Nickolas Thorvaldsen, Praktikant

Time and Schöck

As a foreigner, as an intern, and as an individual, I have been so hospitably received at Schöck, from the first minute and onward. As in my last blog, my name is Nick Thorvaldsen and I am a civil engineering student from the University of Cincinnati. I write to you today on the experience I have had with Schöck thus far!

The below quote is from myself of my first day on the job, and from my own work journal:

“Everyone is so friendly, helpful and welcoming… Awesome workplace and interesting products! Many, if not all speak English and there is even a guy from England that cracked a hilarious quip today. It’s very international here, cha ching! I think it makes the office space way more accepting, tolerant, and cutting edge.”

 

My first workspace;
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”

As the saying goes, the first impression can never be repeated, and Schöck surely gave me a memorable one. I showed up to the office twenty minutes early, but Seref swiftly stopped what he was doing, grabbed my work contracts, and sat down with me to discuss my first day. He introduced me to the department, showed me my desk, and gave me an enormous piece of bienenstich cake from the kitchen. Two things I really didn’t expect: Many people came and greeted me, and furthermore they were all so culturally and racially diverse!

After just asking one question about the products, Hanaa Sadallah organized a viewing of an Isokorb® “in-action” test for me in the lab. She taught me some of the physics behind the Isokorb®, gave me some of her old projects, and provided much needed German language help. Lastly she invited me to eat with a couple colleagues at the nearby bakery my first day.

The next day Dieter invited me to take part in a construction workshop for site safety in the US. Valeri took me to the Schöck design manual deposit. Nadja helped me find my way to the HR department to settle my payment documents and later even took me to register with the city (which ended up taking three hours). Isabelle loaned me a bike helmet, and invited me to swim and run during lunch. Tim loaned me his bike without hesitation for the summer. Seref invited me out to dinner in Baden-Baden with Schöck employees from all different departments and countries, introduced me to dozens around the Schöck campus, and even invited me out the structural engineering bowling league.

The first day I spent researching and learning all about the basic fundamentals of the Schoeck products. However, on a typical day I am doing one of three things: external design work under Schöck AWT engineers (like Alfred Biang, Seref Diler or even Dominic Willetts), a self-learning and research project applying US and German norms to balcony design, or on internal files for the future American design work (like producting a excel template for Wind and Snow design). But I have also enjoyed making observations of the German culture and many slang German words (thanks to Martina Adams, Patricia Sulzbach, Seref Diler and Vanessa Kleinert).

The learning project started out simply, but quickly snowballed into a difficult and heavy project! As I further questioned my rather shady and questionable client, Seref Diler, the situation kept steepening in difficulty and complication. At first the task was only to design for a small cantilever with a large live load, but now it is a full apartment set with a massive corner taking earthquake, wind, rain and snow loads. I have created 4 RFEM models, a 2- and 3d AutoCAD model, 3 excel files, and pages of pages of hand calculations. The project is still unfinished, but I took so much from it!

The collaboration has also been a rich experience, working on projects like the St. Patricks’ Residence, Brandman Residence and the cancelled Centre Square Place. I have gotten to produce Isokorb® layouts, participate in emailing, meetings, and communication involved, create RREM models, check design loads and calculations, and make up shop drawings for on site adjustments! All a batch of valuable experience!

Throughout my time, I also took a handful of special opportunities within other departments too! These include a Schöck ComBAR® site visit in Karlsruhe (with Nadja Wörner and Karl Huck), Research and Development compression test (with Hanaa Sadallah), production tour (with Tobias Fast and August Brügel), Career “BondingMesse” Fair in Karlsruhe with Christina Sailer, Tobias Fast and Christina Buselmaier, a barbeque with Dieter Hardock, and go-carting with Team Emerging Markets!

Go-karting in Mannheim – unfortunately Nadja Wörner beat all of the men

I have been able to engage in the exact type of work I was looking for. I was looking to learn about sustainable building in Germany, and that is Schöck’s entire product line. I was looking for statics and design work, and Schoeck gave me an opportunity to work with practicing engineers Alfred Biang and Seref Diler on exactly that. I was looking for a big company experience, and Schoeck welcomed me into their team of over 500 employees. I also get to work with a partner-in-crime, Tobias Fast, to bounce ideas back and forth between our
fostering Praktikum brains.

With all professional benefits aside, I can honestly say that through Schöck I have met some lifelong friends and made some great memories. Seref Diler took Tobias Fast and I through gentleman school by simply being one, Dominic Willettes constantly made jokes about us “poor cousin” North Americans and our peanut-butter eating ways, and Alfred Biang and Valeri Tscherkas taught me French and Russian respectively. Tobias Fast and I went to local festivals and visited the Yburg together.

Getting to know the locals, Tobias Fast and I at a local Middle Age festival, “Winzertage von Steinbach”

With Schöck veteran Thilo Keller on the Yburg

Truly, a prayer answered, and one could even say destiny or “Schicksal” at the works. I have to say that everyday has its challenges and joys, but I am so grateful for my position at Schoeck. Thanks to God and all the Schoeck employees for giving me a spot!

The next stage of my life I am going back to school for the fifth and final year of my engineering program, and plan to graduate in May of 2013. Truthfully I don’t know if civil engineering is the path that I will end up following in my life, but learning is never wasted and I know there is a reason God put me here! I have gained so much more than technical knowledge, but a lot of that too! I have made life-long friendships, cultural enrichment and amazing memories thereby! Thanks Schöck, and until next time!

„Man sieht sich immer Zwei mal in Leben“, “ One sees another always twice in life”.


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