Employee story

“A friend in need is a friend indeed"

Chanda Pathak
Corporate Services & Business Administration

An expat, a great talker, a brilliant “best in class” businesswoman, a fun-lover, a thinking woman of action, a young mother, a digital hotshot – yes, Chandamita Pathak (Chanda to her friends) from India is all this and more. When the COVID-19 pandemic went global in March 2020, it had a huge impact on her, her work and her family. Fortunately, she could count on two certainties: her GEA colleagues who are also close friends and – no surprise there – the digital solutions that she has been working so hard on for years.

My smile is my biggest asset

“I grew up in Assam, in north-east India, and went to a Christian missionary school that placed great emphasis on respect and openness towards other cultures. My family also nurtured my strong interest in science. When I was 18, we moved to the southern part of the country, where I did a Bachelor’s degree in engineering. I then decided to do a Master’s degree in the States. I have a particular fascination with management, so I opted for management strategy, finance and marketing. I funded my own MBA in Texas by taking on various technical jobs. During the final semester – that was in 2012 – I ended up at GEA Farm Technologies in Wisconsin. I learned a huge amount and stayed there for two and a half years. You know, I was the youngest member of a team with an average age of 45 and the only international employee. My manager was based in Germany, but I had a mentor in the US. I never once felt like a newcomer or an outsider. That was down to the people I worked with, but my own attitude also helped, as I was always open, inquisitive and sociable. They sometimes used to joke that my biggest asset was my smile (laughs), but there’s a grain of truth in that. In mid-2014 I transferred to Bönen (Germany) to work on a strategic project in the global heart of GEA Farm Technologies, where I was not only able to continue my professional development but also met GEA colleagues who have since become very good friends of mine. And because I’m so passionate about projects and the energy they unleash in people, I was asked to become project manager of a team whose members came from every continent. I really enjoyed that and it worked out great.” (laughs)

Not sympathy but empathy

“In 2017, when GEA asked me to lead a ‘sprint project’ for digital transformation – I was the only woman and one of the youngest employees involved – I was not only motivated but also very honored. I love the start-up mentality on this type of project, where we try to get the best out of teams in such far-flung countries as Sweden, Germany, India and China. With all of us being in different time zones, that meant we literally worked around the clock, but we achieved some great results in innovative, unexplored territory. 

I never once felt like a newcomer or an outsider.

In 2019 I went on maternity leave. I gave birth to my son in Germany and returned to my home country of India when he was six months old, but stayed on top of what was happening in the digital projects I find so fascinating. In 2020 I went back to Germany, where I helped my team to shape the new GEA Digital Solutions Department as Digital Solutions Manager. But then my husband was offered a new job in India, so I talked to my manager about us moving there as a family. He told me that he really valued my work and my personal qualities and was willing to give me the opportunity. So, together with the GEA Mobility Department in Düsseldorf and the HR in India, we planned my relocation for the end of April 2020 so that I could continue working for GEA from India. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changed many aspects of our lives and presented new challenges, but we were able to continue providing support to our customers and making sure their business kept running.

“But then COVID-19 suddenly hit hard. It was a real nightmare for our family: my husband had to rush off on one of the last international flights to India with our 14-month-old son and I stayed behind alone in Germany. The final arrangements for our move to India still had to be made: I had to sell our car and vacate our rented apartment with all our furniture, sort out all the documentation, arrange my employment contract for India, and so on. You can imagine it was a sad parting, and my son wasn’t the only one in tears. But it’s at times of crisis that you also find out who you can rely on: my GEA family. They had often been there for me and once again, when I needed them so badly, they were ready and willing to help. For example, driving my husband and son at 3 a.m. from Germany to the Netherlands so they could catch their flight to India, or offering me a place to stay for two and a half months and cooking for me every day because I didn’t have a home in Germany anymore. That goes so much further than being a good colleague. That’s real friendship – not sympathy but empathy.”

Digital connection

“It was a very tough time for me, but I couldn’t show how much I was hurting. Not when the only way I could communicate with my young son on the other side of the world was electronically and I could see him gradually slipping away from me. Nor when my team needed me as digital tools became more important than ever for everyone. I got a lot of support from my manager and friends, but I also realized that the digital solutions we had put everything into over the years were really paying off. Wherever I was – whether staying with friends in Germany, hanging about at an airport somewhere in the world or in a hotel, or when I went back to India at the end of May and had to self-isolate for 28 days, 14 in Delhi and another 14 in Assam – I was able to connect. And work went just as smoothly as if I were in the office.

The digital solutions we’ve put everything into over the years are really paying off.

Everything – and everyone – was easily accessible, which is something we’d worked so hard to achieve. And our customers also discovered that GEA is ready for a world where everything revolves around digital solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic changed many aspects of our lives and presented new challenges, but we were able to continue providing support to our customers and making sure their business kept running. Digitalization at GEA has proved – now more than ever before – that we are relevant. And thanks to the innovative projects we work on every day, we will continue to be relevant long into the future. I’m so proud to be part of that.

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GEA oferuje wiele możliwości rozwijania kariery w branży inżynierii mechanicznej. Ponadto proponujemy także praktyki oraz studia dwutorowe.
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