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Driving Innovation

No matter where Germany’s Jan Spreitzenbarth ’11 travels, you will always find him at the intersection of global supply chain management and mind-blowing technology.


Spreitzenbarth has driven his way to increasingly fascinating roles in logistics, information technology and procurement. He’s logged most of his miles in the automotive industry working for The Volkswagen Group (VW Group) in Germany.

“I’ve always felt I am good at coordinating different people and tasks,” said Spreitzenbarth. “I enjoy environments where great ideas merge to form something new and exciting.”

Going Fast, Getting Smart

After graduating from Simpson, Spreitzenbarth got his career rolling back in Germany as a logistics planner for Robert Bosch before becoming a procurement project manager working on smart metering projects for IBM.

Then, after earning his master’s degree in industrial engineering from Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, he ventured to China as a Postgraduate Fellow of the German Academic Exchange Service. There he also served as a short-term consultant for a Chinese client focused on modernizing global factory connections.

In 2016, Spreitzenbarth returned to Germany, moving into the fast lane with Porsche AG as a partner manager in smart mobility.

“I was part of a team that developed Porsche’s entertainment system — everything that’s cool and fun in the car. Those projects included being involved in managing the partnership between Porsche and Apple for the Apple Music integration system.”

Later he served as Porsche’s lead buyer for the various software applications integrated for use in controlling vehicle motion and energy — basically all the automated and smart features of a car.

Spreitzenbarth changed gears in 2020, when the VW Group founded CARIAD — an enterprise start-up created to develop a single software company connecting all 12 VW Group brands with a shared digital ecosystem. He was called on to embrace the daunting challenge of building up CARIAD’s new purchasing team to support several thousand employees.

“We managed an external annual spend of more than €2 billion (Euros) with a team of only eight people,” said Spreitzenbarth. “We had to move quickly setting up processes, tools, and platforms. I was proud to be part of that endeavor.”

Returning to His Studies

Two years into the effort, once the teams were fully up to speed, the VW Group granted Spreitzenbarth a one-year sabbatical
to complete his doctorate at the University of Mannheim
in Germany. To that end, he spent the last year as a Visiting Fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management deepening

his extensive research on the value of artificial intelligence technologies in purchasing and supply management.

Spreitzenbarth’s relentless hunger for learning and engaging other cultures and languages (he speaks five) is tied to his lifelong desire to challenge himself and expand his horizons.

“Growing up in a small town felt sort of limiting in the
way people think and act. I wanted to have more in life and achieve something; I wanted to see the world.” His first chance to do that, he says, came during a Voluntary Social Year in China shortly after high school. “I met so many interesting people and learned about different ways to live; I was fascinated by it.”

Sparked by Simpson

Following his service in China and graduation from a two-year program at Technische Oberschule Stuttgart, Spreitzenbarth made his way to Simpson in 2009 — something that had been on his heart for more than a decade.

He learned about Simpson when he was just 10 years old, when his parents served as a host family for Maggie Priebe Johnston ’03 during her semester abroad in Germany. “Maggie told me all about Iowa and Simpson College when she was living with us. So, when I reached college age, I knew I wanted to go to there.”

Spreitzenbarth spent a lot of his Simspon tenure enjoying hospitality from Maggie’s parents, Shelly Kirby Priebe ’74 and Greg Priebe ’72 — and the families remain closely connected today. He left Simpson in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in international management — and so much more. “Finding who I am really started at Simpson. The learning environment was open and encouraging, and the faculty pushed me to try different things.”

Anticipating his return to CARIAD, Spreitzenbarth expects more big things ahead. “I’ve still got a lot of dreams out there. I’m eager to put more of my research on artificial intelligence into practice with real world applications. The possibilities are beyond exciting.”