• Germany edition
 
Making it in Germany: an American getting out the vote
Photo: DPA

Making it in Germany: an American getting out the vote

Published: 03 Aug 2009 09:41 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Aug 2009 09:41 GMT+02:00

Name:

Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat (just call me Susan!)

Age:

47

Where do you live?

South of Munich, in a little town called Baierbrunn.

Where are you from originally?

Ann Arbor, Michigan, but when I was 17 I moved to Santa Cruz, California.

What did you do before coming to Germany?

I mainly did large-scale project management. I was originally working in architecture and took that sort of system thinking and became a marketing executive in a software company. Then I had the opportunity to transfer to Paris and worked as director of marketing for France and Spain. I thought I would never leave Paris. I wasn’t planning to change anything.

What brought you to Germany?

I hadn’t foreseen the trip to Germany. But then I met my husband and he was living in Munich, although he is French. My mother is German, born and grew up in Berlin. But I wanted to live in France – it was a rough transition.

What was your first job in Germany?

I started doing marketing for large-scale software throughout Europe and beyond, including the Middle East and Africa. I had cut my teeth by then in the software world. You had to be able to get to your target audience and simplify something relatively complex. This is similar to the voting problem that we face with overseas Americans. Only a very targeted group needs this information – but you need to find them and get it to them and make it usable. After that, I started my own consulting business, called the Dream Plan, which is how I started helping with a project to provide voting information for expats. It was the 2004 election and I thought I needed to get involved.

Could you describe your current job?

I met a few people and, after that election, we decided we had to do something and founded the Overseas Vote Foundation. In 2005, we were established as a public charity and by 2006 we launched our first version of our own software. In 2007, Pew Charitable Trust gave us a grant and we completely redesigned everything to reach out to specific groups and provide more services. My office is in my home and my day is usually cut into two parts – it’s the Asia/Europe time zone and the second half goes to midnight and beyond. I go to Washington, DC usually once a month for about a week.

What were the biggest challenges you faced? How did you deal with them?

In the beginning, our regional team doubted that it would work if we weren’t in DC. It turned out that was wrong. It works to go over for a week and pack everything in – and then you can be anywhere. The biggest challenge is getting continued funding to keep the entire organisation running.

What’s your best advice for ‘making it’ here?

First, you need an idea that is unique. And if you’re going to have an organisation where people are volunteering, don’t forget the two-word phrase: “Thank you.” Nurture those people!

What’s the best thing about working in Germany?

I love doing this job and I couldn’t have a more ideal situation. I'm so fortunate to be an American abroad who can feel as connected as I do to our country. And to be able to have a job where I can find myself walking the halls of Congress or on the phone in my backyard in Munich has been a tremendous life experience. Not everyone can take the skills they’ve developed and have the chance to combine with something that clicks with your heart. Since I started, I’ve been healthier and had more energy no matter what time zone I’m in. When you land right, your whole self knows.

How’s your German? Do you speak it at work?

English is our primary language, but I speak fluent French and German.

Do you speak these languages at work?

It comes up now and then. It comes in really handy in communications with the media, primarily. I can do interviews in German or French. It also helps to read the press and see what’s going on in other countries. During the campaign time, I like to see what they’re covering about overseas voters in other countries. It’s eye-opening, it’s mind-opening. I think speaking another language is absolutely essential – it affects the way you think, the way you feel. I think that’s important in this paradigm where our target market is all over the world.

Jessica Mann (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Glass memorial honours Nazi disabled victims
Floral tributes were laid on Tuesday at the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Glass memorial honours Nazi disabled victims

A 24-metre blue glass wall in Berlin has been unveiled to commemorate the systematic murder of up to 300,000 mentally ill and disabled people under Adolf Hitler. READ  

Germany to help with Mediterranean refugees
Migrants aboard an Italian navy patrol vessel in April 2014. Photo: DPA

Germany to help with Mediterranean refugees

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière on Tuesday pledged support for his Italian colleague in the struggle to manage refugees trying to reach the European Union via its southern coast. READ  

Ice bucket challenge raises €500,000 in a week
Elephant Nelly takes part in the ice bucket challenge in a Lower Saxony safari park. Photo: DPA

Ice bucket challenge raises €500,000 in a week

The coffers of the German Society for Muscular Disease (DGM) are overflowing with donations thanks to the viral craze for videos of donors dousing themselves with ice-cold water. READ  

Russian-German school opens in teeth of conflict
The GRIAT will open in the Russian city of Kazan. Photo: Shutterstock

Russian-German school opens in teeth of conflict

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is pressing ahead with its German-Russian Institute of Advanced Technologies (GRIAT) against a backdrop of international tensions over Ukraine. READ  

Schweinsteiger is new Germany captain: Löw
Photo: DPA

Schweinsteiger is new Germany captain: Löw

Bastian Schweinsteiger will replace fellow Bayern Munich player Philipp Lahm as captain of the German national football team, head trainer Joachim Löw said on Tuesday. READ  

Munich minister resigns in 'model car scandal'
Christine Haderthauer at her resignation press conference in Munich on Monday. Photo: DPA

Munich minister resigns in 'model car scandal'

Christine Haderthauer, head of the Bavarian state chancery, resigned “with immediate effect” on Monday evening over the so-called “model car scandal” in which her company sold scale models built by a man convicted of three sexual murders. READ  

Russia 'severed' from Europe: President Gauck
President Gauck stands shoulder to shoulder with President Komorowski of Poland in Gdansk on Monday. Photo: DPA

Russia 'severed' from Europe: President Gauck

Russia has "effectively severed its partnership" with Europe and wants to establish a new order, German President Joachim Gauck said on Monday. READ  

National Uber ban is revenge of the taxis
Taxis are a powerful trade lobby in Germany. Photo: DPA

National Uber ban is revenge of the taxis

The Frankfurt regional court has imposed a temporary nationwide ban on chauffeur car service Uber, saying that it must pay a €250,000 fine if passengers continue to book rides through its app. READ  

Sex party 'desecrates' Bavarian royal spa
The facade of the Bad Reichenhall Royal Spa Hotel.

Sex party 'desecrates' Bavarian royal spa

The Bavarian finance ministry has demanded a report from the company running a publicly-owned spa in the town of Bad Reichenhall after they rented the property out for a fetish party. READ  

Merkel details Iraq arms shipment to MPs
Angela Merkel addressing the Bundestag on Monday as her ministers look on. Photo: DPA

Merkel details Iraq arms shipment to MPs

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the Bundestag on Monday to explain her government's decision to send weapons to Iraqi Kurds fighting terrorist group Isis. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,413
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd