10/22/2018
ALTANA AG: INSIGHTS INTO PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE - AND EXCHANGES AT BYK-GARDNER

ALTANA is a global leader in specialty chemicals, providing innovative and environmentally compatible specialty solutions for paint manufacturers, paint and plastics processors, the printing and packaging industries, the cosmetics industry, and the electronics industry. BYK-Gardner is the specialist in the ALTANA Group for testing and measuring instruments. Experts use instruments from BYK-Gardner to effectively assess the quality of color, gloss and appearance, as well as the physical properties of paint, plastic and paper products.


Ms. Pfister, for years now, ALTANA has been a partner in the Manage & More qualification program. As part of this partnership, you offer Manage & More scholars mentoring, for instance, or an ‘Experience Day’. What’s your motivation behind this commitment?

Andrea Pfister: Manage & More is a good way to meet dedicated students and introduce them to our corporate culture, and to ALTANA as an employer. Innovation is a key element of the corporate strategy, and we need employees with innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. The program participants already possess these important qualities, and we can convey much more to them about ALTANA’s innovation potential via the program, and provide them with practical experience.

The last Experience Day took place at BYK-Gardner in May 2018. Julian, you’re a Manage & More scholar and you were there. What exactly is an Experience Day? What does it involve?

Julian Thomssen: An Experience Day takes place once or twice a semester in cooperation with our partner companies. It’s about giving scholars an impression of the partner companies, but also providing them with an opportunity to immerse themselves in topics they normally don’t come into contact with -  for example, BYK-Gardner's Measuring Instruments section. Okay, not everyone might be enthusiastic about color measuring devices at first, but when the scholars are given a closer look at what our partner companies are doing, on a personal level, then it’s always very interesting.

Julian Thomssen - Manage & More Scholar and Business Administration student at TUM, Andrea Pfister - Corporate HR Systems & Recruitment, ALTANA AG, Stefan Wltschek - Head of Embedded Systems, R&D / Development, BYK-Gardner GmbH
 

And what was the last Experience Day at BYK-Gardner like? What did you learn? Any takeaways?

Julian Thomssen: It was really exciting for me actually – also because I’d helped to organize it. I have to say that BYK-Gardner worked really hard for us where organization was concerned. Thanks again, guys! It was a very full day, and it started with a corporate presentation. That was followed by lectures, and a tour of the production and development department – so basically all kinds of input from many different areas. After a lunch together, we were able to try out the colorimeters as part of a workshop, and that was really interesting and a great way to round things off.

Mr. Wltschek, you helped to organize the BYK-Gardner Experience Day. What did you want to teach the students that day?

Stefan Wltschek: I studied at the TU myself, so I know first-hand how important early contact with companies is, and it’s rewarding to see how theoretically learned knowledge can be applied in practice, as well as which soft skills or technical skills are helpful. At the Experience Day we gave the students the opportunity to gain an insight into the entire research, development and production process, all the way to the final product. Of course, it’s also exciting for us to engage in discussions with students, and to be given suggestions about what we can maybe further improve.

So was the day a success, in your view?

Stefan Wltschek: Absolutely! There was great interest shown in all of the topics presented, plus an intensive and productive exchange of views. All the planning and organizing was a whole lot of fun for everyone involved. For example, there was a lot of feedback in the dialog about our development process and our project management methods. We utilize the classic waterfall model, and agile software methods. It’s enlightening – exchanging views and insights into how we tick.

Which soft skills do you think are especially important when you’re hiring new employees? How would you describe your corporate culture? Do you have any tips for students planning to start their careers at ALTANA?

Andrea Pfister: Our mission statement and our values – appreciation, room for maneuver, openness and trust – form the binding basis of our joint, goal-oriented actions. We attach great importance to cooperation in teams. When selecting employees, we pay particular attention not only to specialized knowledge but also to social skills, interesting internships or theses, stays abroad, and volunteer work. The job interview should be seen by both sides as a means of getting to know each other, so that both can establish whether the chemistry is right.

Mr. Wltschek, which soft skills are important to you?

Stefan Wltschek: The ability to work as part of a team, independence, and taking responsibility for oneself. That requires a corporate culture that is open, and based on trust. On the other hand, it’s also important to actively approach colleagues and gain any information that might be missing.

Ms. Pfister, what career opportunities does ALTANA offer students and graduates?

Andrea Pfister: A whole lot! Students can do an internship with us, or write a thesis. Entry can be either direct or via a trainee program. Also, an induction plan tailored to individual needs guarantees optimum preparation for future tasks, and makes it even easier to meet new colleagues.

This interview is part of our Soft Skills Handbook (German).