“ ... gives you a different perspective on your own culture.”

Max Orthey from Cologne, Germany, is in his last year of training. He talks to us about what aspects of an assignment with Team works! in Africa would appeal to him most, what he would ask his colleagues at the host enterprise and what his family and employer would think of Team works!

Max Orthey

Max Orthey, *1999 in Cologne, Germany. Third-year chemical laboratory assistant trainee, will complete his training in the summer of 2021.

The interview

Max, why are you interested in an exchange programme with an African country?

I’m very interested in other cultures and people. When I was 11, my family and I moved to São Paulo, Brazil, for three years, which was definitely a valuable experience for me. That’s why I’m always happy about great opportunities like this and I try to make use of them. I think it’s important to get to know other cultures because it gives you a different perspective on your own culture.

What aspects of an assignment in an African country would appeal to you most?

I’m particularly interested in people’s mentalities. I’d like to see how people behave towards each other and how they approach their work. I’ve noticed that lots of people in Germany are very negative in what they say about their work. It seems to me that many people really do go to work just to earn money. I wonder whether it’s the same in African countries. The social component also interests me greatly of course, the question of what impression people make on me and what impression I make on them.

If you were to tell your family, friends or your boss that you’d like to take part in Team works!, what would they say?

My family and friends totally support me. They’d all be really happy if it worked out. I haven’t spoken to my boss about it yet but I’m sure that he’d be supportive too. Our corporate culture at work is very open. And it would be a good advertisement for his business – not every firm can claim to be involved in this type of project.

 

I’m particularly interested in people’s mentalities. I’d like to see how people behave towards each other and how they approach their work.

If you could design your ideal assignment, what hopes and expectations would you have vis-á-vis your colleagues there?

I’d hope for colleagues who are very open and interested in my assignment and our opportunity to learn from one another. And I’d hope that we would get on well.

What would you like to bring back to Germany?

I’d like to discover another culture. Perhaps the things I experience during the assignment might give me new ideas about my own future personal development. On top of that, I’d be supported by an SES expert – a person with a great deal of experience, from whom I could hopefully learn a lot because they’ve already been through the same things. And, of course, I would hope that I could have some sort of impact during my short assignment. That I could take what I’ve learned during my training in Germany to perhaps provide support or share knowledge with my colleagues in the host enterprise. It would be very important to me to make some sort of small contribution and not just benefit from the assignment myself.

What would make your assignment a success in your eyes?

It would be nice if I could take something away for myself. If I experienced situations that led me to take different decisions or even behave differently later on in life than I would have done if I hadn’t experienced them. And it would be great if I could leave something behind in Africa. For example, if I could show somebody something they could do differently in their lab. If that person, having discussed the situation with me from colleague to colleague, were glad to have discovered and grasped a different solution to the problem. I would consider that a success.

In addition, I could share my work-related experiences with my employer back in Germany. So, if I learned during my assignment that my African colleagues had devised other, creative solutions for lab problems, I could take that knowledge and incorporate it at my workplace. After all, there are bound to be things that the African enterprise does better than us.

Why are you so keen to get involved?

Africa is our neighbouring continent and the Youth Office can connect the young generations. If I get to know other young people during my assignment, for example, that will result in personal relationships, creating a direct link between myself and the issues that concern the people I meet. It’s great that the German government wants to facilitate these types of exchange. I’m grateful for this opportunity and look forward to participating in the programme.