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My placement year with John Deere in Germany

Posted 3 May

Living in Germany and working at John Deere has been an experience of a lifetime and I'd like to thank Harper Adams and John Deere for the life changing experience that it has been.

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Matthew Gilbert is this year's W. D. Morrow scholar. To be eligible for the award, Irish students are required to write a 750 word article describing their impressions and experience of their life in a foreign country.

This is Matthew's article...

At the beginning of last year, I was thrilled to be awarded with the opportunity to join the marketing department at John Deere Werke Mannheim, Germany for one year undertaking the role of an intern within a busy and forward-thinking work environment. My placement commenced soon after the completion of second year at Harper Adams University, where I'm studying BSc Agriculture with Mechanisation, and from the onset I haven’t looked back.

I arrived to start my placement during the peak heat of the summer in July 2015, and was rather relieved to find that although my apartment was not air-conditioned, my office building was. This was something which made working at the office all the more enticing in the extreme forty-degree weather; quite a good thing too for the reason being that shorts don’t quite fit to the male dress policy at John Deere.

Generally, most of my days at John Deere involve me being desk-bound where I produce documentation regarding the marketing of machines, namely the 6R, 6M, and the 6MC/RC tractor ranges which are built in the Mannheim factory, and also for the John Deere front loaders which are attached to the aforementioned tractor ranges plus more. Although, occasionally there are business trips which take me out of the office every so often which helps to add some variety to the daily routine.

Throughout my time on placement, I’ve been exposed to what could be accurately described as the front line of John Deere product marketing, something which has been a very fascinating and eye opening experience, from which I’ve learnt a great deal. In addition, working at John Deere has provided me with the exceptional opportunity to integrate alongside industry experts, a great learning and training experience which I feel has provided me with an invaluable insight into the functioning of internal company processes and the general structure of a first-class global business.

Coming from a country where it’s more common than not that people speak only English, one of the most inspiring things in Germany is the number of people who are bilingual, with it not being uncommon to come across people who can speak three or more languages to some degree. Fortunately, as John Deere is an American company, whilst at work the common language for all employees in my department is English, a critical factor for me who was someone without even a basic knowledge of the German language when I started last July.

I’ve made it a personal goal to try to learn to speak German, and I find it very rewarding as I progress and get better. Ironically though, when attempting to speak the language most Germans realise I’m not native and reply in fluent English, wanting to take advantage of my English skills in order to improve theirs, and I’m the one in the foreign country!

Apart from work, my different lifestyle in Germany has been just as much of a great experience as working with John Deere, and I thoroughly enjoy having the opportunity to explore the beautiful old cities and the breath-taking scenery which surrounds me.

Another one of the privileges of living abroad for one year whilst on placement has been to experience the German culture, and to enjoy many of the local and national events which are specific to the country whilst I’m here. As well as the well-known Oktoberfest, there have also been some amazing local festivals and markets throughout the region to attend which have been very entertaining, and with the mountains of the Black Forest only two hours away, I've been able to enjoy some brilliant time away skiing.

However, one of my favourite experiences to date from during my time living in Germany is undoubtedly the visit I made to Agritechnica in Hannover in November last year. Being a self-confessed machinery enthusiast, having the chance to attend the world’s largest agricultural machinery show was something that I’d wanted to do for years, it was an incredible event which exceeded my expectations and was definitely worth the journey. Agritechnica is an event of enormous scale, and the number of manufacturers in attendance is extraordinary. It is certain that if you are in the market to buy a machine for your farm business of any description that you will be able to find at least one manufacturer that supplies it at Agritechnica.

Overall, living in Germany and working at John Deere has been an experience of a lifetime and I'd like to thank Harper Adams and John Deere for the life changing experience that it has been.