Thomas Fredikind is a long-time supply chain professional and, what's more, a long-time aioneer. He moved from a consultant career to the path of a product manager, and we wanted to hear about how he did that, why he did that, and what exactly is a product manager? Read on to find out.
Hi, my name is Thomas. I’m based in Munich, and I’ve been working with aioneers, now as a product manager, since the company started during the first lockdown. I’m responsible for AIOimpact, the execution management module of our software platform, AIO Supply Chain Command Center.
Why supply chain management?
I started my journey into supply chain while studying industrial engineering, although I hadn’t had much of a connection with the topic of supply chain before then. I was sure about one thing – that I love to solve business problems of both abstract and operational natures. Fortunately, supply chain management (SCM) actually combines the best of these two worlds, which made it really attractive to me as an academic discipline. The fact that we face (and continue to face) global challenges such as COVID-19, which affect literally everyone’s lives somehow, made it clear to me that SCM is a field which is sure to remain in fashion for a long time. A few years after saying this, I’d say it’s proved itself again and again, even in the last year alone.
From consultant to product development
I worked with supply chains in some way or the other for a long time, eventually becoming a business consultant with a focus on supply chain strategy. That was my last position before aioneers. The projects we worked on there saw us working closely with data. We would use business intelligence software at the start of each new project to help us analyze each client’s supply chain data and, from there, we could build our understanding of their status quo performance. Applying this software helped us identify the causes and effects surrounding supply chain performance in detail. I’m proud of the work we did there; we were very successful in deriving correct and effective recommendations during such projects.
Due to this success, I joined the software development project to productize that exact supply chain analytics approach into a SaaS application. I had the chance to offer my technical experience and expertise, as well as an understanding our business stakeholders, like what their day-to-day issues were, what could help them, and how it could help them. Essentially, I was acting as a business sparring partner to the development team. This experience was my initial touchpoint with product development, paving the foundation for joining aioneers and becoming a product manager.
Life as a product manager at aioneers
Nowadays, I have a similar position. I still work with our users and business stakeholders to find their problems and needs, which I take to our team of designers, developers, and business experts. After we work together to solve the business problems through new features, we collaborate with our marketing and sales on how we can approach the go-to-market. I really enjoy the mixture of business areas that product management brings you in conversation with, both external and internal. An extra bonus is the chance to work so closely with both supply chain and tech – two of my major personal and professional interests.
This is already exciting, but what makes product management even more exciting is having motivated and passionate colleagues. We have an amazing team of open-minded and curious people at aioneers. Everyone here has an intrinsic drive to create something new and build something that really matters. Each team member has a high degree of creative freedom and responsibility in their daily work, and no one blocks you, if your approach or your idea simply works better.
Creating tech solutions with people at the center
If you look at market trends in supply chain software, you’ll spot the word ‘automation’ quickly and frequently. It’s ubiquitous. Automation can do a lot of good, as long as you automate the correct non-value-adding activities. However, we shouldn’t aim for a future where everything is automated, because ‘self-driving intelligence’ isn’t the ideal world. Instead, I (and aioneers) believe in the importance of the non-replaceable human decision-maker. That’s why we literally build our AIO Supply Chain Command Center around this decision-maker. All along the strategic, tactical, and operational levels of a supply chain, the decision-maker chooses the right moment for themselves to switch into autopilot. I see human-centricity as a keystone of our product. We maintain this all through the AIO SCCC – all the way from analytics capabilities, to generating findings and recommendations, and even to implementing and tracking measures. After all, we are building tech for people, not machines.
Want to find a career in supply chain?
To people looking for their professional path, I’d say ‘supply chain’ covers more than just ‘supply chain’. It is a broad concept covering a highly diverse range of subdisciplines, e.g. planning, procurement, production or logistics. Each of these acts within different business settings, contexts, and interfaces, and each areas uses different methods and tools to approach their goals and problems. If I had to give one piece of advice for someone at the beginning of their supply chain career, it’s this: Take your time. Be curious and open about the diversity of supply chain management, and only then decide which direction you’d like to follow.
Thanks to Thomas for answering all our questions about his journey. If Thomas has got you interested in working at the intersection of tech and consulting, check out our careers page.