Interview with Dr. Jan Martin Spreitzenbarth

Jan Martin Spreitzenbarth grew up in a small village near Stuttgart and completed community service in a Beijing kindergarten. His parents' hospitality to a guest student from the USA left a lasting impression, leading him to Simpson College in Iowa, HECTOR School at KIT, MIT, Harvard, and the University of Mannheim, where he recently defended his dissertation on artificial intelligence in procurement and supply chain management.

HECTOR School: You have a unique educational path: part-time Master's and doctorate, research stays, seminars at MIT and Harvard, all while working. Plus, you speak several languages. What drives you?

Spreitzenbarth: My parents valued education. After secondary school and an apprenticeship, I wanted to experience the world. Doing community service in Beijing was perfect. My host parents helped me learn Chinese, and I attended language courses. My hunger for education grew in China's competitive environment. During a later DAAD stay, I further improved my language skills.

HECTOR School: How did you decide on Simpson College?

Spreitzenbarth: To improve my English and experience American student life. It also allowed me to connect with my former guest sister's family.

HECTOR School: What was studying at Simpson College like?

Spreitzenbarth: Very open and discussion-based. The broad humanistic education included psychology, mathematics, philosophy, and natural sciences. Internships in Iowa and Washington D.C. were also influential. I earned a Bachelor's in International Management.

HECTOR School: What came next?

Spreitzenbarth: I aimed for a Master's while working, leading me to the HECTOR School's part-time "Production & Operations Management" program.

HECTOR School: Why the HECTOR School?

Spreitzenbarth:Firstly, KIT has a great reputation as one of the best technical universities in the world. Secondly, I was convinced by the concept of the two-week block courses, in which you focus on one topic. Another point was the internationality: the language of instruction is English and the students come from all over the world, from different companies, industries and sectors.

HECTOR School: Did the course meet your expectations?

Spreitzenbarth: Absolutely! The combination of technology and management modules suited my work very well. How do I set up supply chains? What do I have to bear in mind? How do different forecasting techniques work? How can I optimize the inventory? These were all questions that I had either already encountered in practice and was now able to optimize thanks to the lectures at the HECTOR School - or that came to me later and I was able to implement what I had learned. Another advantage of the HECTOR School is the outstanding lecturers from academia and industry, who enrich the courses with a lot of experience from research and practice. For example, I found modules on HR management, leadership and employee management very beneficial. We learned a lot about our own personalities through case studies and role plays and were shown ways in which we can develop ourselves and our employees. The entire course confirmed that I want to stay in the field of purchasing and supply chain management.

HECTOR School: What tips do you have for HECTOR School students?

Spreitzenbarth: Take the best of education with you! At the HECTOR School you have the opportunity to learn from a number of outstanding lecturers who are very unique in their professional quality and breadth that you can't get anywhere else. Also, enjoy the time with your fellow students from all HECTOR Master programs, who study together in the management modules. Last but not least: use the time to take another look at the academic path! The HECTOR School is an interesting opportunity to get to know teaching and research at KIT in greater depth, especially if you are doing your Master's while working. The Master's is one of the best ways to establish contact with professors and even if it might not seem feasible at first to consider a PhD. The idea that I could do a PhD came to me at the HECTOR School.

HECTOR School: You've worked at Bosch, IBM, STAUFEN, and VW Group. What should companies do to attract and retain talent?

Spreitzenbarth: Fixed-term employment contracts for part-time Bachelor's and Master's students or even industrial PhD students are a no-go for me! Anyone who works at a company and at the same time successfully completes a part-time program is committed and smart. The person knows the company, has built up networks and is future-oriented. Therefore, companies should offer permanent contracts for part-time students and industrial PhD candidates. Continuing education and clear career paths are also crucial. Companies should provide modular development opportunities and support sabbaticals.

HECTOR School: You took a sabbatical at MIT. How did that happen?

Spreitzenbarth: I got into AI in purchasing and supply chain management at the VW Academy AutoUni. My manager suggested it for my PhD. I applied for a fellowship at MIT to complete my dissertation and gain insights from AI research, which included courses at Harvard.

HECTOR School: What are your future goals?

Spreitzenbarth: I aim to lead a team and focus on digitalization initiatives. Personally, I enjoy CrossFit and aspire to become a trainer.

HECTOR School: Thank you for talking to us!

Jan Martin Spreitzenbarth
Jan Martin Spreitzenbarth studied Production and Operations Management at HECTOR School