New Horizonsvon James Kearns, Praktikant
The 1st of July came around so quickly and before I knew it I was amongst the thousands in Frankfurt Am Main airport. The hustle and bustle amongst others in the crowds at the train station and in the airport in a way symbolised what I was to experience over the next few weeks, something new, fresh and challenging. Not quite what I was used to, the turn-around from 25 hours a week full time in my first year of college back in Ireland to 45 hours full time working at Schöck was something that ended up being more of a seamless transition than I previously had thought.
My first couple of days were spent getting to know the town of Bühl and my colleagues at Schöck. After spending a few hours trying to establish where things were in proximity to my new home with Dr André Weber I couldn’t help but compare Bühl to that of a cartoon diagram of a typical German town which was in a German textbook I had used in 1st year back in secondary school.Rather daft, but the whole experience had left me feeling a little bit like a sim in this small, neat and functional town. Getting used to the German language was definitely one of, if not the biggest challenge of my new life and it definitely did take a bit of time to get into the swing of things but that was always bound to happen because I was never in Germany before. All in all, the whole atmosphere and design of the town did allow me to feel at home, a bit like a home away from home.
My initial impressions of the company from the outside looking in on my first day at 8 AM were that it really was a large company with numerous amounts of departments that could perhaps leave me feeling like more of a number than a person. Beginning at 8 AM, Nadja Wörner, a new colleague in Emerging Markets gave me a tour of the 3rd floor and introduced me to everyone in Product Management and Emerging Markets. My initial fears of being an unknown in the company were immediately quashed. Immediately after that I had a meeting with Dominic Willetts who gave me a breakdown in what exactly their department was doing. This was followed by a small tour of the product range on the 3rd floor. Getting to see and feel the effects that an Isokorb® has on a structure using the thermo-graphic camera was definitely a highlight. The first two days in work were very much based around me settling in and getting in on the act of what exactly the Emerging Markets department was doing. Its challenge, to build up new markets and introduce Schöck technology to where, in some cases it has never been heard of before was a large one. However that made all the successes they had in their respective markets that little bit sweeter. This was something I had learned gradually throughout the six weeks.
After receiving my laptop and some Lotus-Notes training I was shown a few of the bigger projects that the team were involved in. Looking at it as a whole, the sales process starting from a potential customer signalling interest in products and delivering the finished product was in no way basic but learning about the way each of my colleagues went about their own specialised part of the process in order to make it all work was something that really fascinated me as someone new to the team.
Getting a tour of the production plant was one of the many highlights. My work generally involved helping out with those in departments whether it be preparing spread sheets on Excel (something I was well used to) or working using the SAP programmes (something new) being able to play my part and observe those in such a unique team was a real pleasure. Improving the English product catalogue and helping colleagues with the language were also smaller ways in which I could do my part. All of these tasks gave me a great insight as to how things worked in the department and seeing as I`m studying business these tasks were of huge interest to me. There was a lot to learn on a personal note trying to nail down how to best do my assigned work. However luckily I was in a position whereby I could call upon those who I worked with for pointers and advice as to how things could have been improved. My biggest task was to set up a new database on excel to contain all of the past and present American and Canadian projects the department had and finding all the relevant facts and figures about them.
Being a full time employee during the week and what I can only describe as a typical tourist on weekends was quite peculiar but it worked out well to have this contrast. I was able to see things differently from both sides with the more serious side being called upon during the week and then the more adventurous side on the weekends. People in Emerging Markets were full of ideas and suggestions about where I should go and what I should see. The fact that my colleagues joined me going to some of these places highlights again how welcome I was made feel and greatly added to my overall experience. I would like to think I didn’t leave a stone unturned with regard places to be and things to see as a tourist in the Baden-Württemberg Region. Music festivals, sight-seeing and public viewing as Germany went all the way to become world champions – I had done it all.
I had definitely mastered the German rail network by the end of the 6 weeks that’s for sure!!
The 6 weeks flew and by the time I had to depart home I was disappointed to have to say goodbye to all those at Schöck who had made my experience what it was whether it be those who I had worked with or André Weber, whom I stayed with for the 6 weeks who provided me with a simply unbeatable place to live. They had all really made an effort to get to know me and likewise wanted me to get to know them too. The experience was something I couldn’t have imagined it having gone any better and who knows, maybe in the future our paths will cross again.