Management meets the Mountain

Climbing with Birnbaum & Bubendorfer

People want change

August 23rd was a red letter day for me this year. Or rather, it was a white, green & orange sort of day. I flew from Berlin Tegel to Venice Marco Polo – my first (ever) trip to Italy. From there, I spent two hours travelling north, following the mountains to my final destination in the Dolomites.

I haven’t travelled extensively in Europe, despite having lived in Germany for well over a decade. My vacation trips are always to New York ,to see my family, and back. So, I had no idea what to expect. I only knew that I didn’t speak the language, and that I was terrified of having to drive a tiny Fiat with a stick shift up a tall & windy mountain.

Well, I was right about the tall & windy mountain. But Italy pretty much busted every other stereotype that I had of it  -pretty much directly on my arrival. The airport in Venice is nice, it was no problem to rent an automatic car, and the roads were exceptionally good and the drivers amazingly courteous. As one friend put it afterwards, “Where did you think you were going?” They say that travel opens our horizons, and I have to admit that this is true.

But now to the interview: although we didn’t take every question from the interview for the film, Leo also talked about change in a question that we cut out. He says that people want change and that it helps them. The trip provided a real change of scenery for me, as well as a new experience of hiking in the Dolomites, meeting an amazing crew of Austrian mountain climbers & film makers, eating fantastic food, and having a more meaningful experience than almost every other tourist in Italy. (I’ve been told there are lots of tourists.)


Amanda Gläser-Bligh
Amanda Gläser-Bligh
E.ON Communications & Political Affairs
Birnbaum x Bubendorfer
Birnbaum x Bubendorfer

Birnbaum x Bubendorfer

The idea behind the video was to show Leo and use his love to mountain climbing for an interview. He really liked this format and quickly suggested Thomas Bubendorfer as an interview partner. I got in touch with him, and he quickly suggested a man named Günther Göberl and his film crew to help us get some footage in the mountains. We quickly set a date.


Have I mentioned yet that Leo Birnbaum is half-Italian? This was not something that I realized until my arrival in the Dolomites, where it quickly became apparent that Leo understood much more than just the language of the area. He also understands the culture and the knows a lot about the history of the region.

Leo already had a couple of days of climbing behind him, together with his brother, right before the rest of us arrived. The weather was perfect at the end of August and on that first day, I met Leo, his brother and his climbing guide for a beer on the terrace of the hotel.

This crew had a few things in common. They were all rugged dudes. Aside from Leo and myself, they were all Austrian. They all loved climbing. And they all had amazing, outstanding, death-defying stories. It’s quite something to be in a small group of people who are really alive. I know that makes it sounds like the rest of us are chumps. But these guys are pushing themselves in the ways that you or I might not. It provides tremendous spiritual growth, but also leaves a number of physical scars. A trade off that we all don’t necessarily need to make.

And Thomas Bubendorfer was the last to arrive – right as we were eating our (delicious) dinner. Our climber, management speaker, author, master of several foreign languages and Porsche spokesman was full of energy and ready to get climbing the next morning. I immediately understood why Leo had picked him as an interview partner. He opened up to me right away and made it seem as if we had known each other for years. But he actually had known the rest of the crew for years, and they already had lots of adventures & stories together; some good, some frightening, some glorious.

Climbing in Italy
Birnbaum and Bubendorfer
Mountain Italy


I believe that all those Austrians were making an effort to help me understand them when speaking German, but not always. There were times when there were apologies for speaking in dialect. I never asked Leo if he could understand them all, but I assume, that like me, that it’s always at least possible to get the gist of what they’re saying.

And all that communications is key when you’re mountain climbing. We could hear from below what the guys were saying to each other while moving up the mountain. You can listen to the some of the sounds here. 


But at the end of the day, we not only had perfect weather, good food & conversation and a wonderful backdrop for Leo to talk to Thomas, we had a safe & fun trip. The guys all pulled together to get all the equipment up & down the mountain. All team communications were understood & the mission was implemented. And the tangible result is this film, which is a communiqué of sorts from Leo to us, his E.ON employees.

Enjoy the beauty of the mountains! I hope you enjoy this film!


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