Ever since I was in primary school, my parents have always known that I was destined to become an engineer.
I was planning to complete my BA degree at a small company, but the plan fell apart just weeks before the closing deadline for applications. I needed to find an alternative – and fast! I’d already heard a lot about MANN+HUMMEL and so decided to try my luck with them.
One day not long after I had sent my application, I was listening to my answering machine and heard the invitation to attend an interview. The invitation was sent on rather short notice, and the timing was also a bit of a problem: I had to get to Ludwigsburg within 45 minutes (of hearing the message). Even though I had a nasty bout of the flu, an hour and fifteen minutes later I was there with a temperature of 39 degrees ready to do the interview. As it happens, it went very well.
While I was studying, I built some really solid foundations and learnt how to work under pressure. Not only did my managers and trainers challenge me – they championed me as well.
Becoming a Project Manager at MANN+HUMMEL
By the time my studies drew to a close, there was one thing I was sure of: I wanted to be a Project Manager. It was not going to be easy, but it was what I wanted and so I turned to Mr Bronner, the company’s Sales and Project Team Manager who is in charge of the global client VW. I just walked into his office one day, introduced myself, and told him what was on my mind: “Good morning Mr Bronner, my name is Karsten Müller and I’d like to work for you!”
Mr Bronner then explained to me that it wasn’t that straightforward and that you could normally only become a Sales and Project Manager after building up many years of experience in other areas first. However, he did offer me the chance to work with him while I wrote the thesis for my degree. The subject I chose was “The design of modern intake manifold concepts from a technological and market economy perspective”. I worked on my thesis and undertook some project management tasks within his department simultaneously. In the end, I did manage to snag a role as a project manager thanks to the single-minded appeal that I had made.
Trust in a young Project Manager
My first foray into professional life was not exactly easy. I was only 24 and the other members of my team were all considerably older and more experienced. Naturally, they were highly sceptical of me. Many of these colleagues went to my boss to ask him why on earth he had handed me so much responsibility. He reached this decision very deliberately, as he trusted me, and was also available on the sidelines with his years of experience in each phase of the project.
I finally managed to earn their trust one Sunday when we were faced with a production start-up problem. One of my colleagues who had been particularly critical rang me up and so I decided to travel to the production plant, which was several hours away. Together, we worked halfway through the night and finally came up with a solution in the early hours of the morning. We then celebrated this success by enjoying a barbecue together. It was on that day that he said I could call him by his first name and we have now become firm friends.
Understanding how the group is structured
Through all the highs and lows that are bound to come your way when you spend so long working for the same company, you build up a large network around you. As I journey through various positions, and different business units and sites, I get to know lots of my colleagues and find out what they do. This helps me to understand how the group is structured and if I have any questions, I always have someone I can turn to straight away.
I have, of course, had job interviews with other companies, but MANN+HUMMEL has always countered the temptation to leave by offering me something very attractive – not so much from a financial point of view, but more in terms of my future perspectives. Having spent more than 10 years at this company, I would say MANN+HUMMEL it is a real trailblazer when it comes to putting values into practice. I think that is precisely what has made MANN+HUMMEL into such a magnificent success story.
Creating win-win situations
Today, at the age of 32, I’m still not where I want to be just yet. However, I don’t want to be pinned down in terms of exactly what I want to achieve. What is important to me is creating a win-win situation every time. I am happy to accept new challenges when they help to make me and the company better.
If any new students and career starters are reading this, I would like to offer them a word of advice: many young people fall into one of two typical categories; either it is in their character to say “Right, that’s my degree out of the way, now I’ve got my sights set on world domination” or their attitude is the exact opposite of this: “I’m just starting out so I’d better just wait and see what comes my way”. In fact, the best approach is to strike a happy medium. If you can, you will be all set for your future career.