Working for the same company your entire life? It used to be the standard in many industries, ensuring a secure livelihood, but is hardly imaginable for today's young professionals. Careers like Kurt Koch's will be increasingly rare in the future. He has served customers at Deutsche Telekom for half a century and experienced the technological transformation up close. His advice for professional life: Always stay curious!
Most of your colleagues couldn't possibly imagine working for the same company for 50 years. How do you feel looking back on such a long period of time?
Kurt Koch: To be honest, I don't think a great deal about it at all. The most important thing, of course, is remaining mentally and physically fit – and I'm lucky to have managed both.
Do you remember what it was like when you began your career?
Kurt Koch: I started working at Deutsche Bundespost – Germany's federal post office and the forerunner of Deutsche Telekom – in Koblenz. I was 15 years old when I began my apprenticeship as a telecommunications technician. For 25 years, I worked closely with technology before switching to sales at Deutsche Telekom in the early 1990s. I started out as an account manager at Deutsche Telekom before transferring to T-Systems Business Services in 2005, where I have mainly been responsible for public-sector key accounts. Contact with people, specifically customers, in the telecommunications sector is something that is very important to me.
Half a century at Deutsche Telekom – you must've experienced technological change firsthand.
Kurt Koch: Absolutely. In technological terms, an incredible amount has happened in that space of time. Do you remember rotary dial phones? Today, you can use a Jabber client on your laptop to telephone, chat or take part in conference calls over Internet protocol. I still recall the first C-network mobile phones. They weighed as much as 5-10 kg and you lugged them around with a shoulder strap. Now we all have smartphones that weigh less than 200 grams. We started with copper wire and now we're talking to our customers about fiber-optic networks with speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second. That's a gigantic technological arc.
Any insider tips about how to maintain your professional momentum and remain so active?
Kurt Koch: Always keep pace with change. There was never a day in the last 50 years that I didn't encounter something new. I was interested in every new technological development and asked myself: "What's it good for? What can I do with it? How will it benefit my customers?" By doing that I kept up with the latest trends. So my tip would be: "Stay curious or you'll be left behind."