Seven years ago, Henrik Boettner (Germany) gained his PhD in physics. Together with 8 other recent graduates, he joined a OneGEA Graduate Program in Düsseldorf. Henrik looks back on the experience.

Curious at heart

 “I’m a very curious person and always wanted to know how things work, so studying physics was a logical choice for me,” says Henrik. “After I graduated from university, I had interviews with a few companies, but then heard about GEA from a friend. At the time they were looking for someone to join their Dairy Farming team. During the interview I really hit it off with the people there and was also fascinated by GEA’s high-tech milking equipment. I was brought up in the Ruhr Area and had of course seen cows grazing in the fields, but I hadn’t a clue how advanced the technology behind it all was.  My curiosity was piqued and after a second interview, I started on a Graduate Program at GEA in October 2011. I learned about each of GEA’s areas of expertise but, being fascinated by the broad spectrum of technologies, I’m still working in Dairy Farming after seven years.” 

We got the chance to sample all the different fields GEA works in – and there are quite a few!

Chicken McNuggets and lollipops

“I know that some companies set up this kind of program as a cost-saving exercise and to enable them to fill jobs cheaply, but that’s not the case at all with GEA. A fantastic 18-month program had been put together for me and my fellow trainees. We got the chance to sample all the different fields GEA works in – and there are quite a few! I found such a multidisciplinary and international approach particularly rewarding – I’d do it again any day. It’s actually ideal for someone just starting out in their career, someone who already has sound basic skills but doesn’t know exactly how they might put their talents to best use. The fact that you can do it with people who’re all in the same boat makes it even more interesting. We had ‘trainees around the table’ meetings on a regular basis, which were a useful opportunity to talk about work and about life in general.

“I have a lot of nice memories from those days. I remember one trip to Bakel in the Netherlands, where we were able to sample Chicken McNuggets straight off the production line. Absolutely delicious! Or that time we went to Weert in the Netherlands to take a look at a lollipop wrapping machine. We were all really impressed by the speed and precision with which such a machine works. And when we left, we were given a busload of lollipops to take away with us. Even now, six years later, we still occasionally come across one at home.”

“As Head of Farm System Solutions, I’m now leading a team of more than 30 people, including several students, and can give them the same opportunities I’ve had, which is something that makes me really happy

Master of my own development

Do you know what I found so special about the program? You get a good idea of what GEA is capable of and what it does, but you also find out exactly where your own interests lie and what role you can play in the bigger picture. And of course it’s great to go on an adventure like that with your peers, people you can talk to and share experiences with. But the best thing for me was how much control you have over your own personal journey: a path is traced out, but you can shape your own itinerary. Everyone is open-minded and open-hearted and you’re welcome to say where you feel most comfortable and what direction you want to take. For me, it was R&D for Dairy Farming. When I see that my ideas have been used in the DairyProQ and Monobox automated milking systems and that it has a positive impact on the lives of farmers and their cows all over the world, that gives me an incredible sense of satisfaction. And, as Head of Farm System Solutions, I’m now leading a team of more than 30 people, including several students, and can give them the same opportunities I’ve had, which is something that makes me really happy.”