You’re moving WHERE?!
Locating exactly where I would be working was a bit of a difficulty when speaking to friends and family at home in the UK. Eventually though, I managed to convince everyone that I would not be starting a job in the Baltics, but with Hilti in Liechtenstein. Unfortunately, it didn’t help their confusion when I told them that I would be living over the border in Austria, but if they wanted to visit then they should fly to Switzerland. Once we got over the geographical difficulties, the next question was why as a Chemical Engineering graduate, I should want to work for a company making power tools.
Sat looking out the window of my student house in Loughborough, putting together my application to Hilti and trying to put-off working on my thesis for the hundredth day in a row, these were also the questions at the front of my mind. I had applied for the Technical track of the Outperformer program, but would there be a job for me at a company I perceived as so far out of my field of knowledge? If I got the job would I even want to move somewhere as rural as the Rhine valley? I sent off my application and promptly decided to forget about it and put my focus elsewhere, confident that Hilti and I wouldn’t fit.
A few days after clicking ‘submit’, however, I got an email reply inviting me to an online test, which I took, because why not. Later that afternoon I had an email back inviting me for a skype interview. This was already strange – at no point had I waited more than four days at a time for a reply, and the emails were personal and both written by the same person. This was a welcome change to the automatic emails which had driven me nearly insane with every other company I applied to!
After a Skype interview with Doreen from HR, a technical interview with the head of Project Management in Business Unit Direct Fastening, Simon, and a nervous wait of a couple of days for a response, the news came – I was going to the assessment centre! Apparently, Hilti wanted Chemical Engineers after all! Again, I got the full personal treatment from the company, who organised everything, sent me my flight details and just left it to me to turn up at the airport.
I flew into Zurich Airport on a cold, clear December day, and met some of the other candidates over a coffee in the arrivals area as we waited for our transport to Schaan. They were an impressive bunch: top universities, exchanges, internships, even a PhD or two. What I noticed though, is that there were none of the sideways glances and prickly competitiveness often found at assessment centres, and we were all chatting away excitedly within a few minutes of meeting.
Arriving at the assessment centre, we sat in our named places around tables arranged in a wide horseshoe. Paul, the head of HR for company headquarters sat down in front of us, and during a casual Q&A explained to us why the Hilti process had been so different to that at other companies – ‘The Hilti Way’. The phrase is applied across the whole company to all kinds of areas, but effectively comes down to four core values: Integrity, Courage, Teamwork and Commitment.
The fast replies and transparent application process were examples of this. The commitment to treating potential new employees fairly, even before they have signed a contract. The courage and integrity to give feedback face to face, and not to hide behind an automatic reply. The fact that all the candidates had been selected for the assessment centre not necessarily because of their CV or educational background, but because of their mindset, values, and ability to get along with people. This combined with stories of skiing all winter, hiking all summer, and living somewhere so incredibly beautiful (read: good for the Instagram feed) clinched it for me. Walking into day two of the assessment centre I had already decided to take any offer that came along.
So, is all this true then, ‘The Hilti Way’? Every company claims a similar thing during the recruiting process, after all.
Well, I’ve been part of the Outperformer program for over half a year now, working on my first assignment as a Project Manager for Business Unit Power Tools and Accessories, and my answer would be an emphatic yes.
For me it comes down to a matter of trust. Every Monday, I come into work and a set my own agenda, based on the goals I need to achieve with various project teams in the next five days. I meet with my boss for an update once a week but otherwise I am left to get on with it, treated like I have been doing the job five years, not five months. At the same time, when I do need support I have it, whether from my boss, my immediate peer group in the project management team, or even from the head of project management himself.
Even as the youngest and by far the least experienced project manager on the team, I have found throughout that my input is valued, and I have been able to voice my opinions just as clearly as more experienced colleagues. Being in the first rotation for over a year gives a lot of time to develop meaningful relationships and find your own place within the team. Trust, open discussions, and the gentle guidance I have received from my colleagues in improving my work mean I come into the office every day with a sense of satisfaction, and feeling like I add value.
I will be in this current job until around April 2018. After that? Who knows! The discussions start in a couple of months’ time around what my next placement will be, but currently it seems the sky is the limit. The technical track doesn’t just mean technical work, and nothing is decided until you know yourself what kind of work would be interesting and enjoyable. Until then, it’s time to enjoy my first summer in the alps, hike up a few mountains, and carry on living the dream in the ‘Happy Valley’. I don’t think it’ll be too tough….