#DigitalMindsKA - the people behind karlsruhe.digital: Ralf Schneider

The karlsruhe.digital initiative unites Karlsruhe stakeholders from science, business, culture and administration with the aim of advancing Karlsruhe as a driver of digitalization – for competitiveness, quality of life and sovereignty. It pools expert knowledge, promotes networking and deals with topics holistically in order to actively shape the digital future of the city.

And there are people behind it. People who are committed, who are passionate and who invest their time, their ideas and their expertise. We aim to present these people, the digital minds. Therefore once a month, we ask the Digital Minds about their motivation and visions.

In the fifth part of our series, we visit our steering committee member Ralf Schneider, Managing Director of CONET ISB GmbH and member of the CyberForum Board.

We are running late on a sunny Wednesday morning when we enter the site of the former Badische Maschinenfabrik in Durlach. Once molds with press molding machines which explains the name of the street “Zur Gießerei”. In the meantime, new life has been breathed into the site, including the P90 start-up center and the headquarters of Karlsruhe-based CONET ISB GmbH.

And that’s exactly where we have an appointment today to meet Ralf to meet Schneider. He is the Managing Director of CONET ISB GmbH, which Individual software solutions for public administration and industry developed. Schneider picks us up personally at the entrance. We enter the fourth floor, where he has his office.

While we prepare everything for the conversation prepare, he pours us a cup of coffee – and for us it is Now is the time to find out a little more about the man whose story is told at of CONET ISB GmbH began back in the early 1990s. “I come from a classic working-class family. Since I was 15 years old, I have spent my vacations always worked, stood on the assembly line and earned extra money,” says Schneider. “In 1984, I came to Karlsruhe to study industrial engineering here. to study. At the same time, my focus has always been on IT. On At the end of my studies, I started writing job applications and An ISB advertisement in the newspaper caught my eye. As the company was just around the corner from me, I thought it was a great opportunity to practicing job interviews before applying to big players like SAP introduce. In fact, I never really intended to start there.”

In the end, however, everything turned out differently. In the interview Schneider realized that the job at ISB was exactly what he wanted to do. “I was able to apply what I learned during my studies, namely the development of database-supported software applications, with what I have learned in my work. leisure time: environmental protection. At the time, ISB was looking for someone for the development of an environmental information system in Rhineland-Palatinate. That was exactly my thing – and I knew I was in the right place.”

In 1991, Schneider became the fifth employee of the company as a software developer and consultant. In the In the years that followed, he was responsible for a wide range of projects and sales, until he became a member of the Management Board in 2005 and a few years later together with his colleague on the Management Board at the time. Since the beginning of 2022 ISB is part of the CONET Group.

Ralf Schneider shows the phenomenal view of the nearby Turmberg in the interview. Photo: Netzoptimisten
Ralf Schneider enjoys the phenomenal view of the nearby Turmberg. Photo: Netzoptimisten

Due to the beautiful weather, we decide to take our conversation on the roof terrace, which is directly adjacent to Schneider’s office. adjacent. From here, you have a phenomenal view of the nearby Tower mountain. There is a barbecue in one corner, as the roof terrace is used in summer. also used for events with the company’s 250 or so employees. Schneider lets his gaze wander and tells us that in the Sauerland where life largely takes place indoors. “In In Karlsruhe, on the other hand, life takes place outside. That was the first thing back then, what I noticed when I came here. The weather here is almost always great with lots of sunshine and every pub already has tables outside in spring. The I didn’t know it like that before and I don’t want to miss it anymore.”

One topic that is very close to Schneider’s heart is the Networking: “I didn’t make a lot of mistakes that I would have actually made. because I have always worked with other companies and institutions. exchanged ideas.” For this reason, he is not only involved in the Board of Trustees of the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, but also on the board of the Karlsruhe CyberForums. “We need to attract even more IT specialists to Karlsruhe and hold them here too. The CyberForum with over 1,200 members makes an important contribution to this. Whether job boards, programs for drop-outs, further training opportunities, coaching or mentoring – with our high-tech.entrepreneur.network. we support companies in all development phases and network the IT region of Karlsruhe. Because for me it is It is particularly important that a globally renowned ecosystem with many IT professionals, research institutions, start-ups and established companies. -company is created.”

In this context, Schneider also emphasizes the importance of the Karlsruhe principle of short distances for the location, which is reflected in the initiative karlsruhe.digital. “I believe digitalization can regionally only work if all stakeholders pull together. Although many cities claim to do this, but I don’t know of any city apart from Karlsruhe, where this really works. This is where business, science and Administration hand in hand. People exchange ideas and help each other. The This is particularly noticeable in the case of tenders for which you can get all the necessary stakeholders on board in the shortest possible time, because all the trust.”

It’s starting to get a little too hot on the roof terrace, which is why Schneider invites us to take a short tour of the ISB premises. make. For the fact that a total of 250 employees work here, the However, the office space is quite deserted. When Schneider meets our questioning gaze he explains that the ISB has now switched to a hybrid working model. and employees are only in the office two days a week. To They decide for themselves which days. “And yet, even in the age of digitalization, it is still important to meet in person in the office from time to time. meets.”

A good keyword. How does someone who has been working in IT for almost four decades, the path we have taken with the have embarked on digitization? “What is clear is that no company can no longer avoid digitalization. The opportunity to save costs, optimize processes and open up new business and customer areas. All this is can only be achieved through digitization,” explains Schneider. “And also the Public administration must increasingly deal with the digital transformation.” Schneider is proud of the path Karlsruhe has taken so far, a city that has already won several awards for its innovative strength. But he knows also: “Success will depend to a large extent on whether we manage to get all the to take people with us on this journey. There are always people who follow this development,” he says. “They are afraid of of being overwhelmed by the wave and losing their jobs. We must make them understand what is going on and how they can make the change themselves. can shape the future.”

Ralf Schneider in conversation with his colleague Silvia Daum, who runs the crèche. Photo: Netzoptimisten
Ralf Schneider in conversation with his colleague Silvia Daum, who runs the crèche. Photo: Netzoptimisten

For this reason, Schneider considers initiatives such as karlsruhe.digital, of which he himself is a steering committee member, is so important: “You On the one hand, they help to bring together local players from science, business, culture and administration at the same table and thus to promote the region as a whole as a strengthen the digital location. On the other hand, they are making digital change Events such as the city festival “Bunte Nacht der Digitalisierung”. But it can also be seen and experienced by the city’s population.” This look behind the The backdrops and the resulting transparency are important in order to overcome fears. and concerns of people at eye level.

Slowly but surely, we are approaching the end of our appointment, but Schneider would like to show us something else. As we walk through the building there is still time for some small talk. He tells us that he is an early riser and is in the office almost every day at half past seven in the morning. Partly until 7 pm. In between, there are lots of meetings and customer appointments outside the office. And afterwards? “Often networking events in the evening. And yet in my private life to switch off. I love hiking and running marathons. Or else I lean back and listen to music.”

We have obviously achieved our goal. Schneider opens a door and suddenly we are standing in a kindergarten. He looks at our astonishment and smiles: “You know, we were actually the first company in Baden-Württemberg to have our own company kindergarten. And it still exists today. I’m delighted that we can offer our employees this service and support families in this way.” We watch for a moment as the children run around happily and wonder what we, equipped with laptop and camera, are actually doing here. Then it’s time for us to go. Schneider takes us to the exit and we stroll out into the parking lot, where – as so often in Karlsruhe – the sun is still shining.