As President of Bosch Turkey and the Middle East, Steven Young is responsible for sales worth €4 billion and leading over 18,000 employees. He spoke to Leanne Newsham about what has inspired his global career.
You have lived and worked all over the world, in quite different cultural settings. How have these diverse locations and cultures shaped and influenced your professional experiences?
I was born in Turkey and raised in Australia by a Turkish mother and Australian father. My wife is Turkish, and obviously, my personal life is multicultural as much as my company. Maybe it could be the reason I decided to work in a multinational company in the first place.
My story started when I got a German multinational company to sponsor my thesis. Halfway through the year, they offered me a job.
Soon after graduation, I started looking for the next challenge and decided I wanted to work at the company headquarters in Germany. I was 26 and did not speak a word of German. People told me that it was incredibly difficult, to learn a new language as an adult. I did not want to fall into the “comfort zone” trap.
I stayed in Germany for a year with a family that didn’t speak a word of English. Within three months, I was fluent in German. Bridging the language barrier enabled me to build strong relationships with my German colleagues and establish an effective network.
Today as Bosch’s President of Turkey and Middle East, I manage a group with more than 18,000 people with sales of €4 billion. It’s a job that comes with a lot of responsibility, but I love what I do.
Bosch’s goal is to offer ‘invented for life’ solutions that enhance people’s quality of life with its products and services. What are some of the emerging innovations that excite you?
At Bosch, our strategic aim is to create solutions that make life easier, safer, more comfortable, and more eco-friendly. At Bosch we want to make traffic as safe, stress-free and environmentally-friendly as possible. This excites me the most as it generates innovation.
One major part of this vision is automated driving to make driving accident-free. Bosch already has 4000 associates and engineers globally teaching vehicles how to drive. I believe this is so exciting and am looking forward to seeing it in reality.
What are some of the biggest challenges for technology companies moving forward?
The world and our company are going through a big digital transformation that goes deeper than any other since the beginning of the age of electronics over 50 years ago. To a great extent, it is driven by changes in our business environment.
If business disrupters are well understood, change can be the best thing that can happen to a company that is a market and technology leader. They activate our entrepreneurial sensors and drive our competitive spirit.
For a company like Bosch, such change presents a double challenge: On the one hand, we must further develop our existing, very successful businesses. On the other, we need to be quick to seek out new businesses, so we can stay ahead of possible disruptions.
Throughout your career, you have held and continue to hold many board membership roles including Presidency of the Turkey-German Business Council and Founding Member of TUSIAD. What is your motivation for giving your time and expertise to these causes, considering your already busy schedule?
I work for a multinational company, which has a lot of experience to share with stakeholders. From the NGOs to young talents, from associates to customers. It is essential for leaders to share their experience and make sure stakeholders are ready and take the necessary action to handle change before it is too late.
Personally, I believe leaders have a responsibility to give back to the society they live in. We all need to work hard to become a good citizen. Good citizens give back to the community, add value to the community.
What advice would you give to students graduating now and seeking to embark on their own careers?
Some students may know exactly where they want to be in 20 years, and some may not even know what they want to do tomorrow. That’s fine. It’s not always about having a roadmap in front of you.
In life, you will be faced with two things: chances and challenges.
I have embraced the challenges life has given me and tried to turn them into opportunities.
Having worked since the age of 12, I found out quickly that money is not everything. There are other things of value. I value having the freedom to do what I love, and I realised early on that I had to be the leader of my own life to be truly free.
What do you see as your most significant achievements in the role, or in your career so far?
I think the biggest achievement was when I was appointed as the CEO of a company – a German multinational – at the age of 30. That appointment involved taking over a company in a market, which I did not know in Turkey, with people that I had little contact with, with a local language and culture that I had very little knowledge about.
We had to turn a sinking ship around and what was planned to be a three-year recovery program, we managed to do it in one year and then put the company on a path to sustainable growth.
What professional and personal qualities do you think are vital to operating successfully in a multinational organisation?
You have to be an international person yourself. You have got to be flexible, mobile, and you have to accept that one size does not fit all. There are different cultures and these cultures do affect the way you do business in that particular area.
The social corporate culture is also important, you have got to think about and nurture the environment around you.
What do you consider you took away from your studies at UOW that helped you to forge such a successful international career?
I think one of the most important things that helped me choose a multinational company to work with and further my career abroad, was that the University was a very internationally-oriented university, we had a lot of international students.
Even in the ‘80s, the University had already established bridges to the outside world, which allowed students to have that exposure and students already had that international perspective through the University.
Bachelor of Engineering (Civil), 1988
Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies), 1995