Michael Bartels

Michael Bartels is responsible for the global pricing strategy of an international medical technology company. He is passionate about photography and filming. On his travels through Asia and Europe he captures the landscapes, people and architecture in striking pictures (Photo: private).

Alumni creative

Creative Generalist and Traveller Michael Bartels

“I Was So Curious about an Unknown Country”

29. Aug 2019  |  
Reading time Min.
As a student and Alumni of TUM, Michael Bartels learnt Japanese, studied and worked in Tokyo. His many years of experience in Japan have had a decisive influence on his life and were an important milestone in his professional career.
Since Michael Bartels wanted to combine technical and creative aspects during his studies, he chose a degree in Architecture. The Munich-born alumni decided to study at TUM. “For me, TUM was the ideal combination of down-to-earth technical teaching and a great location in a beautiful city,” he says about his decision.

Michael Bartels particularly remembers the many projects on which he worked with his fellow students, sometimes for days and nights. “That’s a bonding experience,” he says. “It’s how I learnt to enjoy working with different characters.” Even today, he still draws on the experience of achieving goals as a team in a very interdisciplinary field.


Also with regard to international experience Michael Bartels has relied on diversity from the start. He was interested in Japan, Russia and the USA. He decided for a year abroad at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan. “I was so curious about an unknown foreign language and a country that, even though it is economically similar to Germany, is culturally and socially very different,” he explains. The Japanese courses at the TUM Language Center and the professional support from the TUM International Center were the perfect preparation for his exchange year. His TUM professor Thomas Bock from the Chair of Building Realisation and Robotics also supported his endeavour. “His contacts paved my way to Japan,” says Michael Bartels.

The years in Japan were an important milestone in my professional career.

Michael Bartels

For Michael Bartels the stay abroad was a success in every aspect. His language skills enabled him to gain his first professional experience in Tokyo while studying. Living and studying in such a different socio-cultural country provided him with valuable intercultural experience. “The group comes first, the individual second,” Michael Bartels explains. “At the Tokyo Institute of Technology there was a clear affiliation to an academic chair and the family associated with it.” Even today, former students meet once a year to celebrate the birthday of Architecture professor Koji Yagi at his house in Tokyo.


After finishing his degree, Michael Bartels wanted to keep working in an international environment. The Munich-based company Brainlab, founded by TUM Alumni and revolutionary in the field of Medical Technology Stefan Vilsmeier, met this desire with a job in the planning department. But Michael Bartels’ wanderlust was not satisfied yet. He wanted to return to Tokyo to improve his language skills even more and to gain further international work experience.

Michael Bartels TUM Alumnus

Seine Heimreise von Japan legte Michael Bartels auf dem Landweg zurück. 2015 entstand hierbei der beeindruckende Foto-Zyklus „Rough and High Above“. Das Bild zeigt den Wakhankorridor, eine der am wenigsten erschlossenen Regionen der Welt. Hier trennt ein Fluss Tadschikistan von Afghanistan (Foto: Michael Bartels).

Michael Bartels travelled home from Japan by land. In 2015 he created the impressive photo cycle “Rough and High Above”. The picture shows the Wakhan Corridor, one of the least developed regions in the world. Here a river separates Tajikistan from Afghanistan (Photo: Michael Bartels).
Michael Bartels went to Tokyo for another two years on a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service. He completed the practical part in the Marketing department of Brainlab’s Japanese branch. “Due to my work experience in Japan, I was pointed out to company founder and CEO Stefan Vilsmeier,” he says modestly, yet proudly. “My time in Japan was definitively an important milestone in my professional career”.

After an executive MBA in Switzerland and various positions at the Munich headquarters, he has been working for a very important technology leader in the field of Medical Technology since 2016. Here he is responsible for the global pricing strategy.


In addition to his demanding job, Michael Bartels still finds time for extended travels. Striking photographs and films capture the people, landscapes and architecture he encounters on his travels through Asia and Europe. For his documentary “Tokyo Munich – by land” he received the Munich Youth Film Award in 2005.

Michael Bartels

Michael Bartels (Picture: privat).

Michael Bartels

Diploma Architecture 2006


In 2000 Michael Bartels enrolled in Architecture at TUM. With the Young Scientist Exchange Programme of the TUM International Center he was at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan in 2003 and 2004. He acquired his first skills of Japanese at the TUM Language Center.

Back in Munich he was employed at his Alma Mater as a scientific assistant and continued to attend the Japanese courses offered here. In 2006 he completed his studies and started working for the medical technology company Brainlab in Munich. But his wanderlust was not satisfied yet. With the German Academic Exchange Service’s postgraduate programme “Language and Practice” he went to Japan for another two years. He honed his language skills at the Naganuma School (Tokyo School of Japanese Language) and gained further international experience at Brainlab’s Japanese branch. Since 2009, Michael Bartels has been back in his home town Munich and has been co-responsible for the global pricing strategy in a company’s headquarters since 2016. In 2013, he completed his MBA at the University of St. Gallen.

Michael Bartels’ spare time is devoted to pictorial arts. He exhibits photo and video work online.