WORK + LIFE
About Career Decisions, Forks In The Road And Finding Your Purpose
I think when it comes to my career I am pretty much like Alice… 🙂
It has taken me all of my life to get a grip on what my heart beats for, where my strengths lie and under which circumstances I excel and grow above myself.
In fact, I am not yet finished with the process at all. Most likely, I will walk until the day I die. Because life is a never-ending process of learning and evolving. And there are endless avenues to explore.
At least, that is what I believe in.
At school, I was kind of good at everything
but I enjoyed languages, history and geography more than mathematics, physics and chemistry (And now you can already ask the question how I ended up becoming an engineer, right? :D). I was a book worm. I could read for hours and forget the world around me. I loved to draw and do puzzles. I have always enjoyed being outdoors, and I have always had a very sweet spot for animals (In fact, I wanted to become a vet when I was little).
And International Business Management was what
to work as an Au Pair. This time has had a significant impact on me. It opened my eyes to a different world and outlook on life, the belief that everything is possible if only you work hard enough. I met people from all walks of life, and a lot of them inspired me. I travelled a lot. And all of that widened my horizon. I ended up staying for a second year and took a few classes at College – English for Composition (You see, I did like writing back then already and should have not stopped for two decades to come!), Spanish, and an introductory course to Business Management.
International Business Management war das
I eventually chose as the field of study to start my career back in Germany. I had not really wanted to return home at that point in my life. The transition was in fact very hard. So I decided that my studies should at least resemble a bit of the new life that I had got so accustomed to. I chose a study programme, which was completely taught in English and included both a study semester and an internship abroad (which I spent in Australia and Malaysia – times of my life :-)). We were a colourful group of students from all over the world bringing in many different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. It was learning on different levels. Facts and figures out of books, social skills across cultures in team work and various projects and workshops. My majors were Marketing and Strategic Management. I loved to come up with ideas and concepts. And I loved the international atmosphere. Towards the end of my studies, I applied for an internship at Daimler. And this became the first work experience in the automotive world. Not technical at all though. My department was focusing on Regional Strategy Development, in particular for China and India.
The internship at Daimler led me
to the idea to study Industrial Engineering. I knew I wanted to do my Master’s, but I yearned to try something new. At that point I did not yet know that this would become one of the more challenging times in my life. The feel of the programme was a lot different. We were all German, and everything seemed to evolve around facts only. No facets, no colours, no creativity. Looking back today, I see that that was what I was missing most. But during the very time, I just focused and fought my way through. And despite all I graduated. And I did so with good results. I think this is one of my strength. Once I start, I will finish. And give all I can so I can be proud of myself and my work.
But the difficult times were not yet over.
My first job was not a good match either. I started as a Quality Planner at an automotive supplier, and the job profile just did not feel right for me. I was unhappy. I questioned my decisions, even my studies. I feared I had taken a completely wrong path at one of the forks in my road. I was lost, and all my passion, drive and energy were gone. I knew I had to find something new and leave.
And there it was. It kind of popped up from the middle of nowhere
A potential job at Daimler in the quality department for truck powertrain. I applied, and I made it. And it turned out to be a game changer. I had entered the world of problem solving, which has become and remained a passion until today. I learned all the methods and tools from scratch and started to support and coach projects in the various development teams. It was fun. Every day was different and a challenge. Learning just never ended. I loved it. Finally, I found myself in an environment of encouragement and inspiration again.
But then, I cannot sit still.
And even though I loved my job, my life did not feel complete. After three years I was ready to embark on a new journey. I was in no hurry. And those of you who read my very first post know that South Africa was just kind of happening. Nothing I planned for. But an opportunity that I ran into when casually browsing through jobs for inspiration. I had to grab it, no matter what.
South Africa made me grow up in every possible way, also in my career.
My main focus was to build up a qualification programme for systematic problem solving. The plant was my green field, and I was allowed to run free for the very first time in my professional life. I was able to bring about change and to turn all my ideas into reality, train and coach lots and lots of my colleagues, get them as excited about problem solving as myself (I tried! :D) and see them grow and advance in their own career. One of the most vivid memories was the day of our graduation ceremony when they all received their certificates.
And then, last year, I stumbled over another great opportunity during a casual chat
with a lecturer from Rhodes Business School (I was participating in a Management Development Programme at that time). I was offered the chance to give guest lectures to two groups of MBA students in Grahamstown, talking about the different phases of quality management in the automotive industry. I was very nervous when I started my speech for the first time. But seeing the positive response made this feeling disappear quickly. I loved sharing my knowledge and experience. And meeting such a diverse bunch of people from all types of different industry backgrounds. Unfortunately, Corona has put a bit of a hold onto it. But I surely hope to do more of it soon.
Abgesehen davon, was kommt als nächstes?
I am busy preparing my research proposal and hope to start my PhD at Stellenbosch University early next year. But other than that I do not know for sure, just like Alice 🙂 Because opportunities will continue to arise on the side of our paths as long as we do not stop walking. And today, I know what I love: train and coach people, complex problems that seem unsolvable at first and give so much joy once tackled, change (because that is what keeps me on my toes), creativity (and colours), new challenges. And freedom and life long learning. And who knows what else pops up along the road…