Not All ” Boomers” Are Stuck in the 20th Century

Eberhard Döring has been working ever since he was a teenager—even after retirement. In this inspiring and engaging account, he shares why he hasn't quit after-sales yet and what he has learned about himself and the world of work during his 53 years of professional life.

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.

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