Raja Ramesh Chilakala is a 35-year-old Indian who went home after doing a master’s degree in Germany and returned some years later for a job. He works at a sealing solutions company in Stuttgart after having lived and worked in cities like Hamburg, Cologne and Aschaffenburg.
When did you first come to Germany?
I first came here in September 2001 to pursue a master’s degree in Automotive Systems Engineering in RWTH in Aachen. I left for India after I got my degree and work brought me here again in 2007.
What exactly does your job involve?
I’m a mechanical engineer and I’m involved in the development of sealing products which are used in hydraulic cylinders. I work at Trelleborg, a sealing solutions company.
How did you get this job?
After my studies I went back to India in 2005. I worked in John Deere and in 2007 I got an opportunity from a German engineering consulting company after they saw my resume on one of the job portals. After a telephone interview, I got a job as an engineering consultant with Ford and came back to Germany in 2007 with my wife and our year-and-a-half-old son. I have been doing my current job in Stuttgart since January 2012.
Why did you choose Germany?
For the field of mechanical engineering, Germany is one the best places. Moreover, you have free education and the student jobs as a research assistant are also great.
Did you see a lot of changes from the time you left Germany to when you came back?
The major difference I observe is that it’s easier to get a work permit now. Most of my Indian friends who studied with me went to the US or back to India. Less than 20 percent of them have stayed on in Germany. It was hard for a foreigner to get a job here between 2004-2005 because of the work permit restrictions. But these days, more or less everyone who does a master’s degree in Germany gets a job here.
Do you and your family speak German?
Yes, now I do. My wife did the B1 level integration course, so she speaks German too. As for my son, he attends a German school.
How important is it for someone in your position and in general to speak German in professional life?
German is very important, especially if you want to grow and achieve higher positions. You definitely need very good German skills and people appreciate it if you speak their language. I would encourage people in the same position to learn German.
Do you need to speak a lot of German at work?
At my workplace, it’s a mix of languages. We have an international team here so I speak in German whenever required. Some of my colleagues don’t speak English, so I speak German with them as well.
Have you faced any issues being a foreigner in your professional life?
There are usually no issues at the workplace. I feel that Germans are really good. I was cheated out of some money by an old German lady who was my house owner once, but I know cheaters are everywhere. Most Germans are really honest.
Have you seen any cultural differences in the way of working in India and here?
I have mostly worked in multinational companies, so the working culture is more or less the same everywhere, but there are some differences. For example, in Germany, you usually don’t talk about your private life with your colleagues, which is not the case in India. But if you ask for any kind of personal help, they will definitely help you out.
What do you like about working in Germany?
Here, people encourage you if you have talent. In India, in some places, you have to praise the manager to get ahead.
Is there a bad aspect to working in Germany?
No. Germany has a very good work culture. I love working here.
Will you be settling in Germany?
I’m not completely sure. I have an unlimited residence permit but I haven’t yet decided how long I’m going to be here for. I have to take my family into account and then take a decision.
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Interview conducted by Mithila Borker.