TUM Emeritus of Excellence Udo Lindemann

“Decision-making is something you learn in industry”

After gaining his PhD at TUM, Udo Lindemann worked in leading positions in industry. Go back to university? Only for the right professorial chair. And then the offer from TUM came.

Math and the natural sciences were already Udo Lindemann’s favorite subjects at school. And while serving in the Bundeswehr, he also gained a fascination with all things technical. “I was excited about the fact that I understood more about technical matters than some of my trainers.” It therefore made sense when the young man from East-Westphalia studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Hanover. When Klaus Ehrlenspiel, his doctoral supervisor at University of Hanover, followed the call to become Head of the Construction Technology Department at TUM, Lindemann went along with him. “Ehrenspiel has always given me important pointers in my academic career,” Udo Lindemann says, explaining his decision.

From university into industry

After gaining his doctorate in the field of Construction Technology at TUM, he was first of all drawn to industry. He worked for fifteen years in management positions at Renk and MAN, but did not lose sight of his “long-term vision of university”. However, it had to be “the right university and the right professorial chair” if he was to replace his highly interesting industrial projects with research and teaching. When Joachim Milberg, former full professor at the Faculty for Mechanical Engineering at TUM, asked him to apply for the position as successor to his doctoral supervisor, Lindemann did not hesitate – “decision-making is something you learn in industry” – and took up his position at TUM at the same time as President Wolfgang A. Herrmann.

People want to work in an interdisciplinary and highly agile manner, and you just have to let them do it.

His now 20-year period at Bavaria’s only technical university is referred to by Udo Lindemann as a “huge opportunity”. This is surely not least because he has been able there to expand on and intensify the professorial chair’s fields of activity, especially in the areas that have always been a favorite of his, stemming from his time working in industry, namely innovative, change and agile processes. But it is also because he was given the chance at TUM to dedicate himself to what he is most interested in – people – supporting their training and further training beyond purely technical competences by helping them develop their soft skills as well. “People want to work in an interdisciplinary and highly agile manner, and you just have to let them do it,” Lindemann adds.

Teaching key skills

“I myself could really have benefited from that kind training early on. That’s why, together with colleagues from the Faculty for Mechanical Engineering, I laid down the foundations for a later Center of Key Skills (ZSK), and I’ve been supporting it now for more than fifteen years.” The training in personal development in generic competences cannot be valued highly enough today, Lindemann says, when one looks at the need for cooperation between specialists and departments in companies. Being able to work in an interdisciplinary manner is also vital for innovation.

At Renk and MAN, the young development teams under the aegis of Udo Lindemann had already benefited from his regular team-building activities and were able to pool their skills more efficiently than in many other large corporations. At TUM, Lindemann sees such forward-looking working methods realized, especially in the THINK.MAKE.START. practical course as well as in the preceding events. Within two weeks, the participating Master students have to develop innovative products in teamwork, which in the best case can be marketed immediately via specially founded start-ups. “I’ve been a founding ambassador for students for several years and it’s really fun because something always comes out of it.”

Still active at TUM

Udo Lindemann has been emeritus professor since 2016 and is enjoying his new freedom on city trips and mountain walks with his wife. Nevertheless, he is pleased that the transition into retirement has not been too abrupt. He still supervises doctoral students, is active in an area of special research as well as in several externally-funded projects and is particularly pleased to participate in the meetings and interdisciplinary conferences of TUM’s Emeriti of Excellence. “Always a great way to broaden one’s horizons.”