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  • Writer's pictureTorsten Raak

I just tried to update my LinkedIn profile...

After an hour of typing, I was informed, that my text is exceeding the maximum length by 2619 characters. Really? Ok, so I thought, let's at least post it as a "story" on LinkedIn. Well, some 3000 characters too many. So, here I am, posting it as a blog post, which I will link to from LinkedIn once it's published 🤦‍♂️

Here it goes:

I have worked in the corporate world for 20+ years. Viewed from the outside, one would say "wow, what a career". Always up the ladder, sometimes with a little side step. But I made it into the C-Suite at the age of 40. Fair enough, some do it earlier, but most never.

Anyhow, viewed from the inside, or rather my personal perspective: I don't think I was that successful measured by my own standards and goals. I always wanted to make things better, to improve things drastically, fix stuff which is fundamentally broken. Like picking up the gold nuggets, which were right in front of me, and nobody else would pick them up. I took me the better part of these 20 years to understand, that that might be an honorable idea, but at the same time it is mostly impossible to do. Not that I'm afraid of colossal tasks, quite the contrary: the harder the better. But if you want to change something, which doesn't want to be changed (for whatever reason), you slowly but steadily go mad, or insane, or whatever you wanna call it. I did.

So, I took the exit. I told myself that there must be more to a professional life. Yes, I sometimes miss stuff. Like the Business Class flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, San Francisco. The Ritz-Carltons and the Shangri La's. The limo Services using the long version of the S-Class. The uber-expensive drinks on some rooftop bar after a hard day of work. But then again, how many more times do I need to experience it? I have for so many years. In my peak year I was away from home for 183 business days. At the time I was disappointed that I didn't reach HON Status on Lufthansa. And you know what I don't miss: the Jour Fixes, the 20 people conference calls, the calendar which is filled with mind numbing meetings, where everyone is invited because nobody wants to take a decision anymore. And the more people participate, the easier it is to push accountability from one person to the next. I haven't missed any of it for one single moment.

I did what made and makes the most sense. I started to work for and with the most wonderful creative event agency there is in the world: el-j. At Siemens / Unify, and later Schneider Electric I was their client. Wherever I could, I hired them. No task was ever big enough and no one has ever delivered like they did. Going from a 2000 managers, 3 day conference to a 150,000 all-employee TV show? Yes, the Schneider Electric CEO gave us a shot, and we delivered so well, that Schneider Electric never went back to the old format. el-j and I became best friends over the years - and yes: all purchasing rules were always followed. So, on some rainy day in 2019 in Berlin, John Bettini (the el-j CEO) and I created the master plan!

A few months later I was out of corporate and switched to the agency side. Finally I could bring the awesomeness that el-j has brought to my previous companies (or dare I say: they saved our collective butts more than once) to so many other companies out there. I became the head of Marketing and Sales. Call it the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Sales Officer in one person. We do not use C-Titles, though. Actually we don't like titles at all, but we realise that most clients want to kinda slot us in to a common system of hierarchy, so fair enough.

Here I am, loving it every day, working with wonderful and amazingly talented people every day. Of course, COVID is a problem. But our clients are sticking with us, because they realise that not communicating is not an option; especially in these difficult times. And now it pays off that el-j has delivered outstanding digital and streaming work way before it became a pandemic necessity - actually nearly 10 years before that, with the Siemens / Unify rebranding. No doubt, an absolute career highlight for everyone involved.

Personally, I truly believe that the future belongs to those who are still willing to get their hands dirty. And I mean that in a way of being involved in the sausage being made, and not just ordering or delegating and taking the praise for the end result. If we need a video piece for something, and it's straight forward enough, hell, I do it myself. Photoshop, Website, Newsletter design and writing? That's what I mean with getting your hands dirty. I've seen so many cases of millions being wasted in the corporate world. It hurts. :-)

One quick anecdote from a conference call just after the Unify rebranding: I was at home and we did some sort of big debriefing with the team leads and main project team members. The whole project was my responsibility. My father-in-law was in the house, doing something. So the call ended, he came to me, padded me on the should and said: "I was so amazed by how you spent around 10 minutes thanking everyone for their hard work, their sacrifices, how you cared about the details, and not for a single second claimed that this was your success in any way." To me, it was the most normal thing. Obviously we all know that it isn't.

I am married to Katja, and father to two boys. In my spare time I enjoy running and scotch - which is a great combination ;-) Also, I do love music so much. Singer/Songwriter stuff especially. Best song of all time: Purple Rain by Prince.

That's a little bit about me. Happy to chat, if you're keen!

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