Associate Director of Procurement, BioNTech SE, Mainz, Germany
Master of Applied Finance with Distinction
What he loves about working in procurement is that it’s a crossroads of many different disciplines and functions, says business alumnus Tilman Schoen who has recently taken up the role of associate director of procurement for German pharma company BioNTech SE.
“My role is involved in direct and indirect procurement related to the production of vaccines and other medical products, as well as managing the global set-up of mobile mRNA production hubs from scratch.
“I enjoy getting to work with key cross-functional internal stakeholders, while having the link to the outside world through our engagements with suppliers. Working in procurement requires you to have solid commercial acumen, a deep knowledge of your and your suppliers’ industries, as well as – very importantly – people skills. Procurement is increasingly being acknowledged not just for its importance to the bottom line but the top line as well; leveraging suppliers’ expertise and research to offer innovative products consumers really want is at the centre of this.”
His career has benefitted a lot from his time in New Zealand, Tilman admits.
“I moved to New Zealand in 2016, after finishing my bachelor’s degree in my home country Germany, and began as an analyst in the dairy commodity industry before moving to FMCGs. I relocated back to Europe in 2021 and have now started my first director level job in pharma. I’ve had great managers along the way who helped me grow, gave me a long lead and leadership responsibilities, but also required me to cope with a very steep learning curve. The two things I believe have helped me immensely in my career are adaptability and a positive attitude towards challenges.”
The right university environment
Finance has always been a keen interest of his, says Tilman who still has fond memories of studying a Master of Applied Finance at AUT; a qualification he completed while working in the dairy commodity industry.
“I came from a background in agribusiness and wanted to get some more hands-on finance knowledge and experience. My job at the time was in commodity price risk management, hence I could immediately apply most learnings on the job. The way the Master of Applied Finance was structured enabled me to study part-time while working full-time; it fit in perfectly with my life and I was able to graduate after 18 months.”
The people he met were what he enjoyed most about his studies.
“Aside from great lectures – Professor Aaron Gilbert, you rock – and getting to know fellow students, the key highlight for me was being given the chance to work with Dr Ayesha Scott and Dr Adrian Fernandez-Perez to transform my research project on price discovery on the NZX futures markets into an academic article that was submitted to a top economics journal. Ayesha’s and Adrian’s genuine interest, support and persistence were absolutely fantastic.”
Advice for other students
Tilman, who graduated from AUT in 2018, has some great advice for other students who are just starting their university and career journey.
“Take your time to understand what you love doing, and don’t discount career options without really understanding what your day-to-day might look like.”
Don’t be afraid to zig-zag a little at the start of your career, he adds.
“I spent four years studying music and working as a professional guitarist before I decided to make a 180-degree flip and study first agribusiness and then finance. I think in future, fewer people will have those classic linear career paths, and it’s nothing to be afraid of. You as well as others around you will gain from a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and interests.
“Lastly, an absolute must-do if you have the opportunity – leave your comfort zone and go abroad for a few years or even just months. It’s going to transform you as a person and as a professional.”