David Pilarek

David Pilarek

David is an Inhouse Consultant at Merck - a leading chemcials and pharmaceutical firm headquartered in Darmstadt /Germany. Born in Stuttgart in 1973, he spent several years of his childhood in Toronto/Canada, making an early intercultural experience. David graduated in business administration at Pforzheim University of Applied Science.

In order to obtain a better idea of David’s career so far and his management philosophy, let’s look at some experiences in caring leadership: “The first time I assumed there could be a difference between management and leadership, was in my second term at University. Most of the professors simply managed their lectures, i.e. reading from a script, which has not changed for years and showing you, that they were just fulfilling a cumbersome duty. But then there was this new professor, coming from the consulting industry, full of ideas and enthusiasm. He did not just do a job – he made us feel, that he was enjoying what he did and that he was learning something new as well as we did. He wasn’t teaching but sharing experiences with us. With hindsight, I understand, that sharing experiences is part of caring leadership. Thanks Jürgen, for making the difference.”

Close to the end of his studies, David took the chance of working as an intern for Merck Ltd. in Thailand – a unique opportunity to not only get to know a wonderful country and its people, but also to take the step from the academic world into the business world. “All my previous internships were quite ok. I learned a lot, both from a professional and from a personal viewpoint. I gained some experience in the various industries and I managed those projects, interns typically manage (e.g. make an internet research of markets xyz and present the results). Let’s be honest – the only one who has a problem if you fail is yourself. The Managing Director at Merck Ltd. entrusted me with a project that would potentially not only impact his organization, but also business results. I was given tremendous responsibility, but also all the technical and personal support I needed. I am sure, he was well aware of the risks, but he never showed any doubt about the final success. The point in terms of caring leadership is to give your employees responsibility early on and to show them that you believe in their success – they will pay back with commitment and performance. Thanks Heinz, for making me responsible”

After having graduated, David started as an Inhouse Consultant with Merck KGaA in Darmstadt – a perfect platform for getting to know a large corporation and work closely together with the company’s top-management in a broad variety of topics. “When I started with Merck in Darmstadt, I was full of enthusiasm and hungry to finally do a ‘real’ job. However, I was not sure whether I could cope with the challenges of a consulting job. The head of the consulting unit however, believed in me. He not only convinced his managers to give me the job in the first place, but also introduced me to more and more important and complex projects against all doubts. Caring leadership is about guarding your people’s back also in times of doubt and resistance. Thanks Hans-Jürgen for supporting me.”

David then moved on to work as a project manager in a strategic innovation project at Merck. His passion and talent for bridging the gap between R&D and commercial operations and markets became evident. “I have been working in many project teams before I joined this team. However, I had never worked in such a committed and reliable team until then. There is plenty of research on why and how teams work – but that did not really help me in trying to figure out later, why this very team of highly specialized and ambitious individuals was so strong. It surely helped, that everyone was convinced about the idea and believed in success; it helped that everyone had a well-defined set of responsibilities; it helped that we all were experts in our very field; it help that we could easily get along with each other. But that does not explain everything. I believe the project leader eventually made the difference. He was demanding enough to make us go the extra mile, he was senior enough to navigate us through the typical traps an organization hold prepared for innovators but most of all he was himself absolutely committed and ready to take personal risks for his own career. Caring leadership is also about lighting the fire in your people. Thanks Herwig, for inspiration and enthusiasm.”

After years at Merck, David took the assignment as Marketing Manager for the R&D unit at SGL Group – a huge challenge to bring marketing into a group of technically minded scientists and highly innovative creative minds. “I knew from the very beginning, that it would be difficult to implement market-oriented procedures within an R&D organization, where people would not really think of customers, markets, profit margins, etc. when coming up with new ideas. But I did not expect it to be that difficult. I could not really get my hands on the problem. My manager then gave me some very open feedback on how my personality and my way of thinking and acting conflicted with the creative minds in the organization. He did not ask me to change completely (he hired me for these characteristics in the first place), but to understand others’ motivation and fears and helped me to act more patiently and less radical. The point here is, that only with that open and, yes, personal feedback, I could find ways to succeed. i.e. caring leadership is also about frank and sometimes tough feedback you give. Thanks Hubert for putting your finger on it.”

By the end of 2008 – the financial crisis was beginning to develop into a worldwide recession – David moved on to become the Project Manager Corporate Development at a medium-sized German automotive supplier. “It was a tough start there. Most of the strategic projects I should have managed were terminated due to the crisis. Suddenly I found myself in a large restructuring project discussing site closures, lay-offs, etc. That was on the one hand a most valuable and even exciting experience, on the other a time of uncertainty about my own future. It helped a lot, that my manager discussed all the risks and chances very openly with me, expressed his own worries but stayed rather calm himself.  He showed me how important it is to sometimes distance yourself from the troubles in your daily job and focus on a balance between your work life and your private life. Here caring leadership becomes manifest in authenticity and in assertiveness. Thanks Marcus for helping me navigate through rough seas.”

Up Close & Personal with David Pilarek

..is keeping your commitments

Siddharta by Hermann Hesse

see my definition of Caring Leadership


Until now: experiencing how innovation gets killed by corporation if one does not have the buy-in of all stakeholders

„If you are going through hell, keep going.“