During my whole time at university, I regularly had the chance to join several different German car manufacturers for internships as well as my bachelor and my master thesis. At this time, I learned how exciting the car industries is and I decided for myself to later apply at Continental Automotive for the Graduate Program in Hannover. Here, Continental is perceived as a very good employer, which of course supported my decision in a positive way.
My application for the program started in spring 2019. The various steps of the application phase were driven by challenging tasks and activities but at the same time it was also quite exciting and interesting to prepare for and participate in the application process of such a big company.
After applying online, I quickly got invited to participate in an Assessment Center which turned out to be the most relevant step in the application phase. I got in touch with other applicants and quickly bonded with them. We even went to a Bavarian Biergarten for dinner, which made the day even better.
On the next day, I was one of the lucky ones (3 out of 12) who was selected to proceed to the next rounds and the final interviews with the potential departments.
My program started in October 2019 in Babenhausen in the former business unit “HMI” as part of the Automotive area. At my first assignment, I felt supported and had the impression the department was taking good care of me: Whatever my question or request was, my manager at that time supported me instantly. We started speaking about my career development and the plans I had early on and then sat together to think of departments and country assignments that would bring me closer to my professional goals – I really appreciated the openness and support!
Once we decided on a department, only the location had to be chosen – in my case the opportunities that made most sense for my career planning were China or Czech Republic. I was open for both locations but decided to go with the assignment in the Czech Republic because there were many projects that were interesting for me.
When I started my assignment, I had the chance to collaborate in a very interesting project: The department I was working with came up with a new product design for displays that were integrated in the console of passenger vehicles. Instead of the usual rectangular shapes of displays, this new generation of display was L-shaped and mounted into the console of the vehicle. At that time this was a novelty in interior design of passenger vehicles and also brought some challenges in the technical implementation with it.
Therefore, the project team working on the implementation was relatively big and many stakeholders were involved. It was the first time that I got to experience a complex project management firsthand that involved close collaboration and alignment with the R&D and Operations Team as well as coordinating with the client’s wishes and needs. As this was such an important project it brought me together with higher management level like the plant manager or First-Line-Manager.
This project impressed me on a professional level but also helped me to expand my personal network.
When Covid hit it was a very challenging time for me and my personal relationships. Soon after I got there the borders towards Germany were closed and also the Lockdown of all public places was conducted by the government. This meant exploring the country was cancelled.
On top of that, it was not too easy to socialize with colleagues because the required distance was also leading to social distancing. These circumstances made it a rough time for me, especially when no friends were allowed to cross the border to come visit me.
Aside of the social struggle caused by Covid, of course there were new challenges in the new role coming up which I perceived as a positive effect of my professional career development. Now, I was only communicating in English, having to manage the cultural differences and also needing to grow a new network - lifting me out of my comfort zone while still having to achieve my targets.
All of these factors together had a real big impact on how I communicate, approach colleagues and also push my targets nowadays. I had lots of positive but also some negative takeaways that I took back home to Germany.
Kickstarting my career
After I returned to Germany, I was starting into my third assignment, again in a different but exciting role. My new line manager directly placed me into a very relevant role in which I was the main (and only) interface between our customer segments and the Operations Excellence. In this role my biggest challenge was the fact that I was directly involved in higher hierarchy levels. In turn this also offered the biggest opportunity for growth.
I was not only in direct and regular contact with the Segment Head but also with plant managers and multiple CMT members of Operations. Somehow, I had the feeling that all my roles and challenges I had accomplished before were contributing to the high amount of trust and confidence that my new line manager put into me.
To put a bottom line: Facing challenges and uncomfortable situations during my graduate program made me grow even faster. Retrospectively I can say all of them taught me to be well prepared for everything that was up to come. In addition to that I had great mentors and supporters during all of my assignments who helped and supported me a lot at any time. This experience made me proud, thankful and also stronger and happier - I feel well prepared for the next challenges.
Soon after finishing the program, I was offered an opportunity to take over a team lead and started into a new challenge for my next professional development.