"The biggest pro is that if you know how people perform essentially the same tasks in different countries and in different types of companies, you can learn from each other.".
Gereon had the opportunity to travel to the Product Company in Qingdao, China during the FLEX Graduate Program, ending in January 2020. His main goal there was to help qualify an inlet valve for the GHS (OiS), which was part of a CC7 project (cost reduction). However, it was also part of his job to see how the people in Qingdao worked in order to bring some ideas to Cologne. In February he will join the Atlas Copco marketing team for five months as part of his graduate program.
Bachelor of Engineering Mechatronics from the Koblenz University of Applied Sciences (Bachelor’s thesis in cooperation with the Bundeswehr);
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering Product Development from TH Köln (Master’s thesis in cooperation with an automation company: Assembly Automotive)
Occupation: FLEX Graduate Program since March 2019
Why did you decide to study engineering?
I decided to study engineering because of my interest in technical subjects, my fascination with technical achievements and how technology can help improve people’s lives. I was also interested because the field of engineering offers strong career prospects and job security.
Which key competencies are required to be an engineer?
It depends on what you want to do. A specialized career requires an extremely high-level understanding of technology in order to find solutions to technical problems. Specialist-level knowledge in individual disciplines is also helpful. Project managers and upper management need the ability to get up to speed quickly on the “thinking“ of various disciplines as well as an understanding of them. To motivate people, good soft skills and extensive knowledge of human nature are also important.
My journey in Qingdao, China ended in December. My main objective while there was to help with the qualification of an inlet valve for the GHS (OiS) which was part of a CC7 (cost reduction) project. However, it was also one of my responsibilities to see the way people in Qingdao worked in order to bring some ideas back to Cologne.
Now I’m back in the Engineering department with Core Combinations. I’ll be joining the Atlas Copco marketing team in February for five months as part of my graduate program. I became aware of this opportunity through a conversation with Andries Desiron during my stay in China.
We’re at the beginning of 2020 – are there specific objective for the year? What are your priorities?
My main focus for the first half of the year will be to join the Atlas Copco marketing team. As an engineer, during my time in Core Combination, I already had experience with product management since it’s a key competence for determining how a product is viewed from a marketing perspective and in transforming that information into something feasible. During this time, I’d like to increase my knowledge of customer-focused engineering. How do customers think? Are engineering ideas marketable? Additionally, I’d like to understand the bridge between customer centers and product centers. During my time thus far, I developed a really good impression of manufacturing companies. But how do customer centers work, and how does communication from customers travel from sales to marketing to engineering? As a graduate, I have a special opportunity to really understand the bigger picture of how a company works.
Each brand and department has a culture that’s ingrained. What’s your experience now after working at Leybold and at Edwards PC? What do you expect to gain by working as part of the young team at Atlas Copco Vacuum?
It was really important to see what the differences were. Up until now, I was only familiar with the Leybold culture, which is very much driven by German ideologies: perfectionism and world-class technical products. This is what Germany’s biggest exports are and why Germany is considered “world class” in engineering. On the other hand, you get to know China’s culture, where development speed and agility is the focus. It was impressive to see how quick the communication with suppliers was. And then there’s the Atlas Copco spirit which seeks to combine the best of perfectionism and agility, which is not always an easy task. This is why it’s important to send people to different countries and cultures to understand their various behaviors. The differences when compared to the Edwards culture were mainly a different organization (organigram) and different software tools.
Working as part of a young team means that I have an opportunity to drive innovation, since young people often have “crazy” ideas that can result in really good new products and/or strategies. I think Atlas Copco has the ability to offer the opportunity to not only have an idea but also to translate that idea into a product.
Switching departments is part of your assignment. What do you like most about it?
The best thing about switching departments is that you get to know new people and learn about their roles and responsibilities. It’s really nice to have the opportunity to establish a strong network. It’s always easier to work with people in the future when you already know them from having worked with them in the past.
Is there anything you would like to tell people about pros and cons of working in different brands and countries?
The biggest pro is that if you know how people perform essentially the same tasks in different countries and in different types of companies, you can learn from each other. You can tell them how you do this type of work, and whether their way is better than yours or vice versa. As “The Book” teaches us, there’s always a better way to do things, and we can find inspiration within our own group. One of the cons is that if you have a decentralized network, it’s not easy to get everyone aligned as far as what to do and how to do it. So in this case, it’s even more important to be familiar with different countries and companies so as not to end up in a big mess!
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