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VP EMEA Operations & GM Harald Haigis on building culture and careers

Harald Haigis

Intuitive wasn’t new to VP EMEA Operations and General Manager Harald Haigis when he joined in 2019he’d been working closely with our team as a vendor for nearly two decades. In the years since, he’s helped build a fast-growing team to design and produce the micro lenses and other optical equipment that form the “eye” of our robotic surgery systems. Below, Harald explains the work he and his team are doing, how they live the Intuitive culture, and how they’re fostering a sense of community and belonging with a diverse team representing 26 nationalities.  

 

Tell us about your background and what brought you to Intuitive. 

I studied mechanical engineering and economics and started my career making components for things like dishwashers—very automated, very high-volume. Then I moved to an automotive systems business, which was a whole other world. And in 2001, I joined Schölly Fiberoptic, which was and still is an Intuitive vendor. 

So I worked very closely with Intuitive long before I actually joined the team. At first, I was a bit skeptical; it was hard to imagine the company would grow as much as it has. But then I got to see one of the robotic surgical systems in person, and it immediately clicked. It was easy to use right away. I understood perfectly why this made sense. And doctors were changing their minds at the same time, realizing they needed robotic surgery in their hospitals. Intuitive started growing very quickly, including opening facilities in Mexicali, and as a vendor Schölly grew with it and was part of that success story. It was super exciting. 

Eventually, integrating our production and development was the logical next step. In 2019 Intuitive acquired Schölly’s robotic endoscope business, and I joined the team to build up that organization.  


What do you build in Germany?
 

We’re making essential components across Germany, and it varies by location. Our team in Biebertal, for example, designs and produces high-precision lenses and other optoelectronics for Intuitive’s endoscopes—essentially, the “eye” of our robotic surgery systems. Doing that work requires very specialized skills and years of training to be certified, which is exactly why we do it in Biebertal; it’s a great place to find talent in this space.
 

In Freiburg, we currently have a commercial center, which will move to a new building later this year—and next year, we’ll also open a new production facility at that location.  

And at our manufacturing center here in Emmendingen, where I’m based, we build endoscopes, and we also do failure analysis, repairs, and safety and system checks. The service work is a relatively recent addition at this location, and it’s been a big efficiency improvement for both Intuitive and our customers. 


What does it look like to build a career here?
 

There are a lot of different paths to choose from. In Germany there are hundreds of occupations you can enter via apprenticeship; many of our new team members join through that program and are trained on the job. It’s a wonderful way to learn a new skill—rather than go to a university for a math degree, for example, you can work in industrial engineering for a few years, earn your certificate, and be an expert in the field just like someone who studied it in school. One of our employees who works in fiberoptics was a hairdresser before the pandemic. We have refugees from Syria restarting their careers here. In fact, we have employees from 26 different nations on our team, and we make a point to be flexible about language—German is required at most companies in this region, but not here. We will give you all the support and courses you need to learn it, but we communicate in English as well as German. 

As a growing company, we’re also thinking about the next steps for people who are already members of the team. If you want to become a supervisor, that’s one path to grow. But it’s not the only one. We have teams in production with specialized focuses like training and new products. Transitioning to one of those roles can also be a great way to take the next step. 


How would you describe the culture of your team? What sets Intuitive apart in this region?
 

From the day we launched here, we wanted our team to really live the Intuitive culture—to feel like they were part of the larger company. When you walk in, you’ll see our shared values like “Patients First, Always” and “Small Teams Win” up on the wall, but our culture also comes through in a lot of little ways. People are very open and friendly, and we’re less formal than a typical German company—we leaders go by our first names, we chat with our colleagues, and we’re very connected to the team. Anyone can walk into my office if they want to talk to me; my door is open.  


Tell us about the current moment for Intuitive in EMEA. Why is this an exciting time to join?
 

Certainly a lot of candidates are drawn to the culture and compensation, but I think we’re also at a very exciting moment in terms of Intuitive’s mission. The potential of robotic surgery is huge, and it’s inspiring. We’ve seen that in Bulgaria—there were headlines in the newspaper, and we get great support from authorities in the country. People are recognizing the value in the work we do. 

And it’s that shared mission that brings us together as a team—making a great product, serving our customers and their patients, and building a safe and secure future for ourselves and our families in the process. We want every member of our team to feel that sense of pride, and to understand how their work contributes to our goal. 


Are you ready to join Harald’s growing team and help build the future of healthcare? Find your next role, here. 

Harald Haigis

Intuitive wasn’t new to VP EMEA Operations and General Manager Harald Haigis when he joined in 2019—he’d been working closely with our team as a vendor for nearly two decades. In the years since, he’s helped build a fast-growing team to design and produce the micro lenses and other optical equipment that form the “eye” of our robotic surgery systems.

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