Innovation. It is in our DNA.
"I was interning at ABB when I heard about the Global Trainee Program. It sounded amazing! I was already enjoying working for the company, and learning a lot from them. The GTP was an incredible opportunity to really commit to the journey, and launch my career! What more could you ask for?”
People say ABB combines the benefits of a multinational with a successful start-up. What do you think?
There is a lot of truth in that. Start-ups have a real buzz and lots of energy about them. They are disruptive in the industry, as they are constantly trying to do something new. On the other hand, the knowledge, experience and reach you enjoy with a multinational like ABB, means new ideas have a stronger platform, and more chance of really going somewhere.
This is a very open and supportive place to work. Innovation is encouraged in all its forms, and given the space and support it needs to grow. If you have an idea for new technology, processes, or how to build better relationships – and you can show it is valid – you will be given a chance to run with it. ABB has been pioneering technological change on a huge scale for over 100 years. It is in its DNA.
ABB has some very innovative partnerships, culminating in the first round-the-world solar flight and the world’s largest all electric car racing championships. That must be exciting!
The variety of what we do here is extraordinary. You can always learn something new. Solar Impulse and Formula-E both show how we can run the world without consuming the Earth. The same is true for our products, services and soutions. I love robotics so that is a big inspiration. ABB pioneered the world’s first commercial all-electric microprocessor-controlled robot back in 1974. Today there are 400,000 installed worldwide. YuMi is particularly impressive. After a little training, almost anyone can program her and have her help with a range of simple to more complex tasks – like decorating and packing Swiss chocolate boxes.
Robotics is just one of the many exciting areas within the four businesses here. Across the other businesses, ABB has a range of technologies, products, and services which help to connect millions of homes and offices around the world with cleaner and more reliable electricity, direct from the source. Isn't that incredible!
Is there a strong sense of purpose at ABB? Is that important to you?
Yes! The challenges in information systems at ABB are similar to most multinationals – improving communication, increasing productivity, building better relationships… so for me, the difference is in how a company chooses to meet those challenges. Here, there is a big commitment and focus on environmental and social change. So whatever I am doing each day, I take pride in knowing that we are working toward a more sustainable future for our planet.
What did you want to get out of the GTP? What were your priorities?
For me, it was about exploring a bigger world and learning the skills I need to make an impact.
I wanted to learn how large transformational projects are tackled, both from the technical side and from the business side. Therefore, I needed a mixture of technical, social and commercial skills. Plus I needed to grow my network and to understand how business works: What are the goals? What are the critical processes? Of course, I wanted to understand myself better too! What am I good at? What inspires me? What do I need to work on? Where can I make a real difference?
Have you found what you were looking for?
I am definitely getting there! My first assignment was in Poland on a new three-year project to build a shared services organization and provide transparency on global travel costs. It is the first in a series of cross-functional transformation initiatives, a pilot project to create a methodology that can then be reused in other areas of the business.
This was a tough project to begin with. The platform had to be highly adaptable to cope with variations in travel policy across different countries and included many stakeholders with different perspectives and priorities.
The learning curve was massive. Sometimes, it felt like people were speaking a foreign language. There was the software architecture to understand, then the implementation of different tools, the analytics and finally the migration models. How do you move from dozens of legacy systems in a smooth and efficient way, while retaining data quality? On top of all that, there were the project management methodologies to learn too. Each discipline has its own vocabulary and culture that you have to learn. It was certainly a challenge and a great way to begin my program!
On your second assignment, you wanted to learn more about managing IT projects from the business side?
Yes, I was based in ABB headquarters in Zurich for this assignment and supported project management and communications.
Often you face issues because the dialogue between the business and Information Services is not as clear as it should be. I wanted to reduce this risk by understanding the business fundamentals.
How do you create a global business process, for example? Who are the stakeholders? What are the drivers?
Working with Finance, HR and Procurement & Logistics, I learned how to look at issues from different perspectives and understand different priorities. There were many challenges to navigate before a consensus began to emerge. I learned so much and it really helps me be much more patient.
Your third assignment was in a small business recently acquired by ABB. How has that been?
Really interesting. I wanted a completely different challenge – new country, new business unit and new project. Enterprise Software (ES) is a small-scale business based in in Georgia, USA, which specializes in asset and workforce management, energy portfolio management and network management.
They cover the same sectors as the rest of ABB but with a software and service offering. There is so much for someone like me to learn, about this business and about post-acquisition integrations in general – what needs to be integrated, how to manage the change process and how to successfully adopt the new tools and technology acquired with the new business.
I helped to roll out a resource planning platform to a new group of users - while investigating how we could integrate Salesforce across the two businesses, with consistent data and reporting requirements.
In each case, there were great opportunities to build on the experience I had gained in the first two assignments, looking at global solutions from a local standpoint – focusing on the technical and business aspects of the project.
When you are heavily involved in technical issues, it is sometimes easy to forget that technical solutions will only work if the human needs are clear and, critically, all the stakeholders have agreed on them. It sounds obvious but human needs, whether in business or society – are complex, multi-layered and constantly changing.
Since the first tools were made a million years ago or more, humans have been defined by the technology we make and use. There have been huge benefits for all of us – socially, environmentally, and economically… but there are risks too.
Learning how to balance these risks is more important than ever, as we work more and more closely with our technology. I wanted to work on challenges of that scale and at ABB I have definitely found them!
Watch Barbara's video
Name: Barbara Poniecka
Global Trainee Program: Information Systems
Education: Bachelor of Engineering (Applied Computer Science). Master of Engineering (Informatics), AGH University of Science and Technology, Poland
Interests: Exploring the world and its food, hiking, snowboarding