Success stories: career paths@Knorr-Bremse
Getting into management, moving abroad as a family of expats, studying while employed – those who work at Knorr-Bremse have a wide range of opportunities to develop both professionally and personally. Three Knorr-Bremse employees share their unique career paths and explain how they surpassed themselves.
Broadening horizons with part-time study
Pursuing a career, raising a child, studying – each of these projects is a challenge on its own. When they all come at once, life can become rather turbulent. Engineer Ronny Jordan from Berlin has managed to balance work, family and studies – thanks in part to support from his employer Knorr-Bremse.
The popular belief that men can’t multitask clearly doesn’t apply to Ronny Jordan: many times the 41-year-old engineer from Berlin has shown that he can handle numerous challenges at once. Alongside his job as a Repair Fitter at the Knorr-Bremse Service Center in Berlin, the father of a now eight-year-old daughter studied mechanical engineering from 2012 to 2016, graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Today he works as a Diagnostic and Quality Engineer for hydraulic components and is responsible for testing hydraulic components and control systems at the Berlin Service Center – the same one where he began his career after completing his training.
Qualifying as an engineer
After training as a Mechatronics Technician at Knorr-Bremse some 20 years ago, Ronny gained several years’ experience as a Repair Fitter in the Service Center. He says he was always drawn to the combination of electronics and mechanics. In the Service Center, two-person teams comprising a Mechatronics Technician and an Engineer check hydraulic components that customers have sent in for repair. The expert team hunts for the cause of the problem and assesses why the component is no longer fully functional, or whether the fault is being triggered elsewhere in the system. Then an analysis report is written and, if necessary, the component is repaired. “Right from the start, I really enjoyed working with the engineers,” Ronny explains. Over time, this led to a growing desire to gain his further qualification as an engineer.
“Those were exhausting years,” the Berliner says of his time studying. He would go to work early in the morning, then attend college in the evenings and on Saturdays. In his final year of study, his daughter was born. “My wife was also studying at the time,” Ronny Jordan recalls. “But we had a good system to share the workload at home.”
Support from the employer
Knorr-Bremse supported him during his studies – both financially and in terms of working hours: “Thanks to the flexibility of my employer, I was able to reduce my working hours to 30 per week while I was gaining my qualification. So I always had Mondays off and could devote that time to studying.”
Ronny Jordan is grateful for the assistance from his employer: “My team leader always encouraged team members who wanted to further their development.” The Berliner sees it as a major advantage that he first gained practical experience as a Mechatronics Technician and then embarked on his studies: “In my job, it really helps to have practical experience in the workshop as well as understanding the technology in theory.”
Ronny is very happy in his current job. “I really like the combination of office tasks and hands-on work. And there’s a good sense of camaraderie in our team.” Although the past few years have been exhausting, he says all the effort has been worthwhile. “I’ve learned a lot, made lasting connections with fellow students and, most importantly, broadened my horizons. There’s no reason for the journey to end here.”
Career boost from the International Management Potential Group
Taking on management responsibility – for many young professionals, it’s cause for hesitation. But Magdalena Pfisterer has taken the plunge. As Director Administration Applications at Knorr-Bremse, she is responsible for supporting the company’s global HR and FICO IT systems with a team of around 40 employees worldwide. Through the International Management Potential Group (IMPG), Knorr-Bremse is offering the young woman the best possible preparation for senior management duties.
It was clear from an early age that Magdalena Pfisterer enjoys taking on responsibility: “I was often a class or student representative as well as a youth organizer at my tennis club,” says the 33-year-old from Aldersbach in Lower Bavaria. “I just like to have a say in things.” So it comes as little surprise that the young woman also embraces responsibility at work. Since the end of 2021, Magdalena has been Director Administration Applications, based at the Aldersbach site, with global responsibility for ensuring that critical IT systems from the HR and Finance departments run smoothly. “I’m also responsible for compliance with the relevant IT budgets, implementation of data protection and IT security requirements, and much more,” says Magdalena Pfisterer.
Despite her young age, Magdalena can draw on a wealth of professional experience: her employment at Knorr-Bremse already spans 17 years. She embarked on her career at the age of 16 with an apprenticeship as an Industrial Clerk. She continued school to gain her university entrance qualification, then went on to study business informatics part-time, and soon became a Team Leader in the IT department. Magdalena admits that she never really had a career plan. Instead, she took advantage of the opportunities that arose. That’s why she has this advice for young people: “Build up a network and seize the career opportunities that come your way. Don’t doubt yourself – be brave and try something new!”
A career in management with Knorr-Bremse’s IMPG talent program
One thing that’s important to Magdalena Pfisterer is to keep developing herself all the time, never standing still. To gain international management skills and expand her network, she is currently participating in the International Management Potential Group (IMPG). Together with Knorr-Bremse colleagues from all over the world and all parts of the organization, Magdalena is learning everything she needs to know to take on more senior management duties. “My aspiration for myself is to be a good role model. Development programs like the IMPG help me move closer to this goal,” Magdalena explains.
Only the brightest talents who have already stood out at a Development Center are invited to join the group. The program is scheduled to run for one year and consists of three four-day training modules – Managing Business, Managing People and Managing Self. Together, the 16 group participants work on two different projects. For example, Magdalena Pfisterer’s project group is organizing a hackathon for Knorr-Bremse. The young manager particularly relishes going to a new location for each of the training modules: “The first module was in Germany; for the next two we’ll meet up in the USA and Asia.”
Flexibility thanks to remote working
“Knorr-Bremse is a good place to develop. If you’re looking to progress, there is plenty of options and chances,” says Magdalena Pfisterer. The 33-year-old also appreciates the international work environment and the flexibility of working remotely.
Magdalena Pfisterer’s job often has her on the move: “Once or twice a week, I travel to our headquarters in Munich to talk to the team. I attach great importance to independence and flexibility. I really appreciate being able to work on the go – from the train, for example, when I’m on my way to Munich.”
Weekends belong entirely to her and her husband. They often head out into nature to jog, hike or climb in the mountains. And she has remained loyal to her tennis club ever since her teenage years – as treasurer as well as an active player. Responsibility is important to Magdalena – in her professional life and beyond.
An expat family abroad
Those looking to experience life in another country for a while usually take part in an exchange program during high school or college. Andrew Kennedy’s story shows that a spell abroad is equally viable after starting a career: he moved with his family from the USA to Munich as part of Knorr-Bremse’s Expat Program. He spent two years in the Bavarian capital as an engineer in Knorr-Bremse’s eCUBATOR development unit, working on innovative solutions for the future of e mobility.
Moving home is one of life’s more stressful experiences. Lugging boxes, keeping to deadlines and, last but not least, battling red tape – it leaves some people pulling their hair out, even when the new address is only down the road. Andrew Kennedy, from Cleveland in the US state of Ohio, is no longer daunted by all this. He has mastered the discipline of relocation. The engineer, his wife and three children moved across continents to Munich in 2021, in the midst of the Covid pandemic. He was participating in Knorr-Bremse’s Expat Program to work in the eCUBATOR development unit for two years. He joined a team of experts in Munich taking an overarching systems approach to developing innovative and smart solutions for electric commercial vehicles.
Support from the employer
Fifteen years ago, Andrew embarked on his professional journey as a dual student at Knorr-Bremse’s US subsidiary Bendix. “I was then taken on full-time as an engineer in 2012,” says the 33-year-old. It was at Bendix that Kennedy heard about the Expat Program, which offers Knorr-Bremse employees around the world the chance to spend time working at a location abroad and develop their skills. “I was drawn to it right away and applied for the eCUBATOR unit in Munich,” says the young father. He showed his professional and personal qualities during the interview process and was accepted. Kennedy had already got to know Germany during a three-month semester abroad in Ulm.
The family received plenty of support from Knorr-Bremse during their relocation – for example when applying for a work visa, registering at the Citizens’ Office in Munich, apartment hunting, getting their US driver’s license recognized, and finding a school for the children. “They now go to a British school,” says Andrew.
The Knorr-Bremse Expat Program
Knorr-Bremse offers two forms of secondment: short-term secondments (7 to 12 months) and long-term secondments (1 to 5 years). For long-term secondments, assistance is provided for family members traveling with the expat. A mentor keeps the expat up to date on current developments at their base location for the duration of their stay abroad and helps with reintegration. Secondments have been very popular at Knorr-Bremse for decades. They are undertaken as part of projects, to share expertise, to help set up new sites, to fill key positions, and to further employees’ professional and personal development. There are currently 60 expats. The majority are posted to Germany, Japan and the USA.
Professional and personal development
In the international environment of the eCUBATOR, the engineer works with colleagues from other Knorr-Bremse locations to develop innovative ideas in areas such as brake control systems for commercial vehicles. On the whole, Andrew Kennedy finds the working culture in Germany fairly similar to the USA. As a family man, he especially appreciates being able to work remotely two or three times a week: “I really value this flexibility.”
Andrew Kennedy and his family are living life to the fullest in Germany. The five of them like to take trips on weekends, public holidays and vacations. “We’ve visited 14 different European countries so far,” he says. And they’ve seen quite a bit of Germany, too, taking short trips to places like Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin. “I always wanted to spend some time living in Europe, so I was immediately attracted to the international project in Munich. I see the Expat Program as a great opportunity to develop professionally and personally,” says Andrew. He appreciates Germany as a safe place to live with a broad range of cultural activities and an interesting history. There is just one thing he may never get used to: “The stores don’t open on Sundays and they close very early in the evening!”
Participating in the Expat Program opens up a number of career opportunities for Andrew upon his return to Bendix. For now, he has not planned out a precise direction for his future career path. His advice to employees who would also like to gain experience abroad: “Don’t hesitate too long. Just do it.”