Conversation with Patrick Gött, Managing Director BASF Digital Solutions May 2021
In this interview, Mr Gött describes the work they have carried out since then and what factors led them to settle in Madrid. “Madrid seemed to us the most appropriate city, because it offered the kind of employees that we needed,” he advances.
M.I.A.: BASF opened its Madrid digital hub at the beginning of 2019. What presence did it have in the city at the time?
Patrick Gött: We have factories all over the world. In Spain, in Catalonia and Guadalajara. This was the first office that we opened in Madrid, it was something completely new for us. We started from scratch here: we had neither an office nor any human resources.
M.I.A.: At what point did you decide to open a digital hub and why?
P.G.: We looked at many options. The main idea was, and still is, to have a digital hub in Europe because we already have one in Asia. Madrid is indeed in Europe and it is close to many of our factories. The focus was Europe. We studied multiple options and we really liked Madrid. We wanted to reach 350 employees, we needed access to a large job market and that only occurs in cities like Madrid. Its internationality, its universities, etc., were the main reasons. It is also true that if you compare Madrid with London, Berlin, Paris or Munich, with all the big and important cities, the salaries are lower. That helps in the decision.
M.I.A.: What other options were put on the table? Barcelona, Vienna, Prague …?
P.G.: Lisbon and Porto were on the table. And Barcelona. But in the mix between the supply and demand of employees that we need, Madrid seemed the most appropriate. Barcelona is also an interesting city. And I know that Spaniards always compare them (laughs). They are interesting cities, but perhaps the internationality of Madrid and that the competition is somewhat less are pluses for us. The question was not Madrid or Barcelona. It was a question at a European level and Madrid won.
M.I.A.: You mention salary costs and universities. Were there other factors?
P.G.: I have used the word internationality many times. What does that mean? For a company like BASF, it is very interesting to have a diverse workforce, both in terms of gender and nationality. That is something we find here. Right now, our workforce is 25% non-Spanish. It is important. We like that mix. Most are Spanish, but there is a high proportion of people from other countries. And Madrid can attract people from Northern Europe for its quality of life and employees from Latin America for the language, culture and proximity.
M.I.A.: Do you also hire people who do not live in Madrid but want to move?
P.G.: Yes. It is not our main process, but around 10% of our people do not live in Spain: they are from Brazil, Egypt, India… Most of them already live here, but it is important for us to have that mix.
M.I.A .: What tasks are carried out in the hub?
P.G.: We work exclusively for BASF, in any solution or line of business used within the company. These are mostly production solutions, because BASF has many factories, tools for research and development… We use technologies that are up-to-date and we work with experts in cybersecurity, data and data engineers. It’s a pretty broad approach. We currently have 135 employees and we are going to grow to 250 or 300 this year.
M.I.A.: How has the pandemic affected you?
P.G.: That is a very broad question. A big difference has been remote work. Before the pandemic we offered three days in the office and two teleworking, so we already had all the necessary tools in place. In addition, we work with agile methods. The strange thing is not seeing each other, the lack of closeness. But in Madrid everything has worked very well: we only stopped hiring in March of last year and not because of the situation of the city, but that of the business. We stopped hiring until we knew which direction to take. In mid-April we took it up again and started hiring by videoconferencing, one hundred percent online. In fact, we have hired the majority of people during this time. So most employees have never spent time with each other.
M.I.A.: Will the office change in the future? Are you planning to go to a smaller space or will you stay where you are?
P.G.: We have started going to a coworking space. It is clear that in the future we are not going to offer a desk to each employee because there will be a very high telework rate. We are clarifying the guidelines, seeing how we will do it, but for us privacy is very important and in Madrid it takes people between 30 minutes and an hour to get to the office.
Regarding the area: we are in Nuevos Ministerios, from where you can go quickly to the airport, there are Cercanías (commuter trains) and Metro line 10. The public transport network in Madrid is great and this is a very well connected area, so we will stay there.
M.I.A.: In different interviews, BASF has mentioned the great pool of digital talent that exists in Madrid. What digital capabilities can be found here?
P.G.: We hire a lot in data areas. And we have found very good candidates. From our point of view, universities offer good dual training for this profession. The second area that stands out is full stack developers, who use all kinds of technologies. There are also quite a few candidates who have worked both in multinationals and startups.
M.I.A.: There are some companies that say that it is difficult to hire, that there is a lot of competition to sign up professionals of these characteristics …
P.G.: It depends. BASF is headquartered in Ludwigshafen, where SAP also has its HQ. If I’m looking there for a human resources specialist right now, the next day I have ten good candidates. But in the IT area it is different. There are interesting candidates, but SAP is also looking for them.
MIA. You are a good ambassador for Madrid. If you had to tell the administration how to better sell the city, what would you recommend? What characteristics should you highlight to attract foreign companies?
P.G.: I would not focus so much on the quality of life in Madrid, because that is not so interesting for the people who have to make the decision. Maybe I would focus more on talent. It is very easy to find interesting profiles. Also, before, the level of English and other languages was not very high. But that has changed with the new generations, who are international, have done an Erasmus and have gone to bilingual schools.
Something that people may not even know is that Madrid is, indeed, a very international city. In the IT area you can always attract qualified professionals from other parts of the world thanks to the quality of life. But that’s just a selling point for how easy it is to find talent.
M.I.A.: Do you have any relations with the Administration? Could they have helped you in any way?
P.G.: We have not had much of a relationship with them because everything works well. Now we want to start working in the clusters. Big Data and Cybersecurity seem very interesting. This year it may not be possible, but next year it will. Initiatives like these are important: the companies that are here should collaborate a little to benefit the rest.