'Speaking German gives you an edge'
In the latest instalment of My German Career, The Local spoke with Muhammad Waqas, who after working various student jobs to finance his education recently started his first full-time job as an analyst with power company E.ON.
Muhammad Waqas, 26, and came to Germany from Karachi, Pakistan in 2005. After working in a host of student jobs to pay for his education, he recently joined the professional world full-time. He told The Local about how he made his life here and how big a role German plays in the workplace.
What did you study in Germany?
I first attended the Fachhochschule [senior technical college] at Krefeld. Then I pursued a Bachelor's degree in Duisburg and did my Master's in Dortmund – both in Applied Computer Science. I now work at E.ON Global Commodities in Düsseldorf.
What does your job involve?
I am a Power Portfolio Analyst – I look at the economics generation of different power plants, and report it to the respective teams. I am also involved in some project work.
What jobs did you do as a student?
My first job, when I was 18 or 19, was putting in leaflets into post-boxes for a pizzeria. In the first two or three years in Germany, I worked in a lot of different places. I worked in an Indian restaurant as a waiter, then at a flea market, helping a guy sell leather goods. I worked for a year at a printing press, working mostly night shifts and then for almost three years at Burger King in Duisburg. I used to give tutorials in the university during this time too - on Electrical Engineering and Design Theory. There were many other small jobs I did.
My first corporate student job was at ABB, where I worked for two months. Then I changed to Fujitsu Siemens for four months, after which I joined E.ON and worked there as a student for a little over two years. My manager suggested that I apply for my current job and I've been working at E.ON as a full-time employee since March 1 this year.
Which was your favourite job out of all the student jobs you did?
Working at Burger King was a good experience. The job at E.ON was very interesting as well.
Do you see a change in the way of working or in the attitude towards you while working as a student and now working full time?
If you work in shift jobs in factories, you deal with a different sort of people as compared to the attitude people in corporate jobs have. I noticed a big difference when I switched over to corporate jobs rather than factory jobs – you can tell that the people at corporate companies are more educated. I got a lot more respect and the difference was quite stark. Although when I was working at Burger King, I used to get a lot of respect from my co-workers.
As a foreigner, have you had any bad experiences working here?
Do you speak German?
Yes I do, especially at work. I completed my Fachhochschule in German. My Bachelor's degree was in German and English, but my Master's was completely in German.
How important do you think German is in the professional world?
I think you always have an edge when you speak German. It is very important. As a graduate fresh from university I believe you have higher chances of landing a good job if you can speak German. Even though in the last few years the trend has changed and a lot of companies prefer English – even in the company where I'm working, the official language is English – the Germans still prefer to speak German with you, so you have a edge if you can speak it.
Do you have a lot of non German colleagues?
Here, at E.ON Global Communities, the workforce is quite international. We have people from 45 different countries.
What are the best and worst things about working in Germany?
The best part is that everyone has a good chance to a make a career for themselves. You can achieve your goals if you work hard for it. It may sound like an obvious thing to say, but I think in a lot of countries that's not always possible for a foreigner. I also like the fact that you always get your rights – in terms of vacation, salary, if you're ill – you can be really straightforward about it. Another thing I like is the flexibility – you have the freedom to manage your time as you wish if there's something else you need to do. And as for the worst part of working here, I haven't had any bad experiences until now.
Is there any difference in way of working between Germany and Pakistan?
It's really hard to make a comparison between the two countries, but I think the attitudes are totally different. Here, it is more structured and disciplined.
Do you plan on settling in Germany?
I'm going to be in Germany for the next five years for sure, but I'm not sure about whether I'll be here in the long run.
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Interview conducted by Mithila Borker