A conversation with Marco Langhof, Board Chairman of the “Verband der IT- und Multimediaindustrie Sachsen-Anhalt e. V”
"Studying, living and working in the IT location of Saxony-Anhalt" – the CeBIT theme day on the topic of skilled staff and career opportunities that is taking place on 18th March is to focus on the IT specialists of tomorrow.With guest presentations and contact partners from the IT faculties in the universities and technical colleges in Saxony-Anhalt as well as representatives from successful IT companies which provide insights into the superb possibilities for entry and advancement that the IT location of Saxony-Anhalt offers to students and those developing their careers.
Magdeburg / Halle. Marco Langhof, Executive Chairman of the “Verband der IT- und Multimediaindustrie Sachsen-Anhalt e. V”, the Association for the IT and Multimedia Industry Saxony-Anhalt, tells us where Saxony-Anhalt does well, and why it is a great place for IT companies and IT professionals to put down roots.
When you're on your travels either in Germany or abroad, what have you found that people associate Saxony-Anhalt with?
I find people think of it as being the "heartland of German history" and associate it with images of vineyards and Roman walls; it is also known as a location for the chemicals industry and mechanical engineering...
Does this mean the profile of the IT and multimedia industry is rather low?
Unfortunately, yes. And yet without us it wouldn't be possible for any of the other business sectors to stay competitive. We are a key sector – but somehow our profile is very low. It may be the case that Saxony-Anhalt is no Silicon Valley and may never get there, yet in recent years the IT sector has chartered an explosive course of development. On the one hand this has happened because major companies such as DELL, IBM and the subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom T-Systems have all chosen to locate here, and on the other, numerous small and medium sized companies have sprung up and expanded. These companies, of which there are over 500, now employ around 14,000 staff. This amounts to a 44 percent increase in employment over the past seven years. And it also means that more people now work in our sector than in the mechanical engineering sector by a long way.
Quantity is important, but what kind of quality can the local sector offer?
Let me give you a few examples: T-Systems is building its Twin Core data centre, which will be one of the biggest data processing centres in Europe once it is complete. regiocom, which is based in Magdeburg, is one of the biggest service providers for IT and business processes to the German energy industry. TSA supplies seven German states with central E-government systems. AV-TEST is one of the world's leading providers of services in IT security and antivirus research. DIGITTRADE develops and manufactures external hard disks and USB drives with hardware encryption. Measuring technology from IDS Innomic makes vibrations visible and measurable, which serves the purposes of product improvement and vibrations monitoring...
What attracts IT firms to Saxony-Anhalt and makes them put down roots here?
On the one hand there's the market itself which works on a relatively regional basis, especially for services companies. It has proven to be very open to solutions from the worlds of information and communications technology. On the other hand there's the proximity to several universities and colleges. This enables the companies to become involved in a dense network of research, which many put to intensive use. At the same time, the local companies are in pole position when it comes to attracting the best staff. Around 3,000 students are currently enrolled on IT-specific courses in the local places of training and education, such as the Otto-von-Guericke-University in Magdeburg, the Martin-Luther-University in Halle-Wittenberg and the Anhalt, Harz and Merseburg universities of applied sciences.
The geographical proximity to the scientists and students is just one aspect. How do the companies and the new generation of sought-after professionals make contact?
There are many examples of cooperation. Companies organize presentations, and students are frequently supervised by them when they complete their bachelor's or master's theses. Some companies give grants to students during their studies, and they then work in the company when they have graduated.
Does this mean that the IT companies in Saxony-Anhalt can satisfy all their hiring needs locally?
Unfortunately not yet. In the Magdeburg region alone, there are currently 700 unfilled vacancies for IT professionals. This means we are not just setting our hopes on local graduates, but have to look further afield, in both Germany and the wider world. And we're also hoping to attract people back to the region – like me. From the mid-nineties I was working in Stuttgart before opening my company here a few years ago.
One thing that people often say is that salaries here are lower than elsewhere. On the one hand, however, that is only partially true, but on the other, the cost of living here is also lower. Buying a plot of land and building a house is something I would have found far harder to achieve in Stuttgart. And then there are the costs of child care.
It isn't just an interesting job and a suitable income that are the arguments in favour of attracting staff to a specific place. Do the companies who are seeking skilled staff know how to position themselves as an employer brand? And above all else, what is it like here?
I know from experience that the experts in the IT sector aren't all early risers. They are very dedicated – but they expect individual freedom in return for their commitment. And as far as I can see, there's plenty of that in the local companies. My colleagues don't subscribe to old fashioned patriarchal hierarchies – they're entrepreneurs with a sense of social responsibility. For example, I pay my employees' kindergarten fees. Overall, I think Saxony-Anhalt is one of the best federal states in Germany in terms of a work and family life balance. And I don't just mean in terms of the classic amenities such as enough kindergarten places and attractive sports facilities. If there is anything that is lacking then it is up to us – in our role as entrepreneurs – to make it ourselves: For instance, I am on the board of the Ecole Foundation which runs two international schools – which naturally have the best IT equipment.
So you haven't regretted coming to Magdeburg then?
No – if I could go back in time I would certainly come here again.
Find out about the entry and advancement opportunities that the IT sector offers in Saxony-Anhalt: the theme day for securing skilled staff and career opportunities at the Saxony-Anhalt stand in hall 9, stand C06 addresses potential apprentices and students, current students and the professionals of tomorrow. All of the information on our theme days programme is provided enclosed and is always available on our website at http://www.invest-in-saxony-anhalt.com/cebit-2015
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Verband der IT- und Multimediaindustrie Sachsen-Anhalt e. V.
Association for the IT and Multimedia Industry Saxony-Anhalt
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