ACONEXT: Before we start with my questions, let’s start with a little intro: When you joined us, we were celebrating a small anniversary with you: 500 employees! How did it feel to be our official 500th employee?

Lena Ugele: Super cool. Whether it’s 500 or 505, it was a little milestone. When they said “Hey, congratulations, you’re the 500th” when I signed my employment contract. It was kind of crazy.

Why did you choose ACONEXT as your employer?

I would say the complete package. The job advertisement sounded good; the interview went really well. Foremost, it was personal, very friendly and open, but also convincing in terms of content plus the framework conditions and only a 15-minute drive. The overall combination was a really good fit.

Staying flexible boosts your frustration tolerance. You definitely need a certain level of stress resistance in IT [...] You need to be realistic.
Lena Ugele

What is important to you in your workplace? What are your must-haves and what are your personal no-go’s?

People! I don’t think the personal aspect should be neglected. Sure, day-to-day business, you must work a lot, and ideally you need to be productive, but connecting with others shouldn’t be neglected. Since you spend a lot of time at work, you should also have a good time together. A good relationship with your colleagues is really important.

And no-go’s? That’s difficult, but what I wouldn’t be able to cope with at work would be pets, office dogs or something like that. I recently saw another discussion on the topic. It’s a tricky subject. I don’t particularly like dogs, and cats would be even worse because I’m allergic. So, I don’t think pets or office pets would be right for me, but I’m sure a compromise can always be made.

What advice can you give to anyone who wants to set foot in the IT sector?

That’s a tough one, as I’m just starting myself, but I think it’s important to value your own abilities and not underestimate yourself. Not just specifically in relation to IT, I think that’s important everywhere. That you try to look at yourself realistically. Of course, you shouldn’t overestimate yourself, but I think it often goes the other way, that people seriously underestimate themselves. So, it’s important to have confidence in what you are capable of and to stay open to new ideas and be willing to learn.

What makes IT particularly exciting for you?

That you can make many things much easier; automate things, speed up processes. Of course, it takes time to develop these initially, but once you’ve put in the work, everything becomes much smoother afterward. I just think that’s cool! But also, that there are constantly so many new things, including some really crazy ones. There are things in IT that make you think ‘hey, this will never work’ and then a year later the unthinkable is being developed or released. That’s the appeal of IT for me.

As you say, the IT sector is extremely volatile, there are new trends and developments every day, how do you keep up to date?

So far, I’ve learned a lot through my studies. I regularly learned a lot about the latest trends and developments. I don’t think trends pass you by at work either, but I still think that you have to consciously engage with IT in your free time. Whether it’s articles, posts, or panels, you have to stay on track and up to date. I don’t have a particular strategy for the future yet, but I’m excited to see what happens. I follow an IT-meme page, which isn’t really a serious contribution, but it does indeed reflect reality a little.

What are the qualities and skills that an IT Consultant needs to have?

A certain programming ability and a technical background, of course. You need a particular main subject so that you can fully understand the development processes and stages, but above all to be able to understand how something actually works. But I think a lot of self-confidence is important and a high degree of flexibility for all projects, no matter what kind. Probably nothing will turn out exactly as you initially plan. Staying flexible boosts your frustration tolerance. You definitely need a certain level of stress resistance in IT, you need to be honest with yourself and be able to say to yourself, for example: “This not going to work in one week.” You need to be realistic to avoid putting yourself under unnecessary stress.

What are your personal superpowers?

I can adapt relatively well. I get on with lots of different types of people or different environments. During my internship, I was at a start-up, where the working atmosphere was of course very different from here. But I got on well there, and I think, at least that’s my feeling so far, that things will also work out well at ACONEXT. I can also put myself in someone’s position, which helps me to get on well with everyone.

What are your career goals, where do you see yourself in the next 2 to 5 years?

Foremost, starting off with my career. To adjust to, let’s call it, the real work life. Sure, I already worked full-time during my internship and was a trainee when I was a student. But a full-time position with a permanent contract and a lot of personal responsibility, to find my way in the real IT world, to find out how processes work. I definitely want to learn a lot of new things, apply and deepen what I’ve learned during my studies. To really comprehend knowledge that has been introduced here and there, to make progress. Expanding my knowledge is my main short-term goal.

And what do you wish for the future of the world of IT?

That progress will continue in any case, that there won’t be some kind of crash at some point, but I think the risk is very low. As far as autonomous driving is concerned, I think it would be great if it could be used everywhere at some point, but I think some time will pass before it becomes a reality. If it really worked, there would be no more traffic jams, fewer or no accidents, more rested drivers, and more comfortable journeys, including public transport, that would be really, really amazing.

What do you do for your own personal work-life balance, how do you recharge your batteries when you’re not working?

Sports, definitely! I play handball. We have training three times a week, a game on the weekends, and I also coach a junior team. So, I spend most of my free time in the gym. It’s not just playing itself, but the many people you regularly meet. Handball is a big part of my life. Apart from that, I try to spend a lot of time with family or friends, enjoying activities together. Overall, those are the two things that ensure that I’m refreshed and energized afterward.

The interview for ACONEXT was held by Magdalena Zalewski.

ACONEXT: Eberhard, how long have you been at ACONEXT and how many years of professional experience do you bring to the table?

Eberhard Döring: I’ve been with ACONEXT since 2015, so over 7 years. I’ve been working in After Sales for more than 20 years, and before that I worked in mechanical engineering, including an apprenticeship and the German Bundeswehr. That’s a good 53 years to date.

Wow, so you’ve been working for over 50 years. Could you briefly take us through the stages of your career, what were your most important stops?

Apprenticeship. Bundeswehr. Various things in mechanical engineering. I specialized in special machine construction. These are machines that cannot be mass-produced. So, nothing ready-made – it could be a machine for the production of toilet paper, for folding patient information leaflets or for filling milk, cream, etc. It’s a very exciting field. At some point, however, the company I had worked for almost 20 years was sold, and it was time for a new challenge. Mechanical engineering is also physically demanding, and you can’t do that your entire life. I found a new opportunity in After Sales in the automotive sector, and that’s where I stayed.

It's not the differences, but the similarities that create a sense of team spirit. If anything, selfishness, or sharpening elbows are quite counterproductive.
Eberhard Döring

A very direct question, how old are you, Eberhard?

Are you planning to quit soon?

I’m 67, so I’m practically already retired. But I’m still working for ACONEXT. Sure, it’s an extra income on top of my pension, but I do it mostly because I enjoy it.

I am currently not planning to quit, no. The conditions are still ideal. I really enjoy working for ACONEXT, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. There aren’t many jobs where you can do what I do here as a pensioner. For example, I once learned InDesign to create operating instructions for mechanical engineering. Today I pass on this knowledge. I like to help and share my knowledge with younger colleagues. In After Sales, I simply stay on track, stay up to date with technical progress and, above all, it keeps my mind sharp.

I need a challenge! The topics I’ve been able to devote more time to since my retirement also allow me to do this: whether it’s building furniture or furnishing a vacation home. The key for me is the challenge of doing more crafts again.

But I’ll be honest, it’s still nice to just pick up a magazine, relax and think: “I don’t have to do anything today, I’ll just do nothing, maybe read a bit and that’s it.” Your head still does what it’s supposed to, but physically you’re just slowing down.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Challenge and agility, definitely. I’ve stayed fit in this area ever since computers have been around. Not the whole range of software and hardware, of course, but I do quite a lot.

I also used to learn a bit of programming or repair computers. I have little fear of getting involved with technology. When I was a full-time employee at ACONEXT, I also worked on IT tasks, starting with everything related to hardware.

And what do you value most about your team?

Loyalty, collegiality. That is a very positive factor. I enjoy the positive atmosphere that exists among colleagues. Cooperation is the nonplus ultra for me and I experience that at ACONEXT. Even during the Corona crisis, even when it was more difficult than usual. I’m now going back to the office from time to time, but above all I work from home a lot, and it works really well. I can work from practically anywhere and enjoy the fact that my job allows me to do that.

A total of four generations work together at ACONEXT, what do you value most about the age mix?

What have you been able to learn from your younger colleagues in particular over the course of your professional career?

It is and remains exciting. Younger colleagues are, in particular, always contributing with new and fresh ideas, which we then address together as a team. This leads to lively discussions about what is possible.

To give you a specific example, not very long ago, I was able to support a technical editor with her bachelor thesis as a contact person for technical matters. In this case, this intensive exchange over a longer period allowed me to compare experience & expertise with new impulses, ideas & views and showed me once again that both are important and equally relevant.

When you think back to your early career, what are the most important lessons that your older colleagues have taught you?

That was a long, long time ago, but let me try. When I was 18, I had an older colleague with war experience. He had suffered a trauma in the Second World War. What really impressed me about him, especially in the light of his experiences, was his calmness and composure. He was also very communicative, never preachy, or annoying. When he explained or taught you something, he was considerate and patient. And that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do ever since: just not to be opinionated, even if I sometimes find it difficult.

In your view, what are the most important prerequisites for the successful integration of all generations in a shared working environment?

The most important thing is that people understand and accept each other equally, even if there might not always be a perfect fit in terms of character and there is tension. What matters in the end are similar values and goals. The different and sometimes very contrasting characters within a team are what makes collaboration and joint projects interesting. It’s not the differences, but the similarities that create a sense of team spirit. If anything, selfishness, or sharpening elbows are quite counterproductive. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speak your mind, but clear guidelines and “rules” are needed to ensure a healthy and open culture of discussion.

One last question. In what respect has the world of work changed the most in recent decades, in your opinion?

Digitalization has changed communication tremendously. In this context, I find the discussion about less work particularly intriguing, but perhaps it’s also going the wrong way. It’s certainly nice when people need to work less, but it’s important that efficiency remains the same. However, if fewer working hours meant a loss of productivity, that would be economically devastating.

I think the question should rather be how to reduce stress overall. We all use social media, are constantly present and available, are flooded with information every day.

In the past, everything was done by hand, there were no computers and telecommunication was limited. Of course, we now have much more knowledge available, but in the past, the most you could do was make private calls in a phone booth during working hours, for example.

I didn’t grow up with social media, but I got to know and engage with it at my own pace. I got the impression that many people are under pressure, which is extremely stressful and sometimes makes them ill. It is therefore important to question the extent to which you can and must participate. It is important to plan your own day and not let yourself be thrown off balance by every external impulse. Creating space for your own commitments can certainly reduce stress.

Thw Interview for ACONEXT was held by Magdalena Zalewski.

ACONEXT: Let’s start with a funny anecdote. As luck would have it, you were there when we were having our employee photo shoot in Fellbach to sign your contract and you just went along with it, why?

Ridwan Ahmed: I had indeed only come to sign the employment contract before my actual starting date at ACONEXT. And then I was suddenly asked: “Hey, we’re doing a photo shoot for our employer brand today. Would you like to take part spontaneously?” And then it all happened very quickly. I signed the consent form, took part in the photo shoot and later my face was everywhere, even before I had officially started at ACONEXT. My colleagues were joking about my steep career climb from day one.

Which areas interested you the most as a student, and why did you choose HR?

Negotiation management, business psychology and corporate management jump to mind.

My interest in HR actually stems from my work as a working student at my previous company, where I worked in HR with a focus on digitalization. There I realized that I was particularly attracted to the field of HR, among other things because no two days are the same and, above all, you can contribute to the achievement of business goals, especially in strategic HR. Because what people often forget is that the most important resource and driving force within a company is people. 

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for retaining and attracting talent. But you can [...] find out what employees want.
Ridwan Ahmed

There are some important differences between the traditional profession of recruiter and that of HR Business Partner, which do you think are the most important ones?

The role of an HR Business Partner is understood differently in every company. I would say that recruiters focus lies on employee recruitment in particular, and applicant management. The HR Business Partner, on the other hand, looks at the company with a bird’s-eye perspective — with all the disruptive factors that could prevent a company from continuing to be successful in the future. To give an example: If you notice that a company has an older demographic structure and that experienced employees will be leaving the company soon, it is important to consider concepts, for example, to ensure that important knowledge is not lost to the company. This can be achieved through personnel development programs, for example.

Which HR and personnel topics are particularly dear to you?

It’s difficult for me to choose just one topic. In my opinion, all points of contact between an applicant or employee and a company along the employee life cycle are important. If I had to choose, I would say that the future trends in HR, such as flexibility in terms of working hours and location, workplace structure and the digitalization of HR processes, should not be ignored, as people place much more value on them today than they did in the past.

War for talents, lack of workforce, quiet quitting and 5 different generations that need to work collaboratively, what do you think employers need today to attract and keep talent?

Due to the increasing transparency on the job market, especially through digital media, employees are faced with much more choice. This does indeed make it more difficult to find and retain talent. Of course, you could simply say that you can easily hire and secure talent through employer branding, job fairs and good working conditions, but the fact is, it’s not that simple. Not all companies have the same starting position, resources, or opportunities. For example, there are certainly jobs where it is not possible to work from home. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for retaining and attracting talent. But you can use employee surveys to find out what employees want, and you can learn from similar companies that are.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a job at ACONEXT?

Don’t be shy, just apply! I had the by far most relaxed job interview ever at ACONEXT.

The interview for ACONEXT was held by Magdalena Zalewski

 

ACONEXT:
Burcin, tell us, how long have you been with us, at which site, and in which area you are working exactly.

 

Burcin Kaya: I’ve been working for ACONEXT in Fellbach near Stuttgart for almost five months now as an intern in the iDrive Performance department. I am currently working at Model Based Engineering.

What exactly are your tasks and what does a typical working day look like?

 

 

My job is to think about the product development. Implementing and deriving desired changes, i.e. making technical drawings. Simultaneously, I document the information on the projects and prepare presentations and present them to my colleagues.

The work atmosphere [...] is characterized by great appreciation and respect for all employees - regardless of age or gender.
Burcin Kaya

What do you find particularly exciting about model-based engineering?

That you can realize your own ideas, implement and visualize them in 3D. It is incredibly exciting to design and develop a component yourself. A fully realized process like this fills you with pride. It is also very exciting to observe the entire development of the component, how some components are assembled and what functions they perform.

Where does your affinity for technology come from?

 

I think it’s a pass-down from father to daughter. Since I was a child, I’ve only been involved in removing and attaching components in cars. Even at school, I was more interested in subjects like math, physics, biology, chemistry, and sports. During my time at secondary school, I even took the elective subject “Technology” instead of “MUM”, where we also had to make technical drawings. I was also very interested in this at the time, which helped my passion for technology to grow. “Mum,” which means home economics, i.e. cooking, sewing, etc., didn’t interest me at all, even though most of the girls took that subject.

How did you find ACONEXT?

 

During my vocational training as a technical product designer specializing in design and development with a focus on mechanical engineering at the media academy here in Stuttgart, I was looking for an internship in a familiar and friendly environment where I could learn a lot of new things at the same time.

Why did you choose ACONEXT, as there are numerous well-known employers with an excellent reputation in the Stuttgart area that you could have joined?

 

 

I chose ACONEXT because I was immediately impressed by the areas that the company operates in. Even as a small child, I followed the development of the automotive industry with great interest. Then I saw the website presentation and the job description, which finally encouraged me in my choice, so I said to myself: “This is the company! That’s where I want to go.” In addition, the first impression I had of ACONEXT differed from other companies: An excellent working atmosphere, individual career development and much more.

Was this impression confirmed during the application process?

Even the first phone call was very pleasant, better than I had expected. All topics were explained to me in detail, and I was able to ask questions. Above all, I was relieved from my “default fear” of working on the job, or rather of the growing responsibility that I somehow had at the time. Of course, I was told that a lot happens here at high speed, that you must bring a lot of knowledge, motivation, ambition and, most importantly, personal responsibility. All in all, it was very pleasant, and I felt very much at ease right from the start.

What expectations did you have for your internship?

 

Perhaps I’ll start with my previous experience: Due to my technical affinity, I had been looking forward to the practical application of the knowledge I had learned at school for some time. I had previously completed a 6-month internship at an architecture office, where I also learned a lot. However, due to the previous company’s focus on architecture, I couldn’t put my technical knowledge into practice as much as I would have liked.

How was ACONEXT different in this regard?

 

ACONEXT not only met, but exceeded my expectations and experience in comparison to my previous employer. In addition to the team-oriented atmosphere and flat hierarchies, I was offered exciting projects, such as the development of a battery shaker device. The technical knowledge I gained during my school education is constantly being refreshed and expanded through new and varied projects.

So, it’s a steep learning curve?

Yes, but not just that. The working atmosphere in the company is characterized by great appreciation and respect for all employees – regardless of age or gender. I think that’s what I value most in ACONEXT: Respect and camaraderie.

And, if something doesn’t work or if I get stuck, there is quick support from colleagues and supervisors. Uncertainties and questions are always taken seriously and answered as best as possible. My own opinion and any suggestions for improvement are always considered and are also implemented after being discussed with colleagues.  Overall, ACONEXT is an employer that I can highly recommend.

What do you wish for yourself regarding your professional future?

 

For my professional future, I hope that I continue to have many successful experiences and that I can draw a lot more lessons from ACONEXT. And that I can continue to work for the company as a design engineer in the Model Based Engineering department after my internship.

One final question Burcin, is there anything you would like to pass on to girls and young women with an affinity for technology?

 

 

Never give up! That’s the be-all and end-all. It doesn’t matter whether you are surrounded by men or have very little to do with members of your own gender. Every young woman, every girl should live and fulfill her own goals and dreams, go her own way, pursue her own interests. Because that’s what has turned me into who I am today. I followed my own path and pursued my goals very independently from my circle of friends.

The interview for ACONEXT was led by Magdalena Zalewski