We recently had the opportunity to speak to Tao Ding as he came to the end of his placement with BMW UK, as part of his time on the Global Leadership Development Programme. Tao joined the programme in China in 2017, after completing a degree and masters in Engineering. He is now beginning his final rotation of the programme at BMW China, after also working at the BMW Global HQ in Munich.
What was your experience in applying to the BMW Global Leadership Development programme, and what initially attracted you to the programme?
When I applied to the BMW Global Leadership Development programme, I had already been working in Germany for a while. Therefore, I had to fly from Germany to China and back within three days to attend all of the interviews for the programme! The interviews were competitive, with the other candidates all having vast experience with working internationally and excellent presentation skills, so I felt very lucky to get a position on the programme. My top tip for success in the process would be to ensure that you are confident and presenting yourself in the right way. I was attracted to the programme as I wanted to be challenged in the work I did, and thought that the international rotations would provide this, while also allowing me to immerse myself in different cultures, which is something I have always enjoyed.
How have you found that BMW UK has differed from your experience with BMW China?
I would say that working with the team at BMW UK is a very special and unique experience. I really enjoyed the flexible working culture, as you can easily sit with a colleague from a different department or function, which helps you to communicate and cooperate with other parties within the company. During my time at BMW UK, I worked with the marketing department and had the opportunity to rotate across different teams and topics, which gave me a very broad overview of the whole business. While I was in the UK I also had the opportunity to attend product workshops, talk to different colleagues from across the wider BMW Group and enjoy British life! I have found that one of the biggest differences between BMW UK and BMW China is how the environment affects operations, as the Chinese market is changing at a very rapid pace.
What made you want to experience BMW UK?
I had travelled to the UK once before, and love the British culture so was excited to experience living in the UK for a longer period of time. I think one thing that makes BMW UK so special and unique is the MINI brand, its strong British genes made it a part of BMW UK which I definitely wanted to discover. As the UK is also the home of Rolls-Royce, another brand in the BMW Group, I was interested in exploring how this brand differed to BMW, and my visit to the HQ of Rolls-Royce was a highlight of my rotation in the UK. Overall, as the UK is one of the most successful BMW global markets, it seemed like an obvious place to learn more about the global BMW brand.
How do you see your career progressing within the BMW Global group once you have finished the BMW Global Leadership Development programme?
Firstly, I want to really thank those who work on and run the Global Leadership Development Program, it has provided me with such a unique opportunity to learn about the BMW business from different perspectives. In the past 18 months I’ve rotated across several different unique functions such as autonomous driving, future mobility, product management and more. Each one of these could provide me with plenty of opportunities for my future career development. Additionally, my time on the program has allowed me to build personal connections across the BMW Global network, which I’m sure will further enrich any potential career path I take.
Throughout your time with BMW so far, what has been your favourite project to work on?
To be honest, I have loved all of the rotations I’ve done so far, so I can only tell you my favourite working style, which is to work independently on a topic but in cooperation with my team members and colleagues. This can be challenging at first, especially when I joined the program, as you may initially lack the knowledge to complete the task, but by learning from my experienced colleagues, I felt that I have been able to pick up the skills needed for my role quicker than if I was simply shadowing a colleague. Also, the sense of achievement when you finish the task successfully motivates you to keep going. I have found that throughout my four different rotations across the BMW Group, each host department has been very supportive in providing me with tasks that I have been able to work on and ultimately learn from.
How does the BMW Global Leadership Development programme work- How many rotations and placements do you have across the business?
The Global Leadership Development Programme contains four different rotations across various functions. Two of these rotations are domestic, so I completed them at BMW China, while two of the rotations are completed internationally, with one international assignment designed to be at the BMW HQ in Munich. I had previously lived in Munich, but it was still very exciting to work and live there again, this time for BMW! Additionally, throughout the programme you are given a mentor from BMW, your mentor is in the top management tier and therefore are able to guide and support you. My mentor has warmly provided me with a lot of opportunities and support, so that I was able to get the most out of the programme!
What is your favourite BMW vehicle?
If I could choose two, it would have to be the BMW 8 Series and MINI John Cooper Works.
What would be your piece of advice to anyone considering a career with BMW?
If you are considering a career with BMW, my first piece of advice would be to always keep an open-mind, as BMW is now doing business in a very dynamic, fast-changing and highly-competitive environment. More and more players want to be part of automotive industry and there are hundreds of thousands of challenges and risks coming everyday due to high-tech revolution, globalization and urbanization, and environment protection. Therefore, in order to have a successful career within BMW, you have to have the ability to be adaptive and open-minded. I wish you all the best for your career!