With Siemens mentoring to the USA

Further education, gaining experience and building a network are essential for the career as well as the motivation of many participants to join the Software Campus. Working with an industry partner provides a direct insight into the company’s culture and processes. Sebastian Eckl from TU Munich would like to gain an impression of industrial research and as part of his mentoring gets to know the central research headquarters of his industrial partner Siemens in the USA.

The contact came about through his mentor Dr. Cornel Klein and now Sebastian is spending a 6-month internship abroad at Corporate Technology in Princeton, New Jersey. Since April he has been researching model-based testing of Cyber-Physical Systems with a focus on industrial automation in the technology field “Software and Systems Innovation”. The distance to his own (doctoral) topic also allows him to work on a different topic area for a while – in the attractive high-tech location USA.

How differently is work done in the USA?

The most striking difference to German companies after the first three months is, apart from the casual atmosphere – generally people address each other informally and suits are rather the exception – the distinct “maker mentality” of the Americans. Ideas are often implemented as prototypes before they are completely planned in theory. “In Germany, we tend to do the opposite – first complete planning, then implementation. Of course, both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. While in Germany you might even overthink and thus kill ideas, in the USA you get results more quickly. Conversely, with the faster and consequently more superficial approach, you may also overlook details that could suddenly become decisive later on,” Sebastian explained.

Sebastian supervises his IT research project at the Software Campus from Princeton and is in regular contact with his student staff in Munich, including weekly status reports and Skype calls. Is the distance interfering? Sebastian says no: “Of course, a lot of things can be discussed more easily in a direct conversation on site, and of course it’s difficult to look over employees’ shoulders from a distance. Nevertheless, I don’t feel like the contact with my employees suffers from the distance.” His daily work creates synergies that benefit both his project and his dissertation.

American Culture: Softball, fast food, Independence Day

And after work? Then, sport is on the agenda. “This is also an important balance to the food, which is generally very rich in calories,” Sebastian grins. He either trains with other interns in Siemens’ own fitness room or he goes to softball practice. Sebastian joined the “Siemens Demons” at the beginning of his internship. Between May and August, weekly matches take place against teams from other local companies in an amateur league.

He has settled in well, found an apartment in the area and has come to terms with US-American peculiarities. Food is a big issue: supermarkets, which are open 24 hours a day with a large selection of rich and sweet ready meals make it difficult to identify food traps. “I wouldn’t object to a hearty sourdough bread ;-)”.

It’s exciting for Sebastian to be an employee in a foreign country and find his way through the typical bureaucracy. In contrast to Germany, it is often necessary to “chase after” people here. “This fact was addressed by Melissa Lamson in my first Software Campus seminar “Intercultural Awareness“. She mentioned that especially when dealing with authorities, regular enquiries are necessary to speed up the processes. I didn’t really want to believe that at the time. But it took a total of 8 weeks and countless telephone calls to the responsible authorities until I received my social security number.” Sebastian will be celebrating Independence Day on July 4 in Washington DC to fully immerse himself in US-American culture.

We wish Sebastian an exciting time at Siemens in Princeton.

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