Next career step: Mercedes-Benz Digital Factory Campus - training as a Junior Software Developer

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In her first 17 years at Mercedes-Benz, Sandra Büchler worked as a supplier developer at the Berlin plant, ensuring that required parts were available in time for vehicle production. As a participant in the Berlin pilot project "Digital Pioneers", which is also being rolled out at other Mercedes-Benz locations, she is currently starting a new chapter in her career: she is training to become a Junior Software Developer. Going forward, programming with Java Script and questions relating to data analysis will determine her everyday work. A conversation about willingness to learn, transformation, teamwork and about what software is still missing in Sandra Büchler's life.

Hello Ms Büchler, you joined Mercedes-Benz in 2003 to train as an industrial management assistant. Why did you decide to join the company back then?

Mercedes-Benz offered good prospects and job security as an employer. In fact, working for Mercedes had always been my dream, right from the very early days. I had actually already signed a training contract with another company to become an IT systems administrator when I received the acceptance letter from Mercedes. It was like winning the lottery!

After your training, you then started with your first job in logistics - how did you get into that?

Admittedly, logistics was not on my radar at first. But once I started, I didn't want to leave logistics! The main reason for this, apart from the really interesting tasks, was the team of colleagues with whom I was lucky enough to work. For me, it has always been important that the teamwork and the atmosphere are right. For the first ten years, I therefore enthusiastically organised our annual private team trips to the Baltic Sea.

How does your team look like?

We are a team with many different backgrounds. Some, like me, have trained as industrial management assistants, while others are graduates or have a background in production. I have benefited enormously from all these different perspectives as my career has developed.

The plant has to change, and for me it was clear that I also have to change. It's also important to be ready to learn something new, even after almost 20 years. I want to be involved as the plant goes through this process of transformation, and see how we can achieve this together.

After 15 years as a supplier developer, you are now one of the first participants in the new "Digital Pioneers" project at Mercedes-Benz. You are now training to become a Junior Software Developer. How keen are you to learn new things in this field?

Electric mobility and digitalisation are key topics in our company. This transformation is having a huge impact on our location as a production plant for components and engines for internal combustion models. So the plant has to change, and for me it was clear that I also want to change. It's important to be ready to learn something new, even after almost 20 years. I want to be involved as the plant goes through this process of transformation, and see how we can achieve this together. This is completely new territory for me, and I'm one of the few in the programme who had no previous knowledge. Without being open to new ideas and having the will, you couldn't do it.

What was the selection procedure?

I took part in a "Digital Challenge", which involved answering 15 questions on digital topics in English. Basic IT knowledge was not required. I found out soon afterwards that I had completed the Challenge successfully. In a personal interview, I was asked about my current English skills and my motivation for this in-service training. A really large number of employees applied for it. All in all, several hundred of my Berlin colleagues took part in the Challenge. In the end, eleven participants were selected, including me, and we're the first to follow this programme. We come from a wide range of professional backgrounds, but above all from the production sector. In the meantime, there is already a second group of future Junior Software Developers in Berlin. I'm sure there will be more to come.

You started in November 2021. How is the training integrated into your daily work?

We are given two days off per week for the project, and since the training takes place online, you can be flexible about how you arrange your learning time and where you do it. At the beginning, everyone in the team naturally had to adjust to being released from day-to-day operations. Since then, our team has received reinforcements and I can concentrate fully on the training. But some challenges always remain, of course. We discuss these in our weekly "pioneer rounds" in order to pass on our experience and pave the way for the next group.

And how is the learning organised?

After each lesson, knowledge is tested by working on and submitting a project assignment. After the first training block, there was a "Digital Challenge 2.0". This involved testing the skills acquired in order to assess the level of qualification and identify the learning content for further in-depth training. We then moved on to specialisation - either as a front-end developer or full-stack developer. I decided on the front end, in other words the part of a website or app that is visible to the user. In addition to theory, the programme also includes practical assignments. For this purpose, the Mercedes-Benz Group uses small assignments or ongoing projects, which we join as a way of consolidating the skills we have learned. In total, there are between 290 and 330 hours of online learning in English. In the beginning, I had to translate a lot of the words for myself, as I was not familiar with the English technical terms used in programming. This is gradually becoming less necessary. Given that all the coding is in English, and that many software development teams are multicultural, English makes perfect sense. I also noticed this during my two-week internship with our software developer MBition.

Sandra Büchler, here as a trainee at MBition, is one of the first participants in the Pioneers Programme at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Berlin on the home stretch of her training as a junior software developer.

What does the day-to-day work of a software developer look like in practice?

During my internship at MBition, I noticed that the daily working routine is definitely different from my previous one: a daily scrum meeting is held with the scrum master, the product owner and the development team, the so-called "Daily", during which work statuses are discussed in a general exchange between the team members. MBition also practises desk-sharing. This means that you don't have a permanently assigned workplace, but choose your place every morning. I wasn’t familiar with this before, but I think it's a great concept. It means that you can choose your workplace depending on the particular tasks for that day - for example, next to certain colleagues or in a quieter place for concentrated work. The 200 or so teams at MBition are very international, the employees come from 60 different nations, communication is mainly in English and we all practise agile working according to the scrum method. There are no classic hierarchies at MBition; instead, the teams work together in an interdisciplinary and self-organised manner that is very respectful and appreciative. Before I worked there, I thought that software companies just did programming all day long. I now realise that a large part of the work is actually communication. There are many regular meetings to encourage the sharing of ideas: What does the client have in mind? How exactly should we proceed? The result must then be there within a two-week sprint. Programming is often done in pairs, and the transfer of knowledge plays a major role.

When will you be finished, and what happens after that?

I'm now in the last training block, and will probably finish in August. The aim is to then be taken on as a Junior Software Developer at the Mercedes-Benz Digital Factory Campus - that's the new centre of competence for digitalisation in the global Mercedes-Benz production network. I could imagine, for example, taking on the role of scrum master, because I'm a very communicative person and like to exchange ideas with others.

What does a scrum master do?

The scrum master is responsible for the scrum process and its correct implementation. He or she mediates and provides support between the different roles. I was especially inspired by one particular scrum master at MBition, who knows just so much about agile methods. She showed us that good team output is first and foremost a matter of finding out what motivates the individual employee. I've always been passionate about team-building, so I think the role of scrum master would suit me down to the ground!

Whether in the home office or on site in the future Mercedes-Benz Digital Factory Campus - a good cooperation in the team is for Sandra Büchler crucial for the joy of the job.

That means leaving your familiar logistics team behind.

Yes, and that's not easy for me after all these years, as I've grown very fond of my colleagues. But now it's time to find my place within a new group. However, I can say with some certainty that the eleven pioneers, all somewhere between their early twenties and mid-forties, of whom I'm one, are a great bunch. If I were to find myself working with any of them later on, that would be a great basis for a good team again. And of course I'll organise team trip again (laughs)!

Could your new skills also benefit supplier logistics?

That's a very good question. I think so. At the Digital Factory Campus, we want to develop apps within the digital Mercedes-Benz production ecosystem MO360 in order to improve our processes, for example. There are already some digital developments in logistics and production, such as the Shopfloor Board, where information is exchanged and visualised across departments. I can imagine that we as software developers could also be of help to logistics in the future.

Is there any software lacking in your life that you would like to see developed?

For the organisation of my private life, I would welcome something that improves my time management, to help balance family, job and training better. A software for that would help me a lot (laughs).

Good team spirit was already important for Sandra Büchler (38) during her training as an industrial management assistant in 2003, for which her mother was the driving force. She therefore enjoyed the team trips with the other vocational trainees, and also became involved as a youth and trainee representative. When the Berlin native moved to Hohen-Neuendorf, out in the countryside to the northwest of Berlin, eight years ago, her commute to the Mercedes-Benz plant in Berlin became a long one. Hybrid working is a great advantage for the family of three, who created a large office so that they could all work undisturbed under one roof, including their four-year-old son. For her future job as a Junior Software Developer, she will use the mix of working from home and working on site at the Mercedes-Benz Digital Factory Campus to create what is close to her heart: a great team. And Sundays spent gardening at home will help her to find the perfect balance between job, family and training.