Magazine article Management Today

Brain Food: Helmut Panke - If I Had to Start Again

Magazine article Management Today

Brain Food: Helmut Panke - If I Had to Start Again

Article excerpt

I actually started out in nuclear physics. I attended a prep school in the US, following dreams created by watching James Dean movies, of hanging out and dating. I was thinking of pursuing a business degree, but my physics teacher there really sold me on the beauty of science. When I finished my physics major and PhD, I was still tempted by the business side, as I couldn't see myself spending my life in a white lab-coat; at this point I discovered my guiding theme - keeping one foot on well-known ground, with the other experimenting.

I moved to Switzerland to take part in an international research project. The subject was familiar, but my project management role was new. That led to a post at McKinsey. My father asked me why I didn't get a real job. I told him that, again, it combined something I could do well with plenty I could learn.

In 1981, I became BMW's head of planning in R&D, and soon got the job of corporate planning in the US. This was the fulfilment of a life's dream, a physicist moving into industry. …

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