"Now my career goal has a name: mechatronic technician"
Irini Bobolas trained as a mechatronic technician at Knorr-Bremse. Now the 23-year-old is studying her favorite subject in Munich. In this interview she tells us about choosing her career path.
Why did you decide to pursue an apprenticeship in a technical field?
My father completed a technical degree. That's how I developed an early interest in this career area. That kind of program wasn't offered at the secondary school for girls I attended in Munich, but there were information events about opportunities for girls and women in MINT professions. Completing my compulsory internship in the 9th grade at a company specializing in cameras and software for electron microscopes was what ultimately convinced me. I liked it so much that from that moment my career goal had a name: mechatronic technician.
My father completed a technical degree. That's how I developed an early interest in this career area.
Irini Bobolas – working student at Knorr-Bremse
So what route did you take to pursue this goal?
After secondary school I moved to a technical college, which was quite a change. There were far more students in total, the proportion of girls was just five percent. The curriculum was broad enough to give an overview of a wide range of technical subjects. It was challenging, but not impossible. You just had to stick at it.
Why did you decide not to go straight to university after that?
I wanted to get to know the practical side so I could be absolutely sure that mechatronics was the right thing for me, and I wanted. That's why I went to the employment agency for advice. They recommended that I take an apprenticeship as a mechatronics technician; I then applied to six of the suggested companies. One of them was Knorr-Bremse. I was particularly drawn to it as a long-standing company with global activities, and I was offered an apprenticeship contract.
Did the apprenticeship come to meet your expectations?
I definitely felt like I was in the right place. There were eight apprentices, three of us girls. That made the apprenticeship very individual; none of us was just a number. For a year and a half we had our own training workshop where we learned the basics, from filing and drilling to electrics and programming. Then we spent time in various departments to get a taste of what it was like, but also to actively contribute our work. I found them all so fascinating that I could imagine joining any of them later. At the end of the apprenticeship we were all hired for one year. Personally, I stayed in the service unit for air supply systems from the end of January to the end of August 2018.
Why did you leave?
I knew I still wanted to study mechatronics, which is what I've been doing at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich since autumn 2018. However, I've maintained the connection to Knorr-Bremse. The last department I worked in offered me the opportunity to continue working as a student trainee. Right now I'm working there twice a week.
Does your apprenticeship benefit your studies?
Thanks to the training, I have a better understanding of the course content and how it can be applied in practice. That makes things easier for me. During my apprenticeship at Knorr-Bremse, I also got to know many employees who studied mechatronics, so they gave me an idea of the areas I might want to work in later.
What was it like as a young woman to do an apprenticeship in mechatronics?
I never got any weird looks. Actually, people tended to be positively surprised and curious. The only time I was advised not to do something, I understood it as a safety concern. If I wanted to, I could try anything. If I needed help or had questions, my colleagues were always understanding.