Umang Shah: from India to Germany

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About Umang Shah

  • Born in Mumbai, India 1995
  • Our Lady of Remedy High School 2001 – 2011
  • Diploma in Mechanical Engineering Shri Bhagubhai Mafatlal Polytechnic, Mumbai India 2011 – 2015
  • Bachelors/Degree in Mechanical Engineering K.J. Somaiya College of engineering, Mumbai India 2015 – 2018
  • Masters in Transport Engineering and Mobility, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule RWTH, Aachen Germany 2018 – 2022

Bachelor’s in India, Master’s in Germany

My decision to pursue a master’s in Germany was not a completely conscious decision. However, what helped me is that I had completed the B1 level of German proficiency in the second and third year of my bachelor’s of technology. I worked as a suspension engineer for my university´s formula race car team for three years. I was offered an internship opportunity in one of the companies in the USA. I wanted to stay in the field of vehicles and transportation but not in automotive. I wanted to move towards sustainability and mobility. In 2018, a course opened up in the English language at RWTH  Aachen University, which was “Transportation Engineering and Mobility with Specialization in Railway Systems Engineering.” I applied to the course and was admitted to the university. Currently, I am working as “Design Engineer Bogie Suspension” at Alstom. Studying specific subjects related to railway engineering has opened the doors for me in companies that primarily have railway, infrastructure and signaling as part of their business model and portfolio. However, the field becomes very specific considering my education as well as job experience.

Work Experience in India

I worked as an Intern in two companies for a period of 6 months each. The first company was Mahindra & Mahindra. I worked on special processes for manufacturing such as Forging and Powder Metallurgy. In my second Internship at Invotec, my work profile included projects related to mechanical engineering and I also suggested the implementation of some standard practices such as sorting (part of 5S), shadow board, two-bin inventory system etc. In both internships, I implemented a few things that I learned in Theory classes. I also worked in my university formula student team for 3 years. Working there gave me ground-level experience in designing and manufacturing a vehicle. The team functioned as a company and it also gave me insight into what responsibility actually means, how hierarchy works and how to handle when conflicts arise. I did not have any gap between my Bachelor of Technology and Masters and did not work in between them.

Prior Professional Background

This question does not apply to me considering that I have done an internship and worked in a student race car team in a completely different field. I have explained some points in the question above and also question number 7 “Given your work experience in India, were there any specific challenges or advantages you encountered when integrating into the German professional environment?”.

Success in Completing Master’s

I have a strong base in Engineering as I had 7 years of education in the field which included two internships of 6 months each. This is a little different from what most students generally do in India, that is they study for two more years after the 10th grade and do a bachelor’s degree for 4 years (2+4). Having a strong foundation helped me tackle the level of difficulty of RWTH Aachen. My course had subjects from the Mechanical, Civil, Electrical and Electronics fields. Studying subjects from other fields (apart from mechanical) was very difficult as the subjects assume that you have sufficient knowledge in the field. The bachelor’s degree in most countries is generally in Mechanical, civil or electronics engineering and not a combination of those fields. The work experience was not relevant as I was in the technical Hochschule which is based completely on Theory and practical application does not come into the picture.

The Key Learnings

It was completely different on two fronts – Academical/Technical and Social. One of the key learning or necessary requirements was the ability to adapt as soon as possible. The way of teaching and conducting exams in Germany was completely different in Germany. It took around 1 semester to get used to the system. The system has some flaws, strictly from an educational point of view but rather than complaining about it, I had to see how can I make the best of the situation. Some examples being studying to learn and studying to score were completely different, at least in my course. Some lectures collided, and some subjects which were not mandatory at first, were to be made compulsory if we did not graduate in 3 years. I did not have a gap in my education, which made the transition to a master’s somewhat smoother as compared to coming from a 9-5 work life. I would say to myself that these are the cards were are dealt with and we have to make the best of it. The second part of it was social life, including responsibilities at home. I usually did not do any household chores in India. Here I had to take responsibility for cooking, cleaning, and household activities. I mentioned this as a few students miss out on cooking/eating because they are studying the whole time while a few others can’t focus on their studies because of the time required by other activities. Apart from adaptation some of the other learning was timetabling and scheduling, distribution of roles in responsibilities in a WG (share house with others), understanding the requirement of the subject/course and networking with students, seniors and professors.

Academic and Professional Experiences

I currently work as “Design Engineer Bogie Suspension” at Alstom. My education helped me out as it was a specialisation in railway system engineering. I have overall experience with how the train works, its manufacturing process, signal and safety system etc. Even though my work is very specific, having an overall knowledge makes it easy and helps me improve the quality of my work. Having worked as a suspension engineer in my university Race car team also helps me out as I have an established base in suspension and know many of the running dynamics scenarios.

Challenges or Advantages

I have done internships in India and worked for my university student race car team. After my bachelor’s I directly came to Germany for higher studies. The challenges and advantages of working in India will be completely different for people who have done internships versus someone who has worked in India after graduation. I did not face any specific challenge or advantage however some points were completely different such as the way of communicating with your manager, the way of approaching and the time required to solve problems.

Language Proficiency

During the interview for my current Job, the HR representative asked me to continue in German and said we could switch to English if I couldn’t find some words or was not comfortable after I gave my introduction in German language. I told him that I was sure that I would be able to give the interview in German. I used some words in English when technical questions were asked such as Air pressure inside the bellow. But I think my decision to give that statement and my attitude towards the situation is what helped me in getting the job as well as doing good in my work after starting it. My work requires both English and German and the ratio depends on the project. So I do not have to do anything specific to balance learning and speaking both languages. I required the ability to communicate easily and clearly in German which is generally achieved at B1 level of German proficiency. Later I learned new words, especially technical words related to my work. Hearing German for 4-8 hours a day helps you automatically improve it. The communication between employees in most companies, even multi-national companies where the working language may be English will still be German.

Diverse Perspectives

I cannot delve into specific examples but I can emphasise some points. For example, the approach to a problem is completely different in India as compared to Germany. Along with the approach, the speed of finding the solution, the efficiency of the solution, the classification of the problem as well as identifying the root cause of the problem are different. Since it is different, the company and people will appreciate some points which might be a normal approach/behaviour for you. On the other hand, some actions might be taken negatively.  Here communication and also identifying what works out is essential. Some of my methodology (of approaching work and problems) has helped out the team/company. 

Professional Network

I post regularly on Linkedin regarding new technology or new personal experiences and it is one way to connect with employees from my previous company. However, the best way to connect is by call/SMS. I had two internships in India in the Mechanical and Automotive sector. The technical aspect of these sectors is different from the mobility sector in Germany. However, the common thing in all the jobs is your ability to learn, develope soft skills and adapt to the culture of the company.

Advice

I do not have common advice that I can give to the majority of applicants as their background (family condition, financial condition, goals in life, ability and determination to learn a new language and previous work experience) will play a huge role in it. I would however suggest doing some research yourself and thinking about it thoroughly. It should not be based on some consultant or because your friend is doing well and he suggested you to go to Germany. Research about how your daily life will be over here (apart from your job or education, for which most people do some research). Learning the German language is not compulsory but just ask yourself this question – Would you spin the wheel in a gambling game where your chances of winning are 19 out of 20? If you answered yes, then try to learn the language from here and as many levels as possible.

Dear readers,

We would like to express our gratitude to Umang Shah for sharing his experiences and stories with us. To bring you closer to the person we interviewed, we adhere to the highest standards of privacy.

The photographs has been used with the explicit permission of Umang Shah, serving the purpose of allowing you to connect a face with the story.

Please respect the privacy of our interviewee and do not use or distribute his photographs.

Thank you for your understanding, and enjoy reading Umang’s experiences of living, studying and working in Germany.

Sincerely,

TIPPUNKT Team


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Umang Shah: from India to Germany
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