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Growing up in the very same city that Miele was founded, Markus Herfert, our Head of Agile PMO, has a 15-year history with the company. In 2019, he was the third person to join the Miele X team, and in 2021, he was entrusted with the ambitious project of finding and designing our new Community Space in The Valley, Amsterdam. Now that project is (almost) completed, we sat down with Markus to discuss his life, his experiences with the company, and what might come next.
Showing off the best of Miele – Markus’s start at Miele HQ
“I grew up in the small city where Miele was founded in 1899,” Markus begins. “To clarify, I wasn’t growing up in 1899,” he adds, laughing. “Miele was founded in 1899, and the city where it started still exists, and that’s where I grew up.”
“My background is in Business Psychology,” he continues. “I joined Miele HQ in 2007, moving through a number of different departments while I was there. At one point I helped to organise customer trips. So, we hosted journalists and architects and promoted Miele’s products against the competition. This involved things like hosting factory tours, management visits, cultural activities – basically, showing off the best of Miele.”
Markus also spent some time in the Market Research international team, where he performed online research as well as focus group trials and testing advertising campaigns. “For instance, we would test a new feature, such as voice control in our products,” he explains. “So doing research for future Miele developments. It could be up to eight years before the product or feature would be launched on the market, so it was super interesting and amazing to see the products so early in their development.”
Growth, change, and having a good time – The early days of Miele X
In 2019, Markus was one of the first people invited to join the company’s global digital hub at Miele X. “I’ve been here pretty much from the beginning,” he says. “I was employee number three. I thought Miele X was a great opportunity to gain experience working abroad. It was an adventure, moving to Amsterdam and building a start-up within a traditional, family-owned company.”
“My background means I have a good understanding of both Miele and Miele X,” he adds. “I’d already worked for the Miele group for ten years before moving to Amsterdam, so I could help Miele X understand the way the rest of the group works and build bridges between the two organisations.”
Despite branching out from a firmly established and successful brand, Markus recalls some of the challenges Miele X faced in the early days. “There was a lot to put in place. We even started without a bank account, which made paying our suppliers – and our people – a bit tricky. All the systems and processes needed to be established from scratch.”
Although launching a digital start-up had its challenges, Markus and the rest of the team managed to find joy in every success. “One of the key things about Miele X is that everybody here has a strong passion for growth, for change, but also having a good time,” he says. “The Communication and HR teams really help with this, making sure we enjoy and celebrate what we achieve. We don’t just go onto the next thing. But at the same time, there’s a good balance. So, when we achieve something, we zoom out, have a review and then move on, using what we’ve learned.”
Our biggest value – How the Miele X culture shaped the new office project
According to Markus, it was the unique Miele X culture that helped to inform his decisions when it came to designing the company’s new Community Space in Amsterdam. “Our culture is our biggest value,” he states confidently. “We have a fantastic culture – there are around 40 different nationalities and 30 different languages spoken in the company. When you serve over 50 different markets, this super-diversity means we can understand their cultures, their countries, their perspectives and their capabilities.”
With such an international workforce, Markus wanted to create an open and welcoming space that could be enjoyed by everyone. “A lot of people here have never lived in Amsterdam before,” he explains. “So, this is a place where they’re creating some of their most important human relationships and we wanted to create a space that encourages that.”
With collaboration also being such a key feature of life at Miele X, Markus describes how it felt important to gain employees’ input on the new office. “We asked for their ideas on what we should include in the new space,” he says. “And a lot of their ideas became reality in the final building. The device lab, the maternity room, the sleeping pods – these are just a few of the employee suggestions that made it into the final design.”
Back to business - what’s next for Markus
So now that his work on the new office project is coming to an end, what new challenges await Markus - and Miele X – moving forward? “Setting up this new space has been a two-year project, so for me, it’s a chance to focus on the business again,” he says. “We need to understand where we stand, as still a relatively new organisation, and to make sure our processes are efficient and value-driven.”
“We’re looking at bringing the organisation in line with a more mature approach to agile working,” he adds. “We all aim to work in agile sprints, working towards objectives and key results – what we call OKR. We’re also looking at everyone’s objectives, from the overall company goals, which are divided into department and team goals, to make sure that everything fits together. It’s a top-down and bottom-up approach, looking at the management team’s goals and how each team can work towards them.”
So, it sounds like the adventure at Miele X never stops.