I never thought that I would learn German, let alone work in Germany. I come from a Canadian family, and none of them, even in my extended family, speak German. Now it is part of my job to help create international bilingual communications guidelines and campaigns for MANN+HUMMEL. In order to create these, it is necessary to combine the conservative Swabian background of our company with the varied cultural backgrounds of our colleagues from all over the world. It can be a difficult challenge, to say the least.
My Swabian roots
During my bachelor program in International Business, I spent an exchange year in Stuttgart and fell in love with the Swabian city. After finishing my Master of Science degree in Consumer Affairs in Munich, I knew that I wanted to return to the Southwest, and accepted an internship at MANN+HUMMEL in HR Solutions. Very quickly into my internship, I already knew that I wanted to work full-time for the company.
After my internship, I was elated to be hired on as Internal Communications Manager in Ludwigsburg. After five months of working in the Communication department, I still struggle occasionally with the Swabian version of the German language. The special MANN+HUMMEL language of filtration, which contains a number of technical terms, can also be a challenge. You sometimes feel as if you are learning another totally new and unique language exclusive to the MANN+HUMMEL family. I am slowly but surely coming to grips with it, and my colleagues and I often laugh about small communication problems that still sometimes occur. For instance, as any English native speaker knows, pronouncing German words with an umlaut can be problematic. As such, I sometimes say “drücken (to push)” but mean “(aus)drucken (to print)” and some of my colleagues have a difficult time trying not to laugh. I learn so much on a day-to-day basis from my colleagues, not only regarding the correction of my German, but also regarding the ins and outs of this internationally dynamic company.
I have always wanted to work in an international company and MANN+HUMMEL was a perfect choice for me. It has offices across the world, and the international teamwork is especially strong. Today I collaborated with a colleague in Singapore; tomorrow it might be a colleague in Spain – for me, this is really exciting. Working with colleagues from all over the world, you receive so many different points of view that you may not have thought of yourself. It really helps me not only to widen my own horizons, but also to produce the best possible results. This collaboration is particularly noticeable in our international newsletter FILTERMEDIA. A global team works on articles and contributions from across the world. We generate ideas for new editions, agree on the layout and design, and undertake final corrections by means of telephone conferences and e-mails. Our final product is produced without ever having sat in a meeting room all together.
The cultural backgrounds of MANN+HUMMEL employees are so varied. It is something you have to adapt to when working in an international team, and you really need to want to understand and get to know these different cultures. This can sometimes be challenging. Our locations in the America’s, for instance, have different views on privacy and methods of communication. Trying to reconcile this with German standards can sometimes get a bit tricky. In these cases, I need to understand both cultures so that I can find an appropriate solution that works for everyone involved. As anyone who works in an international team knows, if you hold on to your preconceptions regarding another culture, it will make finding a fair solution far more difficult.
Collaboration and communication
Collaboration and communication is precisely what makes MANN+HUMMEL such an interesting employer. I have contact with colleagues across the world on a daily basis. For example, at our first ever ‘Internal Communications Summit’ this past May, our international internal communications team met face to face for the first time. We had the opportunity to discuss our current internal communications challenges, and come up with solutions that worked well for everyone as an international team. I believe that meeting international colleagues who you often work together with is highly beneficial. It helps build better personal relationships, which makes working together (especially when you mostly only e-mail or telephone) much easier. Through these face to face interactions, you begin to realize that there are so many more similarities between yourself and colleagues from countries all over the world than you ever thought possible. This brings the team even closer together, and I believe it enhances the team spirit at MANN+HUMMEL as well. Working together in an international environment – that is exactly what I have always wanted to do.