By Joline Nolet, GE Digital
Born and raised in Brussels, I left "home" when I was 18 years old in order to study International Business & Strategic Management in the Netherlands, eager to set the foundations of an international career. After a university exchange in Colombia and an internship in New York City, I wanted to take on the new challenge of learning German. I spent two months in a language school in Munich and assisted a teacher for two weeks in a school for mentally disabled children in Giessen. In 2015, I managed to secure a position at General Electric (GE) in Frankfurt am Main and have enjoyed it ever since.
The smallest metropolis in the world, Frankfurt offers the advantages of a global city, but in tranquility: it is as much a dynamic city as it is homely and cozy. There is the financial district, the skyline and the airport, as well as St Paul's Church, i.e. the national symbol of freedom and democracy in Germany ("the cradle of German democracy"), the Frankfurt Cathedral, the Goethe House and the annual Book Fair, not to mention the local specialties like Ebbelwoi (cider), the Grüne Soße (green sauce for eggs, potatoes or meat) and the Frankfurter sausages. Also, the quality of life is incredible - I live less than a kilometer away from work, next to the Main River, and I can cook meals from fresh regional products thanks to the many local market vendors.
The start of an exciting journey
I joined GE at the early stages of the most profound change in its 125 years of corporate history - the switchover from being machine makers to a fully digital business. A bold move led by our former CEO, Jeff Immelt, to transform GE into a top ten software company by 2020.
Though the whole GE family is motivated to work together to pursue this vision, part of my responsibilities is to contribute directly to growing the business by qualifying leads and building pipeline. Digital transformation journeys are truly inspiring, as companies from different industrial markets face their own disruptive forces - from supply chain pressures, disintermediation of traditional markets (also known as "uberization") to an aging workforce. Together with my team, I help companies who require operational agility to meet demand and change in whatever form it may take. We identify their challenges, needs, digital maturity and work out how we can collaborate to turn threats into opportunities.
The value of the Industrial Internet
During the last couple of years, we have moved from a position of defending our service contracts, to viewing the Industrial Internet as an opportunity to improve the overall competitiveness of the company - from internal productivity to entering new markets.
Our digital transformation drove productivity gains of 730 million US dollars in 2016 and we aim to hit 1 billion US dollars this year. We are growing our digital business at an incredible rate, and building a strong European ecosystem at our digital foundry in Paris, as we believe no company can do it alone. The Industrial Internet is a team sport and the heavy industries need to consider building their own digital industrial ecosystems if they want to succeed. The companies that manage to create the richest ecosystem of partners developing solutions for their platform will be the ones that will stay ahead of the game during the fourth industrial revolution.
That is why we have spent the last five years developing our Industrial Internet operating system - Predix - and creating an open community of industry partners. We have partnered with more than 400 companies across the technology, service provider, systems integrator and start-up sectors and we are committed to helping our partners grow their businesses and deliver more value to their customers. In Germany, we have announced another significant German partnership, this time with Deutsche Bahn, to create self-aware locomotives and digitalize the entire rail operation value chain. This is the first time non-GE locomotives have been equipped with GE digital solutions. We are also working with SAP, Accenture, Microsoft and a range of university partners in Germany, the United Kingdom and France to ensure scalability and deliver more value to our customers. Our goal is to make innovation easy and accessible to all those who are looking to develop Industrial Internet applications.
Digital skills are fundamental for success
This also means entering industries where we have no prior experience - from heavy industry to automotive, food & beverage and beyond. Even more importantly, it is changing the way that businesses work. Digital skills are now fundamental for the success of a business, and leaders need to understand how to create working cultures that help them to recruit and retain that talent. We need to address the mismatch between the current, available skills and the skills needed, and there cannot be a better opportunity for greater gender diversity in our teams. Now is the time to encourage a greater engagement from girls and women in tech. On a global scale, GE has recently announced that it has implemented a target to employ 20,000 women in technical roles by 2020.
The GE digital transformation is a journey that I am proud to be a part of and I feel honored to help our customers find the right digital path for them. Digitalization is the next step in productivity growth and can disrupt industries faster than ever. It is also a huge opportunity to get the cultural transformation and diversity right as well. And this is happening, now!