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“I make sure that the apprentices are fit for all challenges”

Head of Vocational Training Daniela Peeters-Bendix loves to break new ground

Daring to try something new – that has been Beiersdorf’s Head of Vocational Training Daniela Peeters-Bendix’s motto since the beginning of her professional life. The fact that she would once a year accompany around 35 new apprentices in currently nine different professions as they start their careers was not foreseeable in terms of her professional orientation: After graduating in Business Administration at the European Business School (EBS) and two spells abroad in Paris and London, the number-savvy all-rounder initially moved into Controlling in 1984 – in an age without personal computers, the Internet or any such conveniences. This was a sound start to her professional life, she agrees, “but as time went by, I began to miss the direct relationship to people and products. That’s why I moved to International Marketing at Beiersdorf in 1986 and joined what was then the Medical Division. I found it exciting to put myself in the shoes of the consumers and to gain consumer insights – discovering what they need and offering them real added value.” But this was not to be the last change resulting from her desire for new experiences. When the opportunity arose, she switched to national marketing at NIVEA to immerse herself fully in the world of this iconic brand. In times of very “straightforward” career paths, a step “to the side” that was not commonplace.

Ahead of her time as an “exotic”

With hindsight today the now 63-year-old can say, “In my career I often achieved what was seen as ‘impossible’ at the time. Above all, moving between different functions – from Controlling to Marketing to finally Human Resources in Personnel Development. Cross-functional moves like these, which are often required today, were considered highly unusual back then. I’ve always been driven by curiosity and my desire to develop further. For my generation I was considered a ‘rare bird’ at the time – and it was a completely different age, also in social terms. For instance, when I started my career, I was asked if I wanted to be addressed as ‘bachelor Miss’ Bendix. And it was definitely unusual for a woman to study Business Administration at an international elite university or to go abroad,” she says, looking back on her career.

After several years as Head of Personnel Development, following a reorganization in the HR Area Daniela made her definitive internal sidestep at Beiersdorf: “I was given the opportunity to become Head of Vocational Training and so I switched to this position – a job I still thoroughly enjoy today, because helping people develop has always strongly appealed to me. It is a great enrichment for me to watch the development of apprentices over the three years of their training, and it is really enormous for some of them – this spurs me on and is deeply gratifying. Guiding people on their career path is one of the greatest jobs ever for me!”

“For me it’s all about development”

For Daniela, it is important to develop herself and to promote development in others. “Along the way,” she has therefore continued to develop her skills for this over the past few years: “I’ve qualified as a Business Coach and Mediator, studied Theology at night school and also work as a Mindfulness and Meditation Trainer at Beiersdorf.” Through personal experience she developed an interest in mindfulness very early on. For her, it helps address the question of “What can I do as a person to cope with life’s many and varied challenges? In answering this, I find meditation to be an extremely valuable tool.” 

Daniela brings in her knowledge as a Business Coach and Mediator and works as Mindfulness and Meditation Trainer

In her life with a demanding full-time job and two children, Daniela has also experienced for herself that ‘retreating to silence’ is a real gift. “You get to know yourself very well and find new strength – this is why for more than 20 years now I’ve retreated to silence at a convent for one week every year. This time is invaluable to me.”

“Münsterland-born Daniela also enjoys plenty of activity in her personal life, however: “Sport is a big thing for me, especially when I can do it out in the countryside. I cycle a lot, go skiing, jogging and hiking – and fitness training keeps my muscles in shape. Physical activity, talking with my family and friends, and meditating is how I most love to recharge my batteries.”

Getting apprentices fit for every challenge – also with mindfulness exercises

Daniela also passes on her experience and personal tips to every year’s fresh intake of apprentices whom she and her Vocational Team prepare for professional life year in, year out. Daniela always has new ideas up her sleeve, whether it’s mindfulness exercises or special taekwondo training. “Young people are very receptive to mindfulness elements. I believe that this topic is becoming increasingly important, especially in today’s increasingly fast-paced world. Companies are subject to constant change,” she adds, “and our job is to get the apprentices fit for the company, its transformation and all the challenges that the future may hold. With my experience I can pass on a lot to them in this respect.”

What does Daniela most appreciate about vocational training at Beiersdorf?

“I am convinced that we have achieved a genuinely high quality level with our vocational training. We train according to Beiersdorf’s needs and give people with diverse backgrounds or ‘less-than-perfect’ CVs a chance. In our selection of apprentices we also pay close attention to ensuring a good fit with our company culture and this delivers very good final examination results – every year we are pleased to receive top honors from the Chamber of Commerce. We also have very high employment rates after they complete training.” Additionally, she and her team see it as vital to stay up to date with regard to identifying the right professions to support the strategic orientation of the company, the most effective training methods and how to best approach future apprentices: “In Vocational Training Marketing today, almost everything is digital. We are wherever our target group is – for example on TikTok, Jodel, Snapchat and Pinterest – and every year there are new channels where our target group is active. Even though I might not maintain a personal profile on all these, I use them to communicate my interest topics and offer potential apprentices a taste of Beiersdorf.” If anyone thinks that nothing in vocational training has changed and that the same process is repeated year after year, Daniela is quick to counter this illusion: “New minds always mean new challenges too. What’s more, we always keep our finger on the pulse with our offers. For example, a year ago we added the new ‘degree-integrating’ training model to our program: This enables our apprentices to complete a combination of vocational training and Bachelor’s Degree – so far a unique and highly contemporary approach, in my opinion. And the response is really good!”

Daniela's wish for ”her” apprentices: Inspiring paths and diverse experiences

The fact that the range of apprenticeships on offer is well received is also shown by the approximately 1,500 applications received per application round. “My Recruiting colleagues and my Trainers then have the task of singling out the most promising candidates and putting together a good mix of apprentices.”

Getting the mix right is also her personal secret recipe, by the way. “In retrospect it was incredibly enriching for me to have gathered so many diverse experiences in my career – each one has helped me grow.” She would therefore like to open up inspiring paths and diverse experiences for her apprentices. “It doesn’t have to mean a convent and silence ­– but staying open to new possibilities and at the same time keeping your inner balance helps a lot.” So even after 36 years in a company, far from becoming dull routine Daniela’s work is a constant adventure with plenty of surprises!

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Diana Lühmann

About the editor: Diana Lühmann

Since autumn 2019, Diana has been responsible for corporate communication related to HR and inspiring people at Beiersdorf. These include the areas of Diversity, Learning & Development, Career, Leadership, and Health. Previously, she was in charge of R&D Communications and explored the exciting world of our research and development.