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Trainee program in Corona times – works remotely, too!

Julian Eimer (28) and Hande Erenguc (27) have been trainees at Beiersdorf for several months. Hande started in August 2019 with a focus on digital marketing & e-commerce, Julian joined in January as a supply chain management trainee. But how does the international trainee program “BEYOND BORDERS” work in times of Corona? We spoke to them about it.

Julian Eimer recommends the trainee program at Beiersdorf to anyone “who wants to learn and develop”.

Hande and Julian, both of you have gained a lot of experience as trainees in the last few months. How do you think the trainee program is going in the current situation?

Julian: I was very lucky to be able to start in my team of the time before the lockdown in Germany. At first, I went to the office every day and got to know my colleagues personally. By the end of my departmental assignment I was already 100 percent working from home – but that wasn’t a big problem and worked out well. My second assignment was then in the local sales team and for the first few weeks our work together was completely online. That also went smoothly because the team integrated me very well. From June on, we were allowed to come back to the office on a daily or weekly basis and I saw my colleagues for the first time in real life. That was definitely worth a lot! In my current team, I work mainly from home, but come to the office once or twice a week. Sometimes even to meet colleagues for lunch or a coffee.

Hande: I’ve been in the program since last year and from my point of view the last few months have gone very well, considering the circumstances. Just like Julian, I worked from home from March to June. After that I continued a hybrid model, which means I was in the office on fixed days and otherwise working from home. I’ve been working for Beiersdorf in Turkey since early August. And since the number of cases is increasing significantly in this country, I’m working 100 percent from home here in Istanbul again. But that’s also working very well!

Trainee Hande Erenguc is currently on foreign assignment in Istanbul.

You say that basically everything is running smoothly. But have there been any challenges in recent weeks?

Hande: Of course, it was not always easy. When I was working from home, for example, I switched to a new team and my onboarding had to be done virtually. But to be honest, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. We always turned on the camera during all phone calls and I could reach my team at any time. At the beginning the situation was of course strange because I was working with colleagues whom I had never met in person before. But I got used to it very quickly and felt like part of the team.

Julian: It was very similar for me: you get used to virtual collaboration much faster than you’d think! Nevertheless, there are of course different challenges. When I was back in the office for the first time, I realized how much each of us is constantly communicating. Just by being in the same room with your colleagues, you just get to see a lot more. And that’s exactly what you have to compensate for in virtual collaboration, of course. What’s more, Beiersdorf has a really strong culture of exchange, which is of course much harder to realize in Corona times. But the HR team has tried to combat this problem with a special app called “Coffee Connection”. The app brings trainees and other colleagues together at random and is perfect for meeting new colleagues over a virtual coffee and learning more about their work areas.

Are you otherwise supported as trainees?

Hande: The greatest support comes from the trainee community itself. Everyone helps everyone else and we are a great, colorful, international community that also does a lot together in private. The HR team is also always there for us. Our colleagues help and support us wherever help is needed. 

Julian: Of course, the respective teams also play an important role. In the time after the lockdown, for example, we had daily morning coffee calls – that really helped with team spirit. And as Hande has already said, our HR contacts also help us a lot: for example, with coaching calls or joint activities so that we can grow together better as a community. I’m very pleased about this, because the 18-month program goes by very quickly and despite the circumstances, the exchange and cohesion of the trainee community is really very good. Last week, for example, we went wakeboarding together.

Hande, you mentioned that you currently work for Beiersdorf in Turkey. What else can you tell us about foreign assignments? Are you one of the few exceptions?

Hande: The foreign assignments are of course much more difficult to realize at the moment, but not impossible! It is difficult to get a visa, and the incidence of infection varies greatly from country to country. Not every affiliate is currently taking on trainees, and Beiersdorf takes great care to ensure that local conditions work. This also means ensuring that our social lives as trainees are not too restricted because if you are alone at home in a foreign country, you can very quickly feel lonely. In my case it was a different matter. I actually come from Istanbul and am now working for Beiersdorf in Istanbul. I have my family and friends here, so social contacts are not the problem. The Turkish team also received me very well. The onboarding was virtual, and so was the daily work. But I have already met my team outside working hours and feel very well integrated into the team.

Julian, you too want to be abroad soon...

Julian: Yes, actually I wanted to go to São Paulo, Brazil, for my international assignment. But since the country is heavily affected by Covid-19, I have already rejected this plan. My hope was to get to know a different culture during my international assignment – that’s why Bangkok was my plan B, especially since Thailand is coping with the pandemic quite well. Unfortunately, Thailand is currently very restrictive when it comes to work permits for foreigners and I expect to have to postpone my stay abroad for a few months. Beiersdorf is trying to make the best of the situation and my colleagues are helping wherever they can. Some trainees will soon be going to Seoul and Dubai, for example. Maybe that would also be something for me.

How happy are you to be trainees at Beiersdorf?

Hande: I am very happy to be a trainee at Beiersdorf! The team spirit among the trainees is great and now that I’m abroad, I miss everyone very much. At the same time, I’m learning and growing under these circumstances, and I always feel well supported by Beiersdorf. I think I couldn’t have had a better start to my professional life! 

Julian: I am also very happy and grateful to be at Beiersdorf in these special times. On the one hand, we trainees here have a secure job. On the other hand, we are working for an employer who really cares about making sure we are doing well. Many colleagues have not had an easy time of it in recent months, as schools and kindergartens were closed. It was really great to see how flexibly and creatively both employees and Beiersdorf dealt with the situation. I am happy to work in a company that takes its values seriously and at the same time makes a positive contribution to society. Although we normally only manufacture skin care products, we distributed 1,000 tons of disinfectants to clinics, hospitals, and other care facilities in record time. Even though a large part of the daily work routine is virtual, it is still an enriching experience to get to know so many different departments and functions in such a short time. That is really special.

Would you also recommend a trainee program at Beiersdorf to others starting their careers? Even under the current, corona-related circumstances?

Hande: Yes, I would! Every company is currently exposed to the same difficult circumstances, and Beiersdorf is managing the situation for us trainees really well. As I said before, the support we receive is really good. 

Julian: I would recommend the trainee program to anyone who wants to learn, develop, understand and improve. And I am sure that we have learned many things in the past few months that we would never have learned under normal circumstances. Corona has significantly accelerated the digital transformation, strengthened our ability to work together virtually. We had to leave our comfort zone and learn a new way of working. Especially as a trainee, who gets to know many different areas, it was great to experience this firsthand. So, if you are ready to take on these challenges and willing to shape a “new normal”, you should apply!

Thank you both for the interesting insights!

Ready for the challenge?

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Diana Lühmann

About the editor: Diana Lühmann

Since autumn 2019, Diana has been responsible for corporate communication related to HR and inspiring people at Beiersdorf. These include the areas of Diversity, Learning & Development, Career, Leadership, and Health. Previously, she was in charge of R&D Communications and explored the exciting world of our research and development.