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Michael Ziegler - VP People and Transition

Man wearing a shirt and sitting with hands crossed at a desk

Michael, tell us about your career journey and how you ended up in Human Resources (HR).

My move into HR came quite unexpectedly. I actually began my career as a lawyer in Germany, eventually working as a labour law and collective bargaining consultant in a family-owned steel company. After just three months, the CEO of this company asked me to take over as Head of Corporate HR. This was what kick-started my career in HR. It wasn’t an easy start, as my knowledge was mostly focused on labour law and I really had no idea about HR. Luckily, my boss (the CFO) taught me a lot about the HR business.

And what brought you to TotalEnergies?

It was a former colleague who eventually led me to a position with the Company. I had worked as the Head of HR with Hutchinson, an aerospace company based in Hamburg, from 2011 to 2013, before joining Faurecia as their Industrial Relations Manager. I had always maintained close contact with my colleagues from Hutchinson though, and in 2015 my predecessor called and asked me if I wanted to join TotalEnergies.

I joined as Manager of Employee Relations in the Berlin office for the Marketing Services division for just over a year, and was then appointed Director of HR in 2017. I moved to Aberdeen in November 2022, when I began my current position as VP of People and Transition for the Exploration & Production division.

What would you say is your greatest achievement?

I think it’s difficult to choose a greatest 'achievement'. It would be easier if I was to focus on shot putting, which I used to compete in. Having been born in East Germany, I won the German Democratic Republic (GDR) shot putting championship at the age of 16, and was a successful athlete.

Looking at my professional career, however, it’s more challenging to identify one thing in particular. Perhaps I wouldn’t highlight anything at all, as it’s more about the combination of small achievements.

What would you say is your favourite thing about working for TotalEnergies?

My favourite thing would be the freedom to implement new ideas. I think it’s great that we can openly discuss our own thoughts or ideas on different approaches or solutions, and for people to listen. This is definitely one of the main draws of working here.

This approach is actually one of our core values – ‘pioneer spirit’ – when we aim to instil a sense of boldness across the company, and encourage everyone to put across their own ideas on how we can improve as a whole.

Do you have any career advice that you’d like to share?

For me, the best piece of career advice I’ve ever received was to be yourself, and to be authentic. In terms of advice I pass on, it’s to not take yourself too seriously. I also encourage people never to shy away from sharing good ideas they might have. There’s nothing worse than the sentence: “We have always done it this way.” For me, it’s important to exemplify what you expect from your colleagues. That’s not always easy, and I don’t always succeed, but I try every day.

Any finally, what do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, my hobbies are pretty simple. I love our garden and put a lot of work into it. My wife doesn’t always like my ideas, but of course we always find a solution! When I have time, I ride my Harley around for hours as it helps me to clear my head, or I go to the gym. I’ve also recently become a grandfather and am excited about all the experiences that will bring!