On a cold Friday afternoon, my phone rang and the General Manager of the plant in Qingpu was on the other end of the line, and he was interested in my plans for my upcoming JIG assignment. At that time I was discussing the possibility to go to Norderstedt for my next project, however, he offered me to go to Qingpu for a six-month assignment. The assignment was to support the production department in the coordination of the new paint shop area. Since I already had a strong interest in gaining work experience in China, I was thrilled to say yes to this great opportunity.
5 weeks after my positive reply, I attended an intensive course to learn the basics of trucks painting and fitting, in order to get a valid visa to work in China.
When it was time for me to fly, doubts filled my mind as I was standing at the Finnair counter, unsure of what I was about to do and questioning myself if it was a good idea to leave. Next thing I knew, I was on my way to China!
Upon arrival, Mr. Wang, who became a very valuable contact during my six months stay, was there to welcome me to the country. My first few hours became a challenging introduction of the traffic madness in Shanghai, but I was delighted to learn on the road that another fellow JIG from Germany was having his overseas assignment in Qingpu as well.
During my assignment, I improved my knowledge of conflict management, escalation procedures and risk management when working on international projects, and it did not take me long to realize that working in China would be quite a challenging task. The way they structure their work, their perception of time, and the relationships between managers and employees differed from my previous experiences in Germany. Moreover, locals believed that as a German executive, I was an expert in my field regardless of the short time I have worked in this area.
An interesting fact I learned when working in Qingpu was that nearly everyone starts and ends work at the same time. Many employees, including myself, used the company shuttle to get to work, and only a few colleagues travelled by their own means. The working hours were from Monday to Friday from 8:45 am to 5:30 pm.
Fortunately, the time spent in China was not all about work. My colleagues were very good hosts and they took the time to show me the city and the surroundings, and helped me discover traditional dishes and local food specialties. I really enjoyed my stay there; it was a very challenging yet valuable experience.