Michael Albiez (Zeiss Microscopy)

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Intro/Outro (00:00:01):
Welcome to the Microscopists, a Bitesize Bio podcast host by Peter Oall, sponsored by Zeis Microscopy. Today on the Microscopists,

Peter O'Toole (00:00:14):
Today on the Microscopist, I'm joined by Michael Alz, c e o of Carl Zeis, who certified Microscopy Solutions. And he talks about the challenges of bringing together different types of micr,

Michael Albiez (00:00:27):
People working on electron microscopy and and live microscopy, that their background is completely different. And if you want to really integrate them, that takes quite some time. And I, I actually, I under and underestimated the time it took,

Peter O'Toole (00:00:39):
He shares what it was like for Zeis microscopist themselves to receive the German Future Prize on the national tv.

Michael Albiez (00:00:46):
Oh my. You know, all my family watched it. Not everyone. So, so you, you normally don't have such a reach with such a kind of a niche, still a niche technology. Right.

Peter O'Toole (00:00:56):
And talked about playing guitar and piano in a jazz trio.

Michael Albiez (00:01:01):
The other two of the band are still, they're professional musician guitar. I'm the only one, I'm the only one who didn't make it

Peter O'Toole (00:01:08):
All in this episode of The Micies.

Peter O'Toole (00:01:18):
Hi, I'm Petre Atul from University of York, and welcome to the Microscopists. And today I'm joined by Michael Abetz, who is president and c e o of Carl site Microscopy. Michael, welcome to the Microscopists.

Michael Albiez (00:01:31):
Thank you. Thank you Pete.

Peter O'Toole (00:01:33):
Uh, very brave coming on today, but I, I will start with a thank you cause obviously it's Zeis who have sponsored these podcasts. Uh, and I know I've been trying to get you for a while and you've always declined, but I'm really grateful cuz I'm hoping today we'll see a different career path to many of the other career paths and different tracks. And I think that's really important. So I'm gonna start maybe to see where these career tracks start, is, what was your degree in to start with?

Michael Albiez (00:02:01):
I actually did physics, like physics and mathematics studies for becoming a teacher, actually, originally. So I, I, I didn't, I didn't want to do this career. I did actually. And then I, I, I found like physics was just fun. So I, I decided to do a PhD as well, uh, in physics and then actually wanted to become a teacher, but, but I wrote one application and that was to ze. Uh, so I thought, yeah, let's, let's just try it because, you know, it was positive like interview and, and then I started with Zeis, uh, always with not the target, but being open to go back, uh, to school at some point. But, but yeah, things changed and, and now I'm here. I'm, I'm very happy to, to have this career in ICE because I, I'm probably having one of the best, uh, you know, jobs in ICE for sure.

Peter O'Toole (00:02:48):
Well, I, I, well I, this week I guess was a, a highlight. So I I I'm aware that this week was obviously the big technology awards in Germany. Yes, yes. Uh, so by luck we've got you. Just after that. And so his eyes actually, so this was, this, this award was, uh, televised for national TV in Germany. Exactly. And the award was given by the president of Germany himself. And there were three teams. Uh, so, so I film the record. The three teams were very diverse in what they were doing. So it went from a, I think storage, storage of energy for powering cars and, and using nighttime energy and daytime energy in using that through to, I think it was the Lattice light sheet seven.

Michael Albiez (00:03:33):
Exactly. So this, this is a future, what they call it the Future award. It's not just technology, but it's, you know, technologies that have potential to help society to progress. Yeah. It was actually extremely, extremely funny there. It's really nice.

Peter O'Toole (00:03:48):
And, uh, so, so just tell us who won

Michael Albiez (00:03:50):
. Obviously, we, we did, no, not obviously. I mean, Zeis already two years back at that time with the E O V technology, you know, for producing semiconductor chips. That was really strong actually. And, and last time it was a BioNTech with a vaccine for Covid. So this time we went there again and it just, we didn't have, you know, we didn't think we win, but, but at the end we made it. It was really a great event. Yeah. And thanks for, for coming over to Berlin as well and, and celebrating with us.

Peter O'Toole (00:04:17):
No, but Berlin was an awesome city. Uh, I actually thought the event itself, uh, regardless of the prize and the winners, I thought that the, the actual, actual event was quite inspirational. And I think it's a shame that other countries don't have the same, uh, profile where such a high profile person is given the award, but it's on television. Cause I think if you were a school child watching with a parent, if you are a student at university or postdoc watching this, or even in a company watching this, you would be thinking, oh my goodness, what can I do to win that award? There's still thing, there's still so much innovation to be done. And that's what it really struck home. There's so much still to be done. I, and for microscopy to be highlighted, uh, in such a way, I think shows the appreciation of just how important microscopy is in the world. Not just scientific world, but just the world for everyone at the moment.

Michael Albiez (00:05:13):
No, it's true. And, and millions of people in Germany watched this, right? It's, it's basically nearly primetime broadcasted life in German. Second, second program, German television. So yeah, all my, you know, all my family watched it and everyone, so, so you, you normally don't have such a reach with such a kind of a niche, still a niche technology, right? Microscopy is something people remember from school or I, I don't know, but, but how far this went over the past hundreds of years, that, that, that's cool. And, and people saw it. So we are really proud to, to win this prize. Actually

Peter O'Toole (00:05:43):
It was grand and, and great for your Thomas, uh, Ralph, who, who are up there on stage, uh, you said again, you thinking about their microscopy at school, you want to be a teacher. Yes. So what they high school or junior school teacher?

Michael Albiez (00:05:59):
No, high school teacher. High school teacher.

Peter O'Toole (00:06:01):
And, and did you, did you actually start teaching?

Michael Albiez (00:06:04):
No, not quite. I mean, I, I, I played a lot of, uh, piano when I was young and I gave piano lessons and I just enjoyed working with kids and, and, and teaching kids. And, and actually I know I, I, I thought about what can I do, what, what is reasonable to do? And I, I always like mathematics and physics and, and then this a little bit, this teaching background brought me to the idea to, to start studying. You know, I, I didn't have quite a plan, I must say, you know, I, I just started it and I turned out to be extremely, extremely interesting. Especially physics. Especially physics, I must say.

Peter O'Toole (00:06:37):
And I presum you. No regrets. Not going into teaching.

Michael Albiez (00:06:41):
No, no regrets. Um, no, for sure not. So I, I stopped giving piano lessons. I just, today I, I, I did some practicing with my son on mathematics, so that, that's a benefit I can still do with my kids that are growing up, you know, . But that's the only teaching I get, actually.

Peter O'Toole (00:06:57):
And how old are your children?

Michael Albiez (00:07:00):
They're 19, 18, and 15.

Peter O'Toole (00:07:04):
Okay. So, so not dissimilar to my own. So, and, and, and three boys, boys, girls,

Michael Albiez (00:07:10):
Uh, two, two girls, one boy.

Peter O'Toole (00:07:13):
Easy to handle.

Michael Albiez (00:07:15):
Well, no, depends on the face, you know, in, in, I think on average, yes, could be much worse.

Peter O'Toole (00:07:23):
could be much worse. It's a very British type of thing to say. Ah, it's okay. . So what, so, so from your degree, did you go on to do a PhD?

Michael Albiez (00:07:35):
Yes, in physics, actually in quantum optics. So I, I was a lot in optics. Um, experimental quantum optics. Mm-hmm. , that was a really very agile topic at that time. I think we had PRLs most every day, uh, in, in this field at that time, 20 years back. Yeah. I, I have this p PhD in physics, and then I also did an MBA like 10 years ago to, to get a little bit more an overview over all this business administration topics.

Peter O'Toole (00:08:03):
So, so from your PhD you throw in a job CVD or job applications as ice and one interview and got the job. What was the job that you started with?

Michael Albiez (00:08:14):
This was actually, uh, an r and d engineer for electron microscopes. So this was an over in, in southern Germany. And they were looking for someone developing a new optical concept for an electron microscope at that time that finally turned out to be what we called the Merlin. What's the product name? Okay. Um, that was actually my product. That was the first thing I did. Right.

Peter O'Toole (00:08:37):
So scanning electron microscopes.

Michael Albiez (00:08:39):
Yes, scanning electroscope.

Peter O'Toole (00:08:40):
Had they finished doing transmission when you started at Zeis?

Michael Albiez (00:08:43):
No, no, no. That was five years later, roughly, or seven years later.

Peter O'Toole (00:08:47):
Ok. And the Merlin Mead's still going?

Michael Albiez (00:08:51):
It's, no, it's now called, uh, Gemini four 60. So there is like several product errors, but, but the column that I develop is still going, yes.

Peter O'Toole (00:09:00):
Okay. So if you could choose between light microscopes or electron microscopes, which would be your favorite?

Michael Albiez (00:09:06):
Oh, no. , that's not a question. I, you know, electromicroscopy, I, I moved to Yar and took care of the life microscopy things, uh, uh, topics because I, I wanted to, you know, go get a broader perspective. And my, my, my background is more in electromicroscopy, but I think like life sciences versus material sciences and life microscopy versus electron microscopy. I, i, I cannot say which one I prefer. Really , I prefer correlated microscopy. Maybe that's the right answer,

Peter O'Toole (00:09:38):
Isn't it? No, I was waiting for that to bring in the correlative

Michael Albiez (00:09:41):
Little snow. I was, yeah,

Peter O'Toole (00:09:43):
. So how, how did you go from being into the r and d engineering side? How did you move into the management side?

Michael Albiez (00:09:54):
I would say the regular way, in a sense that I, I, I did project leader for, for some time. Um, so bigger projects, developing full instruments with, with various disciplines. And then, then you, you, you get to know, you know, how, how it works and how to work with people. And, and then two years later I, I got a group leadership and, and from then it just progressed, you know, in, in Z is actually, um, it's, you can, you can go from technical to, to management ladder and, and whatever you find or your superiors find is, is more suitable. Uh, you, you can change. And, and I, I, I changed from, from more technical to more management and our only management of course, or leadership, uh, different, different phase now. But I, I really enjoyed having this background, the technical background, because microscopy is so deep, you know, it's, it's so, I mean, it's, it's a very old kind of technology, but, but there is still so much innovation and to keep up with ideas and innovation and new modalities and stuff. I think it's good to have this background.

Peter O'Toole (00:10:56):
Do you miss not the r d the R and being, being actually doing the r and D side?

Michael Albiez (00:11:02):
Not quite, because you know, I, I, I, I still, I sit into project reviews. Um, like the latest license is a good example. It was an a d d project and we had reviews all the time because these more risky projects, um, they get attention up to, up to my level. Um, cuz you always decide to, we still funded how, how do we progress? So actually I don't quite miss it. I'm in a lab quite often with my people and, and look at the new innovations very early on to get a feeling. I still feel part of part of the team pretty much.

Peter O'Toole (00:11:33):
I should have got one of them to come and talk, see how much , I wonder how apprehensive they are when they're showing you what they've got or what their next product is from a and I'm coming in and waiting for your, i, I guess your GBA stamp to carry on or not.

Michael Albiez (00:11:49):
They don't want you to touch the, the, the, the systems anymore. You know, I, I tend to find box and break them and, and, but, but I can still look at them and, and ask questions. That's good.

Peter O'Toole (00:11:58):
So, so you're a good beater tester.

Michael Albiez (00:12:00):
Yeah. Yeah. Alpha, alpha minus, I don't know how it's called prototype test.

Peter O'Toole (00:12:05):
So very early on to, uh, to that side of it then. Uh, so the awards evening was really good. How, uh, and, and the winning from that, how important is that type of thing for the team internally?

Michael Albiez (00:12:20):
I think the, the, the big importance, excellent. Externally is really nice because, you know, you can be so proud because it's, it's broadcasted has a very big attention in Germany. Um, it's very important or visible for ZE as well. Not just microscopy, but Zeis, Zeor Enterprise actually, right? It's, we are one company. Um, for the team it's even more important, especially for internal purposes, you know, that this just puts so much, puts this effort, these people that right in the center of, of what people see. And, and I just posted it on LinkedIn the next morning and, and so many people just responded. Great. And that's great product, you know, it, it's, it's a lot of, it's a lot of pride for the people. So, so these people actually win this thing personally, right? The the team wins it. It's not the company, it's the team that wins the prize.

Peter O'Toole (00:13:10):
So, so, so, so the drinks next time we see them are are on them.

Michael Albiez (00:13:14):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. May they, they won the price, right? They have, they have a budget now. Maybe they should pay a drink for the others. Let's see, let's see how this works.

Peter O'Toole (00:13:22):
So you want to be a teacher, uh, going to a degree. If I, if I take you further back to when you were younger than your current children, so maybe the age of 10, when you first start to get an awareness, you may want a job in the future. What was the first job that you can recall wanting to do,

Michael Albiez (00:13:39):
Like musician? Um, I was always into musics and, and my father was heading music school, so I, I basically grew up somehow between school football and, and music somehow. So this was, this was really something i, I actually thought about. Um, but it's really super tough. I mean, the, the competition is extremely tough and you have to really be completely into it. So that was the first thing probably.

Peter O'Toole (00:14:05):
And so that was piano you were playing then? Yes.

Michael Albiez (00:14:08):
Piano and Q guitar, yeah.

Peter O'Toole (00:14:10):
Okay. And so, so when did you decide not to pursue a career? And, and why did you, when did you decide that math physics was the way to go?

Michael Albiez (00:14:22):
Math, physics? Probably when I was 17, 16, 17. Uh, because at that time I decided, you know, for the, uh, for the subject to be part of my final exams. So, so it was clear that that will be important. And I, I, I like these topics. Um, when did I decide to become a teacher? Really? Probably we have one year after, at that time, we had one year after school where you have to do a social kind of social job and you have a lot of time think about things. Um, and, and that was the time when I decided I'll do this. I, I, I'll start with this.

Peter O'Toole (00:14:56):
T it's quite different going from the arts to the sciences, uh, as a career. It, it's quite a big shift.

Michael Albiez (00:15:04):
Yeah. Not, not so much. There is so many scientists playing really well playing instruments. So, so there is something to this, right? You know, left and right side of the brain and, and, and, and, uh, mathematical and artist. So I'm, I'm actually into music, like, like, um, paintings is not so much my thing. . Yeah. It's really, it's really more music,

Peter O'Toole (00:15:26):
Right? I remember talking to sch Willer and actually she sent a picture of all the different instruments that she could play, which was nuts. Yeah, absolutely crazy. Just the amount of different instruments that she could play. So did I hear right that you used to play the piano and guitar in a band?

Michael Albiez (00:15:44):
Yes. Yes. That's true. I, I, I used to play in, in mainly in a, in a small jazz band. Um, and yeah, that, that was actually fun. Yeah, that was good. Like a, a small jazz trio was the main thing. But we also had like, played a little bit like dance music and, and, and, um, but that was the main thing. Uh, and, and the other two of the band are still, they're professional musicians now. I'm the only one, oh, I'm the only one who didn't make it at the end.

Peter O'Toole (00:16:10):
. Yeah. I I I I I bet you're probably doing better career-wise. Could you say it's a very hard gig being in the, the music industry?

Michael Albiez (00:16:20):
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Peter O'Toole (00:16:21):
Uh, I, I'm, I'm just thinking cuz Elmi ha has quite often has a live band on the final night and, well,

Michael Albiez (00:16:30):

Peter O'Toole (00:16:31):
Music, dance music, gosh, I tell with the winnings and, and the drinks. Uh, I'll ask you after a few drinks and see if we can get there.

Michael Albiez (00:16:50):
They're both better. Yeah, probably.

Peter O'Toole (00:16:52):
Um, so can I ask, have you had any inspirations in your life who has inspired you at different stage of your career?

Michael Albiez (00:17:03):
You know, when I, when I started my, when I did my PhD, it was actually my professor, he, he, he was from Austria. He was a very young professor, extremely energetic. I don't know how many nights we spent in the lab during my PhD because we, we basically could only measure during the night, you know, uh, because this condensate, which I did, are extremely sensitive to everything around you. If, if there is a bus driving or something, it's, it's just disturbing the, the, the, the experiment. So that was really inspiring because he was, you know, he had so much energy that was just incredible. Now when I, when I look further, I think now it's more people who have a very special kind of approach to leadership. Um, or, or maybe even followership. You know, leadership is one thing, but people who really make others follow are people that, that I'm inspired by that. That's really, that's really interesting. How, how some people are extremely great in this

Peter O'Toole (00:17:58):
And a any notable people.

Michael Albiez (00:18:01):
No, I, yeah, as I said, I mean, Marcus o Tyler was, was the guy at the university. Um, he's now, he's, he's in in Helberg uh, still on a similar subject and, and, and doing his, you know, his, his research and science. Uh, here, I, I, I wouldn't, I wouldn't say one, I mean in Zeis there is really a lot of great people that, that very different kind of, of leadership styles, also different cultures in the different parts of the, of the, of the business. And it's, it's actually really, it's really interesting to, to look at all these and, and, and learn from different kinda skills and people

Peter O'Toole (00:18:37):
To, to actually, so think it's worth touching on. Cuz you probably have a unique perspective and understanding actually, which not everyone is able to see or appreciate. The difference between not lighting electron microscopy, there's not, you know, that, that's not so different. The difference between life scientists and material scientists, the way they operate, the way, what they expect from instruments, the way you sell instruments to these two different camps. Actually, from my experience and seeing how they interact, even at the scientific conference level, they are very, very different. Stereotyping obviously. But how have you found that

Michael Albiez (00:19:20):
There is quite some difference? I would say, um, I see more difference of course between like scientists and in, in university or academia generally, and scientists in industry, this is, this is really shockingly different. So the people have a very similar degree, but the way you're talking to them and what convinces them is so super, super different. Um, so normally I would say as I, we, we are talking, if you're talking universities, we are talking to really people who understand what they're doing and who are really into microscopy most of the time. So, so, and they, they are extremely well informed, um, in, in all different, you know, all different categories. I think there is not such a big difference between materials and life science. Um, but I think that the, the way they're looking at things, um, like one is more heavy on biology, the other one more heavy on physics.

The one is more, you know, more involving, like looking at pictures and fluorescence images, which is the preparation is pretty complex. The other one is more looking to, more fundamental understanding of, of what's happening there in terms of physics. So I think that the discussions are just different. Um, but the level of, you know, the level, level of knowledge in microscopy is, is immense. It's really immense. And that's why our, you know, our salespeople, if they want to talk to, to these customers, it's actually one of the toughest jobs you can have, right? You, you, you have such a broad portfolio and, and those customers know basically they know everything about what they want to have. It's really, it's really an interesting, a very interesting business.

Peter O'Toole (00:20:51):
I, I can't remember if it was yourself or someone else that that one said actually, when you launch a product within a few weeks of launching a product, there'll be customers that know more about your product than you do.

Michael Albiez (00:21:03):
That's in terms of applications for sure. I mean, you, you are developing your project product. There is a lot of project management. There is a lot of retiring technical risk and getting this thing alive, you know, get, get all the parts and build it and make it stable and reliable. And then it, at the end, when you have one, you actually do real applications work with customers. Um, that, that's the approach we have. So customers tend to learn very quickly and you'll tend to learn then from customers that, that, that's an interesting phase because until then there is no one else, you know, that knows about such a project, uh, really. Um, and then of course the challenge is to have different various customers. Um, like with the latest slide sheet we have, we had 10, uh, and, and we try to early customers and we try to really learn these applications. Um, and, and, and the, the target positioning from these customers, it's true. Uh, people are really informed.

Peter O'Toole (00:21:56):
So how nerve-wracking is it when you launch a product to see if it'll sink or swim, if it'll be popular or not popular?

Michael Albiez (00:22:06):
Uh, I, I, I think that it's nerve wracking after like two years when you look back, the launch is always exciting. It's super exciting. You know, the, especially for the teams, they worked for five years, eight years, two years on a subject. And at the end it's very intense day and night they're working and then it's launched and then normally, like there is a big spike in, in, in interest, but the funding is not yet there very often. Yes. So, so you only see with a delay, you see the economic success of a product. People are really excited, like it, and there is applications coming up and stuff, but only after two years looking back typically, you know, you know, does it really hit a broader market? And that's where, where it's actually really exciting, uh, when, when we look back and, and, and see, did you know what we estimated in terms of business potential and application potential? Did it really come true? Unfortunately, you only know it after two years or one, one year or whatever. Not, not immediately.

Peter O'Toole (00:23:05):
I think that's a really good point. You've, you raised, uh, quite often there'll be, not criticism, but we know this technology that's been innovated and as scientists, you can't get access to it commercially to to, to run it out in a lab. Uh, cuz it takes time. But when the product is launched, it still takes 12 months Yeah. To put in a grant application, get the grant funding, go through a tender process and deliver the product into a lab. And that, that's comfortably 12 months from, from in, from the product launch to when you can probably buy it. So the funding model doesn't suit super fast research. Some institutes will be lucky and be able to buy one very early on, but, or may have funding for a similar model that they can upgrade or switch to. But there is a delay. Uh, so thinking about speed of innovation, you, you'll, you'll appreciate this. People will say, how can you get, how can you enable quicker access? And you say it can take two years, five years, eight years for a product to get to market. Now for some technologies that's eternity. So why does it take so long to get a product to market?

Michael Albiez (00:24:18):
Yeah, it really depends on, on the, you know, on the conceptual like r and d topics on the product. Um, so, so if we have really high risk projects and products, say with a, with a very, you know, rough idea what you want to do and a rough, fully new optical concept like, like the latest slide sheet, um, then, then you really start with prototyping and trying to get, uh, retire risks that you know, one by one by one. And, and normally these don't have huge budgets at the beginning. We try, we we tend to have a funnel of ideas, a big funnel of ideas. And, and, and, uh, what becomes advanced development is working on these, it's not yet a real, you know, it's not yet a real project. It's, it's, it's it's technology scouting at the beginning and then then a typical r and d project.

Then once risks are retired and, and so on takes like two years on, on average, if you're talking software, that can be much faster, of course, you know, you there, you're ta you're talking like agile development, um, with sprints like three weeks, four weeks where you can have something, you know, improved on a shorter time scale. Um, if, if parts are involved and you need to get complex part from your suppliers, of course the, the, the scales are different. So it's difficult really to say, um, how long on average it takes. But, but, but there is just a, there is a big span.

Peter O'Toole (00:25:38):
So how, so the lattice light sheet, which you have in your background, so if you're, listen, Michael's got some really cool movies going on, which I presume is from the lattice light sheet seven and the lattice light sheets haven behind from start of the project from scoping to commercializing. How long did that take to get to market?

Michael Albiez (00:25:56):
I think roughly now, until now, like two years ago we really launched it. We had a pre-series before that. Um, and for this project we decided to have a pre-series because that was so new and, and we wanted to bring it to customers to really learn, uh, about applications, uh, before we actually have a series production. And, and you mentioned this before, you know, otherwise from really having something until the first people can really get it just takes too long. Um, so this one was roughly eight years, eight years through like eight years. And, and the main development was probably three years where we really made it into this nice box back there, right? It it, it was like a concept, big, big system. And, and then the task is to bring it to a, especially with this one, to bring it to a usable user-friendly box. This was the, this was actually the task of the project team at the end.

Peter O'Toole (00:26:45):
Yeah. Good, good. Obviously, uh, Kate, Betsy was the brainchild behind it in a way. But, but, but you kind of turn it up on its head quite literally. You, you turn it on its head, uh, and turn it 180 degrees, which is, makes a fundamental difference to us as an end user, as a biologist. Uh, and Eric speaking to Eric outside of the podcast or anything else, he was pretty pleased actually to see it get to market and in the way it's been delivered, I think he's probably pretty impressed with as

Michael Albiez (00:27:18):
Well. I, I think so too. And he mentioned it before. I mean, um, the, the, the fact that we are getting it, you know, into this kind of geometry imaging through the glass, basically, which is, which is half correcting all these errors and, and, and this in a way that is user-friendly, you can use your normal samples. I think that was the big innovation actually. You're absolutely right. Um, the, the, the, the basic principle very often comes from actually our customers or people who have ideas. And we are proud to take these ideas and basically market them. We are not, you know, not necessarily the, the, the most clever people in the world. They are, they're a lot of clever people out there and, and networking with them is good. But I think our engineers have, you know, over, over decades have learned to bring it to a product that finally really works. And, and this is, this is, I think what, what, what is so special about this and other, other projects. There is many other examples where the true innovation comes from the customer, right? And, and what we do is, you know, commercializing it and, and, and, and bringing it to more people.

Peter O'Toole (00:28:19):
And I, I think that's really it least a commercialization that makes it accessible to us, which is really important, uh, a a as end users. And that, that's why it's why Eric was quite happy to hand it over cuz it needs to be commercialized to have a impact across the world in across all the science labs that can get access to it, which is so important to it. So I'm, I'm gonna change tack a little bit. It must be exciting. Must be very intense during those sprints and so forth. What do you do in your spare time?

Michael Albiez (00:28:53):
No, I, I I, I mentioned I have three kids, right? Um, and I, I really enjoy being out with, you know, at, at concerts or what, whatever. Um, I do some sports. I, I do cycling, um, and, and I enjoy doing kite surfing. Un unfortunately you can't do this all the time. Um, but that's really something I actually really like. Yeah, that, that's actually, um, on the Baltic Sea that was, was last, last year.

Peter O'Toole (00:29:19):
This picture looks nuts. So this is a picture of a few kite surfers and, and one in the yes, in the foreground

Michael Albiez (00:29:25):
That you, that's my son. It's, it's actually not me. Um, he's, he's more crazy than I am nowadays. But, but that, that's my son. He, he, he started it two years ago also. Um, so we, I really enjoyed spending time, you know, with the kids and, and, and, uh, or with the family generally. Um, we also like to go camping, like, like on weekends. Um, we, we really like to go out and spend, spend the time somewhere. Not, not far away, just, you know, half an hour drive an night or two, uh, somewhere out there. It's something that really helps us relax. Helps me relax as well.

Peter O'Toole (00:30:01):
So Michael, is this all five of you going camping?

Michael Albiez (00:30:07):
Not always. Uh, not, no. The kids are grown up, right? Um, so typically we are three or four. Um, because

Peter O'Toole (00:30:14):
You, you sent me a picture of, of the coolest camp about, and, and these are in the uk these are really trendy and quote called, I had a really boring caravan compared to, to the campervan. And, and this what, what why is what what, what's this? It's tiny.

Michael Albiez (00:30:30):
This is really, actually, that's really tiny. Uh, that, that's, um, that, that's a trailer for the campervan. You can only fit two people sleeping in the camper van. That's already, you know, one meter 20 you yeah, yeah. You, you need to like the other person if you're sleeping in there, I would say. Um, so we decided to have this trailer, but the trailer cannot be really heavy for this camper van. You can only pull like 200 kilograms roughly. And, and we just found in Germany, we found a company that does like kit, you can, you can buy this kit and it's a company actually, normally they're doing, um, water slides for, for pools, and it's the same casting technology they are using to, to do this thing. And then, then they, they supply you a big kit. You, you work for, I don't know, two weeks and then you get a certified and, and you can use it. It's another one meter 20. Uh, so, so you can fit, I can fit four people now without the time.

Peter O'Toole (00:31:21):
So you, you built

Michael Albiez (00:31:22):

Peter O'Toole (00:31:23):
The, the, the, the the mini caravan or

Michael Albiez (00:31:25):
Yes. Yeah. You have to build it. Yeah. And, and I also spent quite some time in trying to repair the other thing there. Uh, trying to repair the camper van. Um, you, it, it's tough to find people who know the technology still. It's, it's really simple. Once you work your way into it, it's, it's not difficult to repair it. And I have some friends, you know, who have similar cars, uh, like Beatles, exactly the same technology and they, we help each other.

Peter O'Toole (00:31:49):
I I can see the engineering background coming to you. They are super cool though. Yeah. And so you go away for just into the countryside or do you have any particular area? Is it to go kite surfing or do you take it to go walking, cycling? Where's your sort of target area that you go to

Michael Albiez (00:32:04):
Sewing out? You know, it's just, it's just, we really like to, you know, leave the normal environment and just go out into nature and, and, or like camping place somewhere. Um, just for walking normally just for walking, because there is cat surfing is, is is difficult. You have to drive at least an hour from where I live and there is not a lot of wind, so you, you have to be really lucky if you can combine it. Um, the car only goes maybe 70 kilometers an hour, which is 40 miles, so it's not, not so fast. So the, the, the range is not so big.

Peter O'Toole (00:32:36):
Okay. So moving sideways again, uh, we've talked about your inspirations. Well, have you had any really challenging times at work? What's been the most challenging time in your career to date? Oh, today is not the right, that suggests you're gonna get really big challenges up front. What has been the most challenging time you've ever encountered?

Michael Albiez (00:32:57):
I hope there will be more challenging upfront. So the biggest one, the biggest one actually was when we, we combined live microscopy and electron microscopy like 10 years ago, a little bit more maybe. And, and these were completely different siloed, like parts of the company. Um, not in one business unit. Um, and, and this was a big challenge in terms of culture to bring these two together. You mentioned before like material scientists and life scientists, you know, people working on electron microscopy and, and life microscopy that their background is completely different. And if you want to really integrate them, that takes quite some time. And I, I actually, I under underestimated the time it took. And then what came along with it was of course a little bit of a restructuring internally. So we, we, you know, we moved like production sites because we had several production sites, too many actually.

So we, we had to, you know, find new jobs for people with all within size. But, but these kind of things are, are tough change processes are really tough for people. Um, but finally I think we are, you know, we are through it since quite some years. And, and now, now it's, it's, you know, it's, it's going upwards again, but it was the right thing to do and it was only a positive thing to do this combination. But it always, every change takes some time. And that's what I really learned there. It takes, you know, at least two, three years until, you know, you are really accommodating to a bigger change.

Peter O'Toole (00:34:20):
When did you have any doubts at any point that this was the right thing to be doing?

Michael Albiez (00:34:26):
No, not, no, not really. Um, because, you know, we were talking about correlative microscopy for quite some times and customer wear. And if you don't really bring the teams together into one environment, having the shared targets, you know, the same kind of leadership, the same processes, you will not be able on the longer run to really combine technologies to, for a, you know, for better imaging at the end or access to new, to to new applications. So that was the driver. That was always the driver. Um, at the beginning people had a little bit problem with it because the, the amount of correlative microscopy, uh, compared to just life sciences or just electron and just life microscopy was really low. Uh, but only now it can actually grow because we are, we are putting everything on one software platform that you have these targets, you know, bringing everything into one system so it can be used simultaneously. Um, so I, I never doubted that it was, you know, that it was right, but there is always felt like winners and losers in such a thing. You know, people need to, you know, change jobs or change locations or it's always tough. I think looking back, most of the people would say it was, of course it was the right thing at that time. Maybe they would've said differently.

Peter O'Toole (00:35:38):
And so you actually, actually, for the listening, this is probably worth knowing how many staff have employed in Zeis microscopy and how many risk,

Michael Albiez (00:35:46):
Yeah, roughly 3000. Um, in, in microscopy worldwide. So our, the businesses at Zeis are basically set up as fully responsible entities. Um, and they have, they have like everything from r and d production and then especially also the representatives in all the countries, which we called sales and service companies. Mm-hmm. . Um, so all these people are, are roughly 3000 people in macro.

Peter O'Toole (00:36:12):
So you can see that making change is never going to be easy when you've got to keep 3000 people feeling unthreatened. Cause I, I'd imagine there must, some people must have felt quite threatened at the time.

Michael Albiez (00:36:21):
Yeah, yeah. No, it's not easy. No, it's not easy. And, and sometimes you don't even have a sense for who, you know, who has a hard time with this and who doesn't have a hard time. It's not always the people who obviously are threatened or might feel threatened. It's, it's, it's also people who are just, they, they, they just cannot cope with change, even if it's a small change. You know, if in in sales for example, you just get a product portfolio, I, I think you, you should say it's great, right? Um, if you combine those two technologies, on the other hand, it's a lot to learn. You have to talk to customers that are of, you know, of a very different, different kind, and they, they know maybe more than you do at the beginning. So yeah, it's, it's actually not so easy to find out who might be threatened or who might feel threatened. You have to be extremely close to the people in order to find this out and not lose the people. Even in the, even in a, you know, what you might consider a small change. That that one was a big bond, but we had small ones as well, uh, where you sometimes may think, okay, that's, that cannot be so tough. But for some people it actually really is.

Peter O'Toole (00:37:22):
That's, yeah, I, yeah, I I do you think it's, everything is settled now and steadied and no more iterative rather than one big bank of bringing things together?

Michael Albiez (00:37:34):
Exactly. And you saw it with, with Covid as well. It was interesting how people reacted to, to covid to to know complete change within, you know, within days changing the work environment. Um, working from home. Of course that's, that's for some, it's tough to accommodate, uh, others feel like winners of such a situation. So yeah, it's always, always. So it's, it's a leadership task. Big one. So

Peter O'Toole (00:38:00):
Here's an, so you are a, a big international company. We read about big international companies and newspapers and about how some companies have remained as a mix of hybrid working, working from home, working in the office. How, how, and I, I, I, I know historically Zeis was definitely working office atmosphere before covid, it was very much, you, you don't work from home. You, you work in the office. How are things now?

Michael Albiez (00:38:24):
Things are no, pretty open, I would say. So we have a, we we call it mobile work. It's not home office. Um, because if, for us it's important to bring the people together from time to time, uh, rough. I, I would say on average it's probably 50 50 now. Um, for some people it's more, for some people it's, they cannot work from home, like in production, it's really impossible. Yeah, of course, service people cannot work from home. They have to be at the customer side. Oh, most of the time if you don't do remote service. But yeah, I would say 50 50 roughly. But what we say is whenever the, we have those team days, right? So we try when the people are in, some are always in, but when people are coming in, we, we try to make sure that the team aligns such that it's really quality time for the teams to really discuss.

So there, there is just no point in people sitting in front of their computers all day in the office anymore, right? This is not the thing. So they should meet in front of prototypes or like, like discussing product specifications between marketing and product management and r and d. These things are extremely helpful. If you sit together, other, other tasks can be done from, you know, from wherever you are. Yeah, we are now in a mix. I, I think it's a good, i, I think it's a good practice actually. We need, we still need to meet. I'm, I'm fully convinced that this is for an innovative company that brings together mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, software engineers, and then application people. You know, and you need to discuss these things in, in, in, especially in r and d but also best, best practice sharing for, you know, I'm in the demo lab today. People need to, you know, they, they need to, to, to discuss, you know, how how do you do this? How do you prepare the sample if everyone works for himself that don't, it, it's just, you lose so much.

Peter O'Toole (00:40:02):
I, I think there's a lot of covid or chat where ideas, inspirations, problems are solved. It's just that, and, and you don't bump into people when you are working mobile. You know, when, when you're working in a home office, you, you're not gonna just bump into someone and have a chance conversation. That could be the next big thing. But at the same time, there so many meetings that are via Zoom or teams or whichever, that actually you don't get to bump into people when you go into work. , you can sit in front of your laptop, talk calm day, and then go home again and not have seen anyone cuz you're just committed. Yeah. Uh, so I guess the, I guess the focus of making sure there are focus meetings.

Michael Albiez (00:40:42):
Yeah. We have these system days, for example, we call them the system days. So it's a full day discussing about a project and this, this is not remote, this is on, you know, in, in the office or in the lab. These are super important. And then you have, I mean, what people also really value is the, the, the lunch together. We have a great contain in, in, in, in all our like sites. And there you bump into people, right? You bump into people from other business units. You, you bump into colleagues from other departments of your own business unit. And many people go for lunch. And, and, and also many of them have walk after lunch. Um, and, and that's, that's actually where things happen. Or typically, you know, in front of the coffee machine, wherever you, you get a sense of the team again. Um, and not, not a sense of teams in your computer, you know, it's, it's different. Yeah, it's different.

Peter O'Toole (00:41:33):
So, so moving from challenging times, making anything, what has been probably the, the best time, the highlights of your career so far?

Michael Albiez (00:41:41):
No, the, it's really the highlights are always if you accomplish something with your team, you know, I mean, my job, at least now my job is to, to try to give vision, um, to, to generate a multi multi vi vision for, for, for the, for the company. And then to highlight if, if I feel if if things, you know, people are working, walking into one direction, like understand what, what the strategy is about. And then you have these small successes getting, you know, getting you on your way. Those are the small, not not super big highlights, but those are the most important highlights. I, I have basically every day. Um, the, the biggest highlight as such, it's difficult to say. I mean, last week was great. Um, that was the most visible highlight we probably I had in my career actually. Oh, we had as a team microscopy, uh, in size. Um, there is so many highlights. That's a good thing about my job actually. Many highlights.

Peter O'Toole (00:42:39):
, we won't worry about the lowlights. Uh, okay, so, so maybe another, okay. What has been the most un time, you know, is that through your undergraduate, your PhD, uh, when you were r and d Inc. Now, if you could relive one year groundhog Day time and time and time again. Yeah. What was the most sort of enjoyable time?

Michael Albiez (00:43:00):
The, the most enjoyable time probably was during the PhD because there was so much, I mean, that was such a great team and we were working during the night and then during the day we, we, we, we couldn't. And, and the, I think the biggest highlight was we had to move our experiments from Constance to Heidelberg because the, you know, my professor, he moved to Heidelberg. So we, we, we pulled, we, we disassembled the whole, you know, optical table, two optical tables of optics, put it into boxes, bring it up again. And the first time we had disposed answer, compensate again after a few stupid mistakes. Yeah. We put in some optical modules the right way, the wrong way, and you would never find it. You know, that, that was, that was just amazing. So we, we, we only lost three months moving. That was, that was a super highlight.

Peter O'Toole (00:43:46):
That's pretty efficient.

Michael Albiez (00:43:48):
. Yeah.

Peter O'Toole (00:43:49):
I'm gonna ask you some quick fire questions.

Michael Albiez (00:43:52):
Yeah, that's good.

Peter O'Toole (00:43:53):
Okay. So, uh, PC or Mac?

Michael Albiez (00:43:56):

Peter O'Toole (00:43:57):
McDonald's or Burger King?

Michael Albiez (00:44:00):
Oh, none. .

Peter O'Toole (00:44:03):
Do your children not like either?

Michael Albiez (00:44:05):
Yeah, they, no. They, they are, they, they sometimes do, but I, I actually really don't.

Peter O'Toole (00:44:10):
Okay. Uh, if you were to, if you were at a conference Yes. Uh, or, or if you were to be taken, if you, you've gone somewhere and, and they take you out for dinner, what would be the best food that they could put in front of you?

Michael Albiez (00:44:23):
Local, local food. Wherever I am, I always ask for local food.

Peter O'Toole (00:44:29):
Okay. You haven't done much in Britain then You might not choose locally.

Michael Albiez (00:44:34):
Fishing chips from time to time is great. Right. Especially if you're in a, like gonna a football stadium, fish and chips is great. really depend where you're,

Peter O'Toole (00:44:43):
Uh, and what about, is there anything you don't eat that you do think, oh, no, I, I really don't like that.

Michael Albiez (00:44:48):
Nope. Not really.

Peter O'Toole (00:44:50):

Michael Albiez (00:44:51):
Oysters, maybe Oysters. I, I, I, I, I, I can eat them, but I, I don't really like it.

Peter O'Toole (00:44:58):
Okay. That's fair enough. Coffee or tea?

Michael Albiez (00:45:03):

Peter O'Toole (00:45:05):
Short or long? Coffee? Long,

Michael Albiez (00:45:07):

Peter O'Toole (00:45:09):
Ah, short ,

Michael Albiez (00:45:13):
I, I actually didn't manage to, to switch on the coffee machine here in the demo lab. So I, I'm, I'm with water .

Peter O'Toole (00:45:19):
I, I have water too. of course. Uh, wine or beer?

Michael Albiez (00:45:27):

Peter O'Toole (00:45:28):
Red or white?

Michael Albiez (00:45:30):

Peter O'Toole (00:45:32):
Any particular region? Grape stone. Okay, good choice or cheese?

Michael Albiez (00:45:44):

Peter O'Toole (00:45:48):
Hey, early bird or night owl?

Michael Albiez (00:45:51):
No, absolutely. Early bird.

Peter O'Toole (00:45:53):
Yeah. So for what time do you rise?

Michael Albiez (00:45:56):
Six 30 roughly, which is not super early, but I, but I don't waste time in the morning at all. I, I, I start working as soon as possible. Uh, I don't have breakfast normally I just grab a coffee and salt, uh, in the evenings. I, I need, I need sometimes to relax and that's the evening for me. It's not the morning.

Peter O'Toole (00:46:15):
Uh, so, so in the evening when you are relaxing, do you watch tv? Do you read a book?

Michael Albiez (00:46:21):
Actually, we now, now maybe changing a little bit, but we, we try to have a, a not a big but dinner together, but the kids pretty extended one, you know, in terms of time. Everyone comes in the evening and, and would be talking about their day. Um, I I, I don't watch so much tv, I must say. Um, if I watch tv, I, I watch like, documentaries, um, how to repair cars, for example. . That's good.

Peter O'Toole (00:46:48):
Uh, and what about, do you read books?

Michael Albiez (00:46:51):
I do, yes, I do. I do. But, but not super. I mean, I, I I I, I like to read like, leadership books a lot. Like, like with, with the pretty deep content, uh, from time to time to read, you know, other books as well. Um, but again, I try to go out more. I, I try to move when I have time. I try to move. That's important to me.

Peter O'Toole (00:47:12):
So, so when do you, you said you'll go cycling for fitness and stuff. When do you, is that evenings you go cycling?

Michael Albiez (00:47:18):
Yeah. Evenings or weekends? Uh, it really depends. If in, in summertime, you know, when the, when it's bright until 10, sometimes in the evenings. Uh, otherwise we cans

Peter O'Toole (00:47:29):
Staying on books and tv. Uh, what's your favorite film?

Michael Albiez (00:47:35):
Uh, it's you, you may love it. It's, uh, A Life of Ryan. It was always fun. It's so funny. I love it. My my kids can't hear the, the jokes anymore. Uh, , I really like it.

Peter O'Toole (00:47:46):
Yeah, I, yeah, we will actually, I've watched it. Uh, we have Chris Gary, you may know Chris Gary, uh, he came over and we watched Life with Brian's Care and yeah, I, I think the children struggle with the humor.

Michael Albiez (00:47:57):
Yes, absolutely. The first and second time. At least they, they get used to it. Third, fourth time . But

Peter O'Toole (00:48:03):
Yes, I think you gotta be the right age. I think I was probably 17, 18 the first time I watched it. And, and yeah, I, I thought it was a great film at the time. So Life and Prime is an excellent choice. Star Wars or Star Trek.

Michael Albiez (00:48:17):
Oh, star Wars. But I'm not, I'm not, I'm not really into it.

Peter O'Toole (00:48:24):
And do you have a favorite Christmas film?

Michael Albiez (00:48:29):
Uh, yeah, actually dinner for one. And it's not Christmas. That's not pre, I don't have a favorite Christmas film. No, I don't.

Peter O'Toole (00:48:37):
Dinner for one.

Michael Albiez (00:48:38):
Yeah, that's, that's uh, like,

Peter O'Toole (00:48:41):
Uh, yes,

Michael Albiez (00:48:43):
New Year's

Peter O'Toole (00:48:44):
English. It's an English thing. Yes,

Michael Albiez (00:48:46):
Yes it is. But in Germany, everyone looks at and watches it.

Peter O'Toole (00:48:49):
Yeah. And no one in Britain's ever seen it, I don't think.

Michael Albiez (00:48:52):
Really? I

Peter O'Toole (00:48:53):
Didn't know. Yes. It's not a thing over here at all.

Michael Albiez (00:48:55):
No. Every,

Peter O'Toole (00:48:56):
We know it's a big thing in Germany. Yeah.

Michael Albiez (00:48:58):
Every New Year's Eve. Every hour you can watch it on, on the, on television.

Peter O'Toole (00:49:03):
I'm not, yeah, I don't even, I, I need to look up how to even watch it.

Michael Albiez (00:49:08):
man, you probably,

Peter O'Toole (00:49:10):
Yeah, no, I, I really, I do need to do . Have a look. Cuz yeah, as you say, everyone in Germany, it's a big thing. Not a big thing over here.

Michael Albiez (00:49:19):
I didn't,

Peter O'Toole (00:49:21):
Moving back into other things, we've, we've talked a lot about obviously the career becoming, wanting to be a teacher, uh, going to Zeist bit also read that you had your own company. You founded your own company at one point.

Michael Albiez (00:49:34):
Yeah, that was, that was when I'm, I was still at school. I, I designed and built speaker cabinets for like pub pa systems, like for bands, right. That was, we needed one. And, and my uncle actually had a, had a company, uh, that designed speakers and, and, and I, I, I, I got some speakers from him and then got some, you know, software from him and then started to build my own ones. Um, but I just did this for three or four years. Uh, I, I stopped it when I was into my studies at some

Peter O'Toole (00:50:04):
Point. And you were selling that to other bands or other pubs or

Michael Albiez (00:50:07):
Other bands? Other like, like, like public rooms or discos or these kind of things? Yeah.

Peter O'Toole (00:50:15):
And, and was that pocket money or was it a serious income?

Michael Albiez (00:50:20):
It, it could have been a serious income if I would've invested more time. I, I just did one a month or so, uh, just, just to limit, you know, to limit the effort. Um, and I didn't do any marketing, so what came came and what didn't come didn't come, you know, um, I, I just, you know, I, maybe I did like 15, 20 pairs of maybe 30, um, systems installations.

Peter O'Toole (00:50:44):
So you had the pa you just teamed up with, uh, Scott Fraser, who makes his own home amplifiers.

Michael Albiez (00:50:50):
Oh, he doesn't amplifiers. Oh, that's cool. I, I do the, the, you know, model backend stuff. That's good. Yeah.

Peter O'Toole (00:50:55):
So, so to combine it Yes. Could, could be quite good. you, you also mentioned that you, uh, enjoy soccer. Uh, so send me this image.

Michael Albiez (00:51:07):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Hey,

Peter O'Toole (00:51:09):
Hey. What is the, where are you here? This is huge stadium.

Michael Albiez (00:51:13):
No, I mean that's the biggest stadium. Um, that's Barcelona. It was, that was, uh, last year on our, we, we actually did a camper trip down to Spain, uh, for two weeks. And, and Barcelona was the most southern point we were. And, and I went to, to the stadium with my son. We was school. Hundred thousand people. Completely crazy. Normally I'm in a small stadium, which is very close to my hometown. It's Hehe, it's a second German league. Um, probably 10 times smaller than that, but still, still a lot of fun.

Peter O'Toole (00:51:44):
All your sons that watch it, is it a family thing or just one or two of your sons?

Michael Albiez (00:51:48):
It, it, I have one son. Um, actually sometimes I, sometimes my, my, my daughters join as well. Um, but this is more with my son, you know, with my, with my daughters. Uh, or, or, uh, I, I more go into like, um, uh, uh, concerts that's more, that's more the thing for them, you know.

Peter O'Toole (00:52:07):
And what sorts of concerts?

Michael Albiez (00:52:09):
E everything? No, really everything from, from jazz to classics, hip hop, I, I love hip hop. Um, everything. There is no, there is nothing. We don't try, no, we always say it's better in any concert. It's better than on the sofa at home always.

Peter O'Toole (00:52:26):
So I appreciate if you are going to hip hop and dance and stuff like that, then you must be moving, standing up and moving and dancing.

Michael Albiez (00:52:34):
Yes, I do. But I, I'm not good. I'm really not good in this. But I, I , I I get up and move fifth.

Peter O'Toole (00:52:41):
So again, at Elmi when we have the live band, everyone gets up and dances. Okay.

Michael Albiez (00:52:46):
Sophie, maybe I should come next time. Get

Peter O'Toole (00:52:49):
We, we, we have to get you up there at some point. Uh oh. I've, I've lost. So you, you also said you have, uh, oh my goodness. I shouldn't have just flicked that picture cuz that just makes it look like I've got really weird

Michael Albiez (00:53:02):
Ears. Oh yes. You

Peter O'Toole (00:53:03):
Also have .

Michael Albiez (00:53:04):
Yeah. Yeah. That's our dog. We, we have her since four years. Um, and I actually spent quite some time, um, walking and mean, she's always a good excuse to, you know, God, and, and, and have a, have a, a longer walk that, that's really good. It's, it's, uh, it really, really brings more activity into her life. A dog must see.

Peter O'Toole (00:53:26):
I just can't believe that that's, that just, yeah, . That was a bad positioning for me to be sitting down when I put that picture on. So do you walk the dog in the morning as well as the evening or just the evening?

Michael Albiez (00:53:39):
Normally, I mean, when I'm not traveling, I try to do it in the morning. Um, so when I get up, I get up, go out, take a cup of coffee, and, and, and, and if there isn't not a really early appointment, can I, I I do it in the morning, in the evening, normally there is no time.

Peter O'Toole (00:53:56):
Okay. So going back into work, uh, and the work environment is, so anything that frustrates you that you wish it not frustrates you because it, it, it's something that can't happen. But is there any, is there pro any processes that frustrate you at work that you wish didn't exist but have to exist?

Michael Albiez (00:54:18):
I'm not sure they have to exist. I mean, in such a bigger company, they have a lot of, of course, processes like from r and d process to everything. And, and sometimes if, if people, you know, complain that the process is holding them back, although the process should just be something that should help them, frustrates me honestly. Um, and, and we are trying to streamline these and, and we have, you know, I don't know the, the how many versions of the r and d process we had, just to try to make sure that you can capture small projects that have a big burden on such a process and, and big projects that actually are, for example, like process that need, uh, f D A, uh, uh, certification, you know, that much different kind of documentation. And, and these can, these things really frustrate me. If, if you hold back innovation for process that are not important, important, but they, they are not efficient, let's put it that way. Yeah. Something that's, and, and that happens from time to time. And sometimes you are in a tunnel and you don't even see it any longer, you know? Um, and then looking back and people tell you that could have been like a year earlier that that's really, that's really bad

Peter O'Toole (00:55:27):
Just because of the process of getting it certified and out.

Michael Albiez (00:55:31):
Yeah. Especially, yeah. Ex Exactly. And you have these gate gate reviews, you know, and, and I don't want people to spend so much time preparing for this and documenting, but some really do. And they feel they have to, and, and they spend, you know, too much time in overhead, um, that is at the end not valued by the customer. You know, you wouldn't, you, you want a stable product. So we need a, you know, we need a process, a good process. We make sure that we have quality and you know, we always have software box, but, you know, limited and, and some you can, you can, you can handle. Um, yeah. But that, that's something in a big company that you really have to learn this, that, that there is much more than just a few r and d guys doing something. You know, just the decision until you decide what you do is already a process . And when I had my own company, I just, you know, I built something and I build it and, and two days later it was there. So, um, I had to get a little bit more patient when I came to, to such a company.

Peter O'Toole (00:56:28):
So I asked you what you wanted to be when you, when you were 10 a teacher, and then obviously we can see how you came into where you are today. Yeah. In another 20 years. Where would you like to be?

Michael Albiez (00:56:41):
I have, I have no plan, honestly. I have no plan. And that was always a success criterion. I think for me it's, I think it's good if you are for the time you are here, you are here, right? You don't work for the next step. Eventually something will happen. Always, right? But, but I think as long as you are, you're having, you know, fun with what you're doing, people will notice this. If you're only there for, you know, showing successes to, to do something else, it's not, not the thing. So I'm enjoying actually what I do. I I actually always enjoyed what I did. Uh, and I I, I do it until the new kind of challenge comes up. So I, I really have no blood.

Peter O'Toole (00:57:21):
I, I've, I don't think I've ever asked this of a guest actually, and I actually why I haven't, I've only just thought of the question. If you could have a a your sabbatical and step into someone else's job. Yeah. Any of anything.

Michael Albiez (00:57:34):

Peter O'Toole (00:57:34):
What would you like to go and sample just to get a feel fit to know what it's like in that environment?

Michael Albiez (00:57:39):
I would, I would actually love to work in a startup that has a big purpose, you know, like either in the more biological field or in environmental field. Um, I, I was actually pretty, uh, you asked me before people that inspired me. I, I was, two weeks ago, I was in South Africa for this African microscopy initiative, may maybe you heard of it. Yeah. And, and one of our customers actually, um, long j he started this with his idea, right. And then, then he brought this big foundations behind him, like, and

Peter O'Toole (00:58:13):
Kahan Zuckerberg and Yeah. And

Michael Albiez (00:58:15):
Gates Foundation. Exactly. And he really implemented something in a, in a kind of a startup approach, you know, something really, really big and fundamental and, and sustainable. That that's something, that's something that if you look back, you know, in 30 years , I think that would be something that, that you keep in mind, that that, that, that you, you have, you, you leave your footprint and that would be something, you have to find something, of course, like this, you have to really have energy for something like this. But that would be something I would, I would try to do at least.

Peter O'Toole (00:58:46):
And that's a, I I think actually look a really hard job in, in delivering what their vision is across Africa in a sustainable way. Okay. Yeah. I I think that there's, there's many complexities behind it. So actually we talked about frustrations in the workplace. I think Leon is gonna encounter, and he probably already has encountered some frustrations, but I think we've count Jacobs and everyone else. I think they're gonna encounter more and more quite high wolves to get over. I think even within Europe and the Americas, north Americas, it, it, there are still wolves Yeah. In the way of the best practice. Yeah. And I think they, they, they are, they're gonna have even bigger wolves to break down,

Michael Albiez (00:59:34):
But the only way to improve is to try, I think. Oh yes. It's a big attempt. It's, it's really a big one. It's not a one, it's a one person's idea, but it's now a big multi-year initiative. Um, and, and we are really happy to support this. You know, we, we, we, we will install instruments at remote sites as well, like, like dier equipment, which we, which has been used, our customer equipment, actually sometimes customer back equipment will put it free of charge and service it and install it and try to give, just to give access. And I think if there is a few successes, um, in other, you know, other parts of Africa, I mean, South Africa is strong, but then, you know, no matter where you look, it's really, it's really not strong from a scientific perspective. And if you can do small steps, I think that's already something. I mean, they cannot solve their own problems. And that's, I mean, scientifically they could, um, if we just make it attractive for them to stay in Africa, the good people as well.

Peter O'Toole (01:00:31):
Yeah. And attract good people into Yeah,

Michael Albiez (01:00:34):
That's true

Peter O'Toole (01:00:35):
Africa. And, and, you know, we only have to look at, uh, the likes of China. And actually one way is to actually attract good scientists in, and that then develops that culture of top science and attracts top science and more funding and, and then becomes more sustainable.

Michael Albiez (01:00:52):
Yeah. So it's a great, I think it's a great initiative. We, we'll do, we we'll do a lot to support it. It's, uh, it's important.

Peter O'Toole (01:01:00):
Uh, we are very nearly up to time and there's one area we haven't touched on. Uh, and I, I usually ask where do you see the future going? But actually, I think a big thing, ICE is a, a hardware company. Historically, how much do you see big data, artificial intelligence, intelligence, machine learning? Where do you see your role in that?

Michael Albiez (01:01:23):
It's actually big and, and the transformation is ongoing, right? If you, if you look back five years, six years, seven years, we, we were extremely hardware, you say hardware, hardware heavy in terms of r and d as well. So we probably had 80% hardware people and 20% software people. But honestly, more, more or less system control.

Peter O'Toole (01:01:46):

Michael Albiez (01:01:46):
Software people. We are switching to 50 50. That, that's, that's the goal. Everyone knows this. Um, because it's so important, especially with instruments that are, you know, pro, they, they are providing more and more data and nobody can look at this data. If you, those crazy projects like, um, um, this, uh, brain reconstruction, uh, project, you know, the, the human brain project, which is done with an msem, um, with several or with whatever technology, you know, with a nano few nanometers resolution. And, and the brain is really a big thing. And then you want to link find all the links. So this is, no one can do this. So this is, first of all, you know, throwing away the data you don't need is, I think the first challenge. And you need a lot of intelligence for this as well, because storing too much data is just, it's just not helping.

Um, and then evaluating, like using ca uh, artificial intelligence to, to evaluate these images, um, is of course is extremely important. And, uh, we have systems today that if, if you just let them run, uh, and, and just, yeah, just use with this one, two cameras and let them run for a day. Most every hard drive will be full, you know, uh, with images, you know, . So that's a big one. It's really a big one. And, and, um, I'm really happy that also customers drive this, uh, innovation, you know, that that's a joint. And, you know, also infrastructures in universities is important for this. It's, it's not just, it's, if you're talking correlative microscopy, we also want to be open to microscopy like modalities that we don't have at size. You know, you want to, to correlate, I don't know what, you know, x-ray fluorescence images, you know, we don't have these and we don't, you know, we don't want to necessarily expand our portfolio, but we need to make sure that you can handle all the data and bring it together. So I think in terms of open architecture, in terms of all these, you know, intelligent ways of processing data, I think we, we need to be open and we need to progress for sure.

Peter O'Toole (01:03:46):
I think it's where maybe different companies need across different platforms need to talk together as well to help the scientists answer the questions. Cuz at the moment it, it's very difficult. We are probably just over the hour I, that, that's gone super, super fast. I'm sorry Michael, thank you so much for taking your time to join us today. Uh, thank you for plugging half the podcast cuz as you just mentioned with the, the, the brain, uh, Jack blip obviously is one of the leads on that. Uh, and Mark Eman said other podcast guests, which you nicely brought up somehow along the way, along with Eric and so forth. Uh, but everyone who's listened, I hope you found this really fascinating and different, uh, to some of the other podcast guests that we've had. And Michael, thank you so much. Think still equally inspirational and showing different career paths and d how, how to progressive a career and the complexities that you have to deal with. And actually you still seem quite chilled and, and yeah, it's, they're not, they don't seem, they don't seem like challenges to you. They just seem like a way of working. It, it, it's, yeah. You're too at ease, .

Michael Albiez (01:04:55):
Yeah. Thanks Peter. And, and thank that, that that was a really short hour. So thanks for ma making this such a, such a great discussion.

Peter O'Toole (01:05:03):
Pleasure, sir. Everyone thank Michael. Thank you very much. And thank you everyone. Don't forget to subscribe to whichever channel you are listening to and go listen some of the other micr. Michael, thank you.

Intro/Outro (01:05:12):
Thank you for listening to the Microscopists, a Bitesize bio podcast sponsored by Zeis microscopy. To view all audio and video recordings from this series, please visit bitesize bio.com/the microscopists.

Creators and Guests

Michael Albiez (Zeiss Microscopy)