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Out of the Comfort Zone

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Tags: Careers
Arvind Ravishankar, August 12, 2019
Arvind Ravishankar started his career at ZF as a trainee in 2016. Today he works as a customer engineer in the “Integrated Safety System House” at the Alfdorf location.
I was born and raised in Bangalore, now known as one of India’s major cities for IT. Since early 2000, many technology companies and start-ups have set up shop there. My hometown is now one of the top five most cosmopolitan cities in India, and you can clearly see that Bangalore is very young, with many residents being immigrants – it’s the perfect place for people who love technology, start-ups and curry, of course.

While earning my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, I was given the opportunity to gain my first experience in the automotive industry; I was able to write my bachelor’s thesis at an automotive supplier in 2011. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to complete a trainee program at a manufacturer of drive and control technology in Bangalore. It was a great opportunity to get training in inventory management and production planning for the assembly of hydraulic off-highway gear-type pumps.
In 2013, I decided to start a “Master in Management Engineering (MSc)” degree program in Italy. Leaving my home country was a huge step for me, because moving abroad meant getting out of my comfort zone. However, I was curious and wanted to find out how people think, live and work in other countries.

The following year, I came into contact with ZF for the first time. I was selected for the Unitech program, which ZF supports as a partner. As part of this, I was given the opportunity to spend a semester abroad at the University of Loughborough in Great Britain. One year later, I traveled to Germany for an internship at a large industrial group. I didn’t know much about the country apart from the usual stereotypes: All Germans like to drink beer and love soccer. The language was fortunately no problem, and English was the main language spoken anyway. If that didn’t work, I could fall back on the bit of German I had acquired during my short time in Germany.
Already during my studies, I was able to establish contact with ZF employees and talent scouts through the Unitech program. I have had many positive experiences with the people and the country itself. That’s why I decided at the time to apply for ZF’s 15-month trainee program – and that's also why I’m still working for the Group today. The rotating program already gave me the opportunity to get to know a variety of ZF locations and departments in Germany and the USA. On the one hand, this has helped me to understand how ZF thinks and works as a company. On the other hand, I was able to try things I wouldn’t normally have done or wasn’t yet familiar with. I really wanted to get a taste of as many different jobs and functions as possible to find out where I fit in best – and what job I wanted to do in the future. That wasn’t quite clear to me at the time.
“ZF is undergoing a major transformation, which is giving me the unique opportunity to be a part of it all and to contribute my share. That’s exciting and challenging.”

I am currently working in the “Swabian metropolis” of Alfdorf in the area of “Integrated Safety System House” as a customer engineer. Here I coordinate and evaluate the workflows of various projects, manage budgets and provide representatives of corporate management with status updates. I am a sort of a liaison between the corporate side and the department itself. Integrated Safety is still a relatively young field at ZF that deals with the advance engineering of safety concepts, such as in the area of autonomous driving and pedestrian safety.

Why ZF? I could now give the standard answer: “ZF is one of the world’s top automotive suppliers with a big name that stands for German quality and reliability.” However my actual motivation is that it is interesting to be part of ZF right now. The Group is currently undergoing a major transformation, which in turn gives me the unique opportunity to contribute my share, something that is both exciting and challenging.
I am also flexible, dealing with many different contacts from the strategically important field of “Integrated Safety System House” on daily basis. ZF is currently investing heavily in the development of this area, and it’s great to be in the thick of it all. Every day is different, sometimes with many questions raised or surprises encountered, but always something special.

I can’t say where I will be in five years’ time – and I don’t want to commit myself yet to anything in particular. I am still in a phase of personal discovery. A mixture of technology and strategy topics would be ideal for me. Moving to Europe and working for ZF has definitely changed my idea of my dream job – and I’m sure I’ll have even more experiences that will contribute to this. It all makes me ask why I would want to carve my future in stone now. I’d like to keep my options open in regard to where my career will take me.
When I look back on almost three years at ZF, I am pleased about the large network that I was able to build up during my time in Germany and at the company. I was given the privilege to work with some of the best in the Group. I’m very comfortable here, and even my wife now lives in Germany as well. I don’t know yet whether this will become my new permanent home. It’s always good to keep your options open and not to think too far into the future, but to live in the here and now – and Germany is simply my home for the time being. Of course I miss my friends and family, along with the culture of my homeland. But there are many things about Germany that I like: the character of people here, particularly their forthcoming manner, as well as the mutual trust that is extended in relationships again and again. I am thankful that, through my work at ZF, I got to know so much more than just the stereotypes I used to know. It has been a very special life experience and a roadmap for my future professional journey at ZF.