Alumni Voices: From OWL to North America


Alumni Voices: From OWL to North America

Earlier this year, Christoph Tetzlaff was part of a virtual Coffee Hour during FH Bielefeld’s International Week where he shared his experiences working for CLAAS Global Sales Americas Inc. as a Region Development Manager Americas in Omaha, Nebraska. Christoph Tetzlaff earned his B.Eng. at FH Bielefeld and his M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering & Management at Paderborn University. We reached out to him again this fall and asked him some questions about working in an international company, the effects of the pandemic, and his experiences studying in OWL.

Please describe your path to CLAAS in Omaha after studying in OWL.

After completing my graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering & Management at Paderborn University, I participated in CLAAS’ highly regarded International Trainee Program. This program gave me the opportunity to explore CLAAS as a company and different areas of the business globally. One of my rotations within the program brought me to Omaha, NE to work on a project for 3 months. This is where the opportunity emerged to work abroad for a couple of years.

How did your studies in OWL prepare your for working in a global company?

First of all, I think that the quality of teaching and the academic rigor at both, FH Bielefeld and Paderborn University, are very solid which provides a good foundation for a successful career overall. I was fortunate enough to spend a fair amount of time abroad during my Undergraduate (B.Eng.) but also Graduate (M.Sc.) studies. The FH Bielefeld and Paderborn University were really accommodating in this regard. In particular, the transfer and recognition of ECTS worked without any issues. Even though I did not go abroad using of the university sponsored exchange programs, I would like to mention that both universities collaborate with well-regarded partner universities throughout the world to accommodate every student who wants to spend time abroad.

How did the pandemic affect the way you worked in 2020 and 2021?

When the world was really turned up-side down back in February / March 2020, I was actually in Omaha, NE on a business trip. I returned to Germany on March 13, when the US announced the border closure to the European Union. Up until August 2020 I worked from home which, in hindsight, did work out quite well. However, when I returned to the US in August 2020 I was able to return the office under certain guidelines and protocols. Since CLAAS is an Agricultural Equipment manufacturer, we are considered “essential business”, i.e. the restrictions for our industry were not as severe as for other industries. What has changed though was the amount of time on virtual calls / meetings. But to be honest, I enjoy having virtual meetings because they are quite efficient. However, this will never replace the personal contact with people. What has helped me adjust to this environment was the fact that I knew all the people I worked with. For graduates who join the work force or professionals who change jobs I can imagine the on-boarding to be really difficult.

Do you have any tips for OWL students who would like to work in an international context like you?

If you seek to work in an international context, I strongly believe it is critical to gain international experience during your studies – be it an internship abroad or a study abroad semester. It’s not primarily about a second language, but more about leaving your comfort zone and to prove willingness and ability to adapt to new circumstances in a foreign country. Take the opportunity to spend some time abroad during your studies. This is the time when you actually have the time to go abroad. Studying abroad helps you understand what it means to be away from family and friends. It helps you understand what a longer international assignment means in terms experience but also sacrifices.

What projects/plans are you looking forward to in 2022?

As boarders are opening up and restrictions lessen, I am certainly looking forward to meeting colleagues in person again. As mentioned earlier, the personal contact cannot be replaced through virtual environments. Within my current role, I am also supporting our markets in Latin America and ever since I started in this role, I have not been able to visit the countries and colleagues. So, that’s something I am really looking forward to in 2022. On a personal note, I am really excited about exploring the United States more. The US is such a diverse country in so many different aspects. Certainly, the diversity in landscapes and nature across all 50 states sticks out and I am really thrilled to be able to explore all this and call this country “home” for a few years.

Thank you and all the best for 2022!