Career at Zapp
Kirstin Koch - Einsatz im Ausland

It was just like coming home. After completing her apprenticeship at Ergste in Germany, Kirstin Koch embarked on a career with Zapp, first working in distribution at Ergste and then transferring to Stratford in the USA for two years. From there, she moved to Berlin for personal reasons, changing employer because there was no Zapp subsidiary in the area. Now she is back working for Zapp in Stratford, but this time with an American contract. We caught up with her at her old and new place of work.

Hotwire (HW): Have you settled in now?
Kirstin Koch (KK): It wasn't that difficult. I have only been away for a year, and during that time I never lost touch with my colleagues here. Last June/July when Byron Ress asked me whether I would consider coming back, I didn't have to think twice. Shortly after that, I got a phone call from Dr. Greiner and then everything moved pretty fast.

HW: But with an American contract and not a German one like last time.
KK: Yes, from an emotional point of view, that did make a difference; it somehow seemed so final. My parents and friends certainly felt that way. On the other hand, Zapp is a German company operating on an international scale. From a purely rational perspective, this means that it doesn’t make any difference whether I have a German contract or an American one. And in this age of the internet and social networking sites, it is not difficult to stay in contact with friends and family in Germany, even if it's clear that you’ll only see each other once a year.

HW: What does your job in Stratford involve?
KK: In addition to site-specific duties for the office in Stratford, I now also have responsibilities across the various sites. For example, I coordinate the orders from the different Service Centers (SC) to production in Dartmouth. The idea is to avoid a trickle of small orders coming in over the year. If one particular SC needs a certain product, I will try to pool the requirements of the different SCs. This saves on both costs and logistics in Dartmouth.

HW: But when you moved back to the USA, you didn't go straight back to Stratford.
KK: No, I was asked if I would initially help out with setting up the new Service Center of the Tooling Alloy division in Chicago. For one thing, because I was involved in setting up the subsidiary in Stratford during my first stay in America, for another, because I am well versed in SAP which meant I could train up new colleagues, and not least because I am German. If there were any queries, for example, it was simpler for me to phone my SAP colleagues in Schwerte.
On the other hand, it was a real challenge for me in Chicago, as I had to get to grips with – what was for me – a completely new product range. But I think as a team we successfully accomplished our task.

HW: What was the feedback from your colleagues in Chicago?
KK: I believe they were happy that I spent a lengthy period helping out there. It was simply different from when I am there for a short time to do SAP training and go back to work at another site afterwards. It meant that we could set up the new office together and establish all the processes over a longer period of time. For me, it was certainly of benefit that I now know a lot of people at Zapp. After all, in the time since 2002, I have done my training at Zapp, worked in distribution and have been to many of the sites. There comes a point when you understand the processes in a company like Zapp really well and always know who to contact if you have any questions.

HW: What attracted you to the job in the USA?
KK: The reason I moved back to Stratford is certainly related to the fact that I feel really comfortable in the team here. It has much less to do with it being an American site. Furthermore, it’s a small site and you’re responsible for lots of different things and need to be able to work more flexibly than in larger establishments. I am also delighted that I am the contact for all my colleagues in Service Centers and offices throughout the whole of the USA.

HW: So you’re a sort of troubleshooter?
KK: Oh, I wouldn't put it that way, but if a real emergency situation arises, I step in. At smaller sites in particular, holidays or sickness can often cause a shortfall in manpower. And if new colleagues need training on SAP, I’m available. At larger sites, employees help each other out; here things are sorted out between sites. Some things I can do from Stratford, but sometimes I go to other sites for a period of time.

HW: What is the greatest difference between the USA and Germany?
KK: From a professional point of view, it is without doubt the fact that here everyone uses first names – even customers. You are introduced by your first name and surname, but after that, your surname is never used in conversation. This doesn't mean that that we have any less respect for one another. A boss is of course the person who is in charge, even if I call them by their first name. That said, it does create a different atmosphere in the office. In my private life it has really helped that I like playing volleyball. This meant that I quickly got to know people and made friends. It is just the same as in Germany: a shared interest brings people together.

HW: Thank you for talking to us.

Interview with Kirstin Koch, ZPS, USA