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      November 25, 2021

      From the Machine to the Headquarters

      Hello, my name is Dennis Pakalski, I’m 27 years old and Digital Infrastructure Coordinator at Continental Institute of Technology and Transformation (CITT).

      I would like to give you an insight into my professional career path. I started at Continental in 2011 as an apprentice for the profession of process technician plastics and rubber technology at the Stoecken plant. After 3 years of training and work in the junior work council, where I got to know almost all production areas of the Hanover location, I was hired in the Vahrenwald plant at ContiTech Air Spring Systems (CTAS) and this is where the first chapter of my career begins.

      Shopfloor worker - Monotony, and dull work?

      My first task was the production of rubber air springs also colloquially, the winding and heating. I started just like every other shopfloor worker and had to prove myself. Most shopfloor colleagues would say that the work there is monotonous and dull, and that is where the mistake lies!

      Strictly speaking, as a production employee you experience much more areas than in many other jobs, from process and materials engineering to quality assurance, maintenance and much more – you just have to pay close attention! Even if the activity became sometimes a boring, I asked myself the question every day, how can I produce more with even better quality? With precisely this question and this awareness, a dull activity becomes a true challenge. But quality awareness and performance alone are not enough to prevail against hundreds of other workers, you also have to:

      • Show interest and willingness for more,
      • proactively think about efficiency, quality, and solutions for improvement,
      • have stamina,
      • and above all be disciplined.

      Shift leader, a blessing or rather a curse?

      After several years as a shopfloor employee, assignments in shift management, further trainings, and a completed assessment center, I finally accomplished to get one of the popular shift leader jobs. In the beginning, I was happy about finally owning the responsibility, that I was striving for so hard. 

      However, at that time, I was not yet aware of how much responsibility and hard work is waiting for me. The typical shift leader has to do a lot of things at the same time, I will not be able to list everything here because this would be beyond the scope, but I would like to emphasize the disciplinary management and responsibility for employees, in my case it was about 20 people.

      I was in my early 20s, the average age in my shift was much over 30. The origin of my employees: Germany, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Croatia, Spain, Italy, to name the most common countries, as well as many people from social hot spots but also exemplary family fathers. As you can imagine, I have developed extremely during this time, experienced a lot of suffering and happiness of others and above all, learned a lot about myself.

      In addition to leading my own shift, I also worked on many other projects towards automation and digitalization but working with shopfloor has made me aware of how much potential and know-how in production falls by the wayside.

      CITT, nothing ventured nothing gained!

      Although I proved my skills at the time and was given a lot of trust and responsibility, I nevertheless decided to take a new path and left the plant. I took over a new role as a trainer for further education at the CITT, a department that was still in its infancy at that time and had not yet established itself in the company.

      I was tempted to awaken and promote the potential of the shopfloor employees, but also to help build a new department. In this work, I again faced many challenges, such as:

      • Teaching content at lecturer level
      • Managing employees at mentor level
      • Establishment and further development of the academy at the site
      • Establishment of a training network with seven companies

      Lateral entry and entry into the headquarter

      After almost two years of teaching, learning and development, I was able to convince again and was offered a position in the headquarter to work on a national level. Once again, I have taken the opportunity to grow and now I sit in an office with people with a completely different professional background and yet I have to determine what a great team is behind the CITT!

      In my current position, I work on projects aimed at bringing new and innovative technologies to life, creating, and coordinating targeted training concepts, for example for augmented reality, additive manufacturing, robotics and more. The work in these projects makes one aware of how quickly the technology changes and develops today, so it is the more important to constantly train oneself and be flexible for the new.

      In a conclusion

      There have been other important turning points in the last 10 years and people who have shaped me, but the most important lessons I have learned are, who wants to develop professionally and thus also personally has to leave the comfort zone, take risks and, above all, take on tasks that drive you.

      I am already looking forward to the future and the other exciting tasks that are still waiting for me and will still be able to look back with pleasure!

      Dennis Pakalski

      Coordinator Digital Infrastructure, CITT

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