Henrik Hahn

Henrik Hahn

CDO Evonik Industries and Chairman of the Management Board of Evonik Digital GmbH

Henrik Hahn, CDO Evonik Industries, discusses his career journey and the essential traits of an effective leader...

 Starting his career more than 20 years ago, after graduating with an engineering doctorate in the field of fluid dynamics and rheology, Henrik Hahn is the current Chief Digital Officer of Evonik Industries and Chairman of the Management Board of Evonik Digital GmbH , but held previous roles in the process technology and engineering department, before moving to the chemical research and development department and joining the corporate strategy department more recently.

Since he began his career in the chemicals industry, Hahn reveals that “the industry has not changed that much. Our business model at Evonik Industries is to supply essential specialties to help improve the products of customers or enable the development of new products. Then, once proved to make a difference, we build a plant and run it for, say, 30-50 years. That is the typical model of the industry and that has not really changed. But, perhaps from the fifties/sixties onwards, the industry has been trying to deploy the latest technology, particularly within the production space. As a result, digital transformation has been at the heart of the chemical industry for many decades, utilising automation, intelligent solutions and data to improve efficiency gains.” One change Hahn has seen in particular within the industry comes from a supply chain perspective with strategies evolving to become more customer centric. “Over the last two decades - at least - we have been really putting the customers at the center of our business activities and digitalisation will help to make the interaction with customers more meaningful.”

When it comes to being an effective leader, Hahn believes that there is a general rule of leadership. “Good leadership starts with talking and listening to what has not been said, and this has not changed in the crisis. Since the crisis it’s even more difficult to listen to what is not said in all these virtual meetings we are now undergoing. So when it comes to digital leadership, I think still our role is to inform, inspire and promote the strategic use of digital assets and to embrace the entire organisation to come to a certain degree of data centricity. Ultimately, what is needed to make this a viable digital leadership is tangible proof of concepts and results. We should be very clear on a framework of decisions and this has not changed along with the pandemic situation.” Reflecting on his career Hahn believes that ultimately “as a leader to achieve transparency and meaningful goals is different when working remotely, compared to a classic organisation lineup where you have frequent face-to-face exchange.”

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