The perks of an exchange program experience in Köln

Lucian Buzduga joined the company 5 years ago. One year ago he took over the role of Product Owner for one of the 4 Agile teams in the HRCules project.
The implementation of the HRCules tool is one of the biggest projects in the DTSE group as the customers are primarily employees. The tool is used to address and solve any HR related inquiries or questions in an efficient way.
As a Product Owner he’s responsible for providing vision and direction to the team, maintaining a backlog with activities the team has to do and always be in contact with the business side and stakeholders to understand and meet the requests.

Wanting to invest in his professional development, Lucian applied for an exchange program within DTSE earlier in 2020 and as a result spent 3 months working from our office in Köln.

So what’s this exchange program about? In DTSE we encourage our colleagues’ development and growth on their career path. This program allows them to gain international experience and improve their qualifications and skills.
In other words, our colleagues have the opportunity to provide their services within a different location of DTSE SE and, at the same time, enhance their skills as part of a personal and professional development.

We were curious about Lucian’s experience in Köln, so we asked him a few questions. Read the short interview below to find out more.

1. How was the experience of living in Koln for 3 months?

I actually know the city well, as I had business travels before in both Bonn and Koln. Obviously, there is a big difference between staying in a hotel a few days and living there for 3 full months. The city is multicultural with people from all parts of the world living there and it’s quite easy to integrate as an expat. Contrary to some beliefs the people are relaxed, more casual than in other places in Germany and it’s easy to make friends.

A lot of locations in the city are bikeable and if you are not a fan of biking, local transport is really good.
Regarding food, just about every type of cuisine is available in Cologne, from Chinese, Japanese to Turkish or Greek specific. I stayed in the active neighborhood of Ehrenfeld where it’s really hard not to find a good coffee place or restaurant.

In the end I got to love the city very much.

2. Did you encounter any difficulties during these months (ex. getting home-sick)?

No difficulties of such sort during this time. What was a bit hard though, was being away from family and friends for a long time. Due to the situation with the coronavirus it was best that I didn’t travel back and forth to Romania. Also, from November, the third and last month in Cologne, tougher restrictions were taken in Germany as well, thus restaurants and sport locations were closed and wearing a mask became mandatory in some locations.

3. What are the best memories from your exchange program?

There are a lot of hidden gems in the city of Cologne, but what I would point out as memorable are the small cities close to Cologne, like Aachen, Siegburg, Wuppertal and Königswinter, closer to Bonn. Cologne is well connected with neighboring cities. In the weekends I took one day trips there and you can truly feel the German culture in cities that are not so big, with a lot of traditional buildings, castles or beautiful viewpoints to check out.

4. What are the benefits of the exchange program?

It might feel intimidating at the beginning, being around people with a different culture, you try to adapt, and slowly try to get to know their way of working. The program should provide many benefits for both you as the participant but also for the host. You can gain new skills and perspectives. From my point of view, the program should be taken as an opportunity to grow and learn new things, that you can later apply when returning to the home company. One big benefit is that you will become more globally aware, you get the big picture of the complex connections and interdependencies within the DT group.

To make the program successful I learned that I had to be flexible, collaborate and communicate as much as possible. At the end, some measuring points of success should be taken into consideration:

  • Did you gain new skills or improved your communication?
  • Have you adapted to the culture?
  • Was there a good exchange of information between you and the team members?
  • Did you get a good understanding of the department you worked in

5. Would you recommend this program to other colleagues as well?

Once you get over the fact that you will be away from home for a while and over the hurdles of moving in, finding good places around you to shop or eat and integrating to a different way of living, it’s a really nice and enjoyable challenge. If you are adaptable and eager to go out of your comfort zone, it is a great experience.

Watch Lucian’s short vlog below: