeidelbergCement didn’t wait, but took the initiative to invest in the building materials industry of the region. This was not always an easy process, because the markets were different, as well as the technological possibilities. We couldn’t just copy and paste from Western countries and say: “OK, this is the new standard.” They simply did not have adequate machinery, so we had to improve quality and quantity step by step and make a lot of investments.

But even more important to me is the remarkable way HeidelbergCement carried out these changes – namely, with respect for the people and their know-how. We didn’t treat our new colleagues and customers with arrogance, but as partners. And that immediately paid off: Our partnerships were based on deep respect and sometimes we were accepted as friends. That really was a great time, a genuine pioneer era.

Mr. Wagner, do you have any advice for Mr. Cai as he begins his career with HeidelbergCement? 

Enjoy your work and have fun doing your job! To work in R&D you must be passionate to discover new materials and develop products. The kick that you get out of creating a new product is better than money.

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And, any words for HeidelbergCement on its 140th anniversary?

I wish the company continued growth and success. My hope is that HeidelbergCement will one day be seen not as an old standard in the corporate landscape, but as an innovative and environmentally progressive leader.

Further international growth and that HeidelbergCement will become the top supplier in the world of new materials and new technological solutions. At the same time, I hope that the company will hold onto its family spirit.

(The interview was conducted in 2013.)

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