IBC features students who have participated in international programs through Kellogg (GIM, Global Exchange, Kellogg corps, etc.) or have had experience working abroad.
International business experience: I have worked abroad with Siemens twice. The first was within the first year of working at Siemens and was part of an operational excellence program in which I lived in Nuremberg Germany, Siemen’s headquarters, for six months. The second was roughly four years later when an opportunity came up to return to Nuremberg to stay for an extended period of time on a project as the Regional Manager for the Americas.
First experience working abroad: Operational Excellence Program in Nuremberg, Germany: I joined Siemens after undergrad. I was interested in gaining international experience and I knew these opportunities existed with Siemens before I accepted the position. Within my first year working, I went to Nuremberg, Siemens global headquarters, to participate in an operational excellence program working for Siemens U.S. My main role was to learn about Siemens from a global perspective, different capabilities and efficiencies by visiting the different factories, and to bring back learnings to Siemens U.S. The role was English speaking but this part of the company was rooted in German culture and that came to light in professional dealings and experiences.
Takeaways from first international working experience: I brought back a deeper understanding of how business was conducted internationally. The opportunity to work at headquarters gave me perspective to understand the “why” behind asks that we would receive from headquarters at Siemens U.S. From a cultural standpoint, it was interesting to see how the company operated and organized itself in a different office. The German work culture is very hierarchical, and that was something I had to learn how to work with. Understanding the work culture allowed me to sharpen my communication skills to find ways to better interact with upper management in Nuremberg.
Second experience working abroad: Regional manager for the Americas in Nuremberg, Germany: I continued to work at Siemens after returning to the U.S. and about four years later another international opportunity arose. I knew I wanted to go abroad again, so I had to proactively plan and manage to be considered and receive the offer. This role was working for Siemens Germany instead of Siemens U.S., and I was tasked with leveraging business knowledge and networks from the U.S. This role was more multicultural than the first, I worked with people from China, Colombia, Europe, etc. It was still an English speaking role, but had more global exposure. The first time I went I was by myself, but this time my wife came with me, which brought additional challenges but also was a great chance for us to experience this opportunity together.
How did you find the international opportunities: Siemens has a formal process for international opportunities, and like many companies, they are few and far between. I spoke openly with my manager about my desire to go back, but I also ensured performance in my current role was strong and I was in good-standing with the company to demonstrate that I could bring value back if given the opportunity to work abroad. I was also connected to the VP of our team, and through that connection I found my chance. There are roundtable meetings that upper management attends in which open roles are discussed, and my VP heard about the international opportunity in one of these meetings and volunteered my name as a candidate. My individual performance and leveraging the company’s network played key roles in getting selected for the second international opportunity.
Challenges of working abroad: It is a completely different experience to visit a country versus live and work in one. At first, there is a big culture shock. When my wife came with me, there were language barriers and we didn’t know anyone, so it was like starting over. You need to be ready for this, and to be willing to go outside your comfort zone and meet new people, work on your language skills, try new things, etc. The first two to three months were hard, especially for me wife since she was home during the day. However, she put herself out there and ended up creating a spousal group for English speakers that grew tremendously. Within six months, Nuremberg felt like home. I would also advise to not compare your life abroad to the life you know in the U.S. It’s going to be different; there will be some things that are better and some that aren’t, and some will be very similar.
Best things about living and working Germany: Nuremberg is great because it’s a transient city and there are a few other major corporations with headquarters there that pull in people from all areas of the world.
Tips/advice for someone considering an international opportunity: Be prepared to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. In Germany, we were in a great location to travel to lots of places within Europe, but we pushed ourselves to travel elsewhere and to areas we likely would not have visited otherwise. Being able to travel, especially abroad, is a great experience regardless, but we found the best trips were ones that pushed us outside our comfort zones in places like Morocco, the Sahara desert, Bosnia, the Balkans, Israel, etc. These areas were so different than the U.S. and even Europe and we learned so much about ourselves by traveling to these places.
Natalie also participated in the 2016 GIM program in China & Japan