Employee story

Wherever you are, you have to find your voice and your identity

Debora Souza

Debora Souza, Sales & Process Manager at GEA Wiegand in Ettlingen, Germany, has spent her entire career at GEA. In an era of job jumping and career U-turns, Debora has stayed the course, from starting as an intern at GEA Brazil in 2011 to today in Germany, where she works at GEA’s Center of Competence for Evaporation. Debora found her feet in her new home country – while maintaining connections back home – by joining several GEA Female Network circles: the “Female Engineers in Brazil”, “Women in Germany” and the “Women living abroad.”

A cross-cultural opportunity
I was actually doing quite similar work in Brazil at the end of 2022 when I decided to transfer to Germany. The move was prompted by my desire to work at GEA’s Center of Competence for Evaporation in Ettlingen. This is where most of the product development for evaporation takes place. In Brazil I was working at a region and country level with different technologies, and primarily involved in support and execution. Over time, I found that I wanted to be engaged in the definition stage of our core evaporation technologies. I realized that I enjoy being at the center of things where development decisions are made.

It was while preparing for my annual performance and development meeting with my manager that I began to seriously think about my future and where I was headed at GEA; and more importantly, where I wanted to be. My goal was to specialize in evaporation and therefore it became clear I would need to go to Germany. I knew this decision would push me on a professional and a personal level.
Building a support network
In a new country, everything that was quite easy at home, is suddenly more challenging, especially if you are used to having support from friends or family; just the basics, like opening a bank account, looking for an apartment – this move has been a real reset in my life. And then of course there is the language hurdle. However, I am taking German classes.

I'm also in three women’s networks at GEA. Each meets once a month. It has proved very helpful to have these support groups, which are also great for getting to know more people within GEA. Female engineers and women in STEM fields still face challenges, so it is good that GEA recognizes this and seeks to empower its female employees.
Overcoming challenges together
Women in our field still face some challenges – irrespective of geography or seniority. Sadly, some prejudices and underlying restrictions are quite pervasive, therefore coming together in these female networks, which include women with diverse experiences and skills, is very helpful. For example, just feeling empowered to step up and speak up in mixed settings is a challenge for many women. Also, finding the right work-life balance and not creating such a hard break between our work and home life, is another challenge that women in particular still face. 
You need to discover who you are and what you want before you can give this to the world.

I’ve learned a lot from my co-workers and my experiences over the years. This includes not overthinking every decision; getting over the fear of speaking up in meetings and not worrying so much about how one is perceived by others. Another is getting over the myth of perfectionism.

Although I am seldom in the field today, in Brazil I used to conduct plant commissioning and make regular visits during plant assembly. These are situations that helped me grow a lot at GEA. For example, I learned how to carry myself in a male-dominated work environment and how to speak with authority. Today, I am the only woman in my team, so I can draw on these learnings. Wherever you are in the world, you have to find your voice, your identity and your reality. You need to discover who you are and what you want before you can give this to the world.

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GEA offre des possibilités de carrière diversifiées dans le secteur du génie mécanique. Des formules d’apprentissage et en alternance sont également proposées.
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