Maritime fascination in Kiel
“Perhaps like no other German company, thyssenkrupp stands for engineering and a fascinating mix of tradition and future,” says Hendrik Wehner.
And with his enthusiasm for ships and marine technology, the engineer found his dream job at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. As Head of Product Architecture Submarines, he is helping shape the future of maritime engineering, under the motto: Defining the future of the underwater space.
His career could have taken a completely different direction. Hendrik still well recalls that at primary school he set his sights on the stars and wanted to become an astronaut. Later this ambitious dream gave way to something more down-to-earth: Top of his list at secondary school was a job in landscape architecture. “And then through my sailing hobby I struck on the idea of shipbuilding,” says Hendrik. When I started my degree in 2008, container ships were still being built in Kiel. Unthinkable today.”
Fascination for maritime engineering
Today, maritime engineering is Hendrik’s greatest passion. “I’m always discovering new facets and the technology and the industry are constantly evolving too.” Two things were important to him for his career: “I always wanted a job that gave me the chance to discover and create.” And in submarine development at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems in Kiel, Hendrik found what he was looking for.
He joined Europe’s leading system supplier for submarines and naval vessels in 2015 as an engineer for shipbuilding and offshore technology. In the concept design area of submarine development, he was able to contribute creative solutions to important projects.
In 2019 he was promoted to Head of Product Architecture Submarines, a job that brought with it new challenges. For dedicated engineer Hendrik perhaps the biggest of these was finding himself working less on solving problems with the project teams and more on strategic and administrative tasks. “Unfortunately, as team leader I can no longer work on projects full-time,” says Hendrik.
One of his most exciting projects got underway in March 2021. “I put my heart and soul into the preparations and groundwork for the project,” says Hendrik. The ambitious goal of the project is to develop an extra-large uncrewed submarine of modular design for civilian customers – in effect the future of submarine development. The plan is to design a submarine platform with extremely versatile configuration options for a wide range of applications. The submarine will feature a fuel cell propulsion system powered by hydrogen storage units. But the biggest game-changer is that the submarine of the future will operate completely autonomously!
“Submarine development is a team sport”
Even after six years with thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, Hendrik is as fascinated by shipbuilding as ever. “Especially with submarines, you can see the results of your developments every day in the production shops. My enthusiasm for the technology still knows no bounds,” he says. Also: “Submarine development is a team sport. You need different personalities united by an aptitude and passion for technology.”
For Hendrik, the development team also explicitly includes the customer: “I personally find it very motivating working with customers when they get caught up in our enthusiasm. Ultimately that’s what enables us to implement the best ideas and achieve commercial success for Marine Systems.”
For Hendrik and his team, the thyssenkrupp slogan "engineering. tomorrow. together." is a literal description of their daily work. Hendrik likes to remember one project in particular: “The best together story in 2020 was when we organized and successfully carried out a project close-out event attended by high-ranking officials. Among other things we were able to demonstrate in the Kiel Fjord several uncrewed underwater vehicles developed in the project. Around 20 people pulled together to prepare and stage the event. We worked all day, every day for two weeks and often ate together in the evenings. That forges a very close bond.”
Fascinating mix of tradition and future
While focusing on shipbuilding in general and submarines in particular, Hendrik also likes to look beyond the horizon. “I’m always discovering exciting projects thyssenkrupp colleagues outside Marine Systems are working on. That makes me proud and happy.”
So it comes as no surprise that to Hendrik, working as a part of #GENERATIONTK also means being an active part of something bigger. “It really is special, being part of a big team, constantly developing and implementing new and fascinating systems such as submarines. After all, it’s not for nothing that, perhaps like no other German company, thyssenkrupp stands for engineering and a fascinating mix of tradition and future.”