Leonie Ellensohn is a student at the University of Applied Sciences Vorarlberg for the Bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration. She began her studies in 2017 and has been working at Hirschmann Automotive since then. Initially, Leonie was employed as a holiday worker in the maintenance department, where she handled warehouse and office work. Since the end of 2018, Leonie has been integrated into Ralph Wittmann’s Lean Management Team. She recently completed her bachelor thesis, which examined the implementation of knowledge management in production companies.
How did you find out about Hirschmann Automotive as your employer?
It was through my cousin, who has been working here for a long time and has told me only good things. At the time I was looking for a summer holiday job, as I had returned from my stay abroad in London and had run out of money. I immediately felt comfortable in the company and was allowed to start right away. After the summer I was hired on a small scale because there was a suitable position available.
What are the advantages or disadvantages of a job in addition to full-time studies?
If you work alongside your studies, the variety between theory and practice is definitely a big advantage. You not only learn the theory, but also experience how the application works in practice. Much of what sounds simple in theory turns out to be much more difficult and very complex in such a large company. However, one disadvantage of combining work and study is clearly the lack of time. With an employment like in my case, i.e. full-time during the holidays and otherwise only one day per week, it is difficult to stay on projects and work in a team. Here it is better to focus on independent work.
What were your tasks in the Lean Management Team and to what extent were you able to combine your studies with them?
I was able to complete my mandatory internship for my studies here at Hirschmann Automotive in the Lean Management Team and thus become familiar with the entire lean methods, which were also part of my curriculum. One of my tasks was to create explanatory videos about the various lean methods for all global locations. These now serve as training material.
I also had the opportunity to bring in my knowledge from my studies. Recently, for example, we worked together on a change management concept for the introduction of lean projects. The theoretical knowledge from my studies helped me a lot.
Last summer, knowledge management became a topic in my department, which I learned at the same time during my studies. I decided to choose the topic for my bachelor’s thesis, which fortunately was very much supported by my supervisor.
How did you feel about your time at Hirschmann Automotive and what makes the company special to you?
I have found the last three years at Hirschmann Automotive to be very instructive and varied, and I have grown very fond of my colleagues during this time. In general, I like the friendly, uncomplicated and open interaction in the company very much. All employees were very helpful and took their time, even though I was “only” an intern. In addition to the collegial atmosphere, the fun is never neglected. So I was invited to departmental parties, excursions and Christmas parties.
Hirschmann Automotive is a real source of opportunities for me. I was able to contribute with many suggestions that were listened to and implemented. I was given responsibility and I was able to prove myself. In addition, I was allowed to accompany my supervisor to important meetings and audits in order to gain as much insight into the working world as possible.
The flexibility of my employment was also special to me. If I was not able to work for a week because of my studies, I was simply allowed to make up for the hours I missed in the following weeks. I had a lot of freedom of choice, which was very beneficial for my studies and learning phases.
What are your future plans?
That’s a good question. Unfortunately, I’m not sure myself. I’ve been considering a master’s degree course in Innsbruck, which I find very appealing. However, I have now also acquired a taste for the working world. So in the near future, I have a lot to think about how and where things will continue for me.
What would you give to other students?
I can definitely recommend full-time students to consider a marginal employment in a company. Besides an internship, this is simply the best way to get a taste of the practical world and to observe and, above all, help shape processes over a longer period of time. In contrast to Austria, this is already a proven study model in Germany (working student). Especially when it comes to the final thesis, one benefits from the experience, ideas and inputs gained.