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A German, Mexican & Indian walk into a bar...

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Tags: Internationalization , TraineeProjects, Careers
Matthew Romzek, May 20, 2019
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Matthew Romzek studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He is an avid car enthusiast and enjoys restoring his Nissan 300zx. When he is not choking on paint dust and fiberglass particles, he likes to travel places.
…Well, actually they walk into a restaurant. No, this is not the start of a mildly offensive joke, just a casual Thursday night. What brought these very diverse people together? Was it just the traditional german dish “Käsespätzle” or is there something else going on here? The ZF Global Trainee Program continuously breeds opportunities to those fortunate enough to be called trainees. One element of the program with particularly interesting prospects is the Joint Trainee Project. While most of the program is dedicated to individual assignments, each trainee group is divided into two teams which are then given a project that lasts the duration of the program. The project to which nine fellow trainees and I was assigned is called:
Diversity Day 2019
— For the first time, ZF will promote and celebrate diversity on a global scale.

How fitting a task for such a diverse group. This is exciting! What is more exciting is that I am part of the team that has chosen how this day will look. The goal is to show the world what ZF is all about, that ZF is a proponent of diversity. We plan to accomplish this through keynote speeches in the regional headquarters along with a variety of activities at a number of other locations around the globe. But of course, as with many things, this is much easier said than done. Motivating others to take an active part in a voluntary event is always a bit tricky. As Game of Thrones’ Tyrion Lannister would undoubtedly agree, the solution to motivating others lies in the answer to a single question: “What do you want?”. Unfortunately, individually asking all 149,000 ZF employees this question poses some issues.
Additionally, planning events remotely is complicated. It is difficult to design activities that will take place in a facility that you have never even visited, much less worked at. Particular activities may be a great fit for some locations but a complete flop for others. This feels a bit like baking a cake for a friend without knowing what allergies they may have. Personally, I enjoy a nice carrot cake, but if my friend is deathly allergic to carrots, he would probably not enjoy the cake.
On the other hand, the nature of our team produces some challenges. While we are a close-knit group that spends a lot of time outside of work together, in example savoring the aforementioned Käsespätzle, we are also constantly changing locations. The Trainee Program consists of four rotations, one of which is abroad. The other three are in your home country, and given that our team hails from five different countries, the opportunity to have a meeting in-person rarely arises.
Despite all this, our team functions well. By acknowledging our own diverse backgrounds, skills, and experiences, and assigning tasks that make use of our strengths, we work efficiently. Communication has been paramount. Flexibility has been crucial, particularly when our team spanned thirteen time zones. Yes, sleep was sacrificed - my thoughts go out to my Chinese and Mexican colleagues.
The personal growth I have experienced is substantial. Although not technically demanding, the Joint Trainee Project has taught me a tremendous amount about working on a diverse team. Fully understanding my coworkers has proven to be as valuable as understanding the project itself. I have also become much more comfortable working on multiple projects simultaneously, although I still have much to improve. For my coworkers reading this, I apologize for the few weeks that it took me understand the concept of multitasking.
That being said, I’m looking forward to ZFs' first ever company-wide Diversity Day - proudly presented by the trainee group 2018/19.

Save the date!

To go behind-the-scenes with my trainee friend Manuel from Mexico join our Instagram takeover on May 28, 2019: zf.com/instagram