The question I get asked most often, after “what was it like?” is “did you learn any German?”
I thought I would share some impressions of what we’ve internally dubbed the Great Lam Exchange, wherein my colleague (and good friend), Jochen Lam, and I swapped lives for 5 months.
During this seemingly short time, I must admit that I developed as much personally as I did professionally. Working on German projects not only challenged me to contribute to a different workflow than I was used to for North American projects, but also gave me a chance to engage with a brilliant group of engineers and designers who approached problem-solving in ways that were new and refreshing to me. And, of course, an honorable mention must go to the Metric System – how wonderful it was to move from centimeters to meters with a mere scoot of a decimal…
While my German language capabilities only improved to being able to confidently order food (and not have it be a surprise when it arrives) and asking for directions (but still getting lost!), I like to think that I have returned with a newfound skill for working organically. A common misconception is that a German company must operate in a highly structured fashion and my brief liaison with the Stuttgart office proves otherwise – on a daily basis I was tackling unplanned obstacles and doing so with tight turn-around times, requiring me to think on my feet and be creative with my solutions.
But by far, the most indelible parts of my time in Stuttgart are the moments spent with my colleagues over a big glass of Hefeweizen!