Where good tools and precision drawings go hand in hand.
While Serenat Fleischer's passion for cars led her to pursue a career as a mechanical design engineer, it was an interest in metalworking in Tijana Basic's case. Serenat is an aspiring industrial foreperson in metalworking at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen, and Tijana started a vocational training there a year ago. We spoke to them both to find out what inspires them, what it is like working with each other and which hobbies help them with their jobs.
Hi Tijana, hi Serenat. Tijana, you are in your first year of training as a mechanical design engineer at Mercedes-Benz. Why did you choose this profession?
When I came to Germany from my home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina in late 2017, I first went to high school and then spent two years at a post-secondary technical college. That was where I first got the chance to work with metal. I really enjoyed it, which is why I started to look for training courses in that area. I have several family members who work at Mercedes-Benz. I heard nothing but good things from them about their employer, so I applied for a trainee position. From the job interview, I could tell that I had made the right decision.
Serenat, you are a specialist instructor for mechanical design engineers. What kind of work does someone in this skilled occupation do?
We carry out metalworking and give the car its shape by machining sheet metal. We use various types of machinery for sheet forming, including bending brakes and power formers, and use a range of welding methods such as oxyacetylene welding and MAG (metal active gas) welding.
You finished your own training as a mechanical design engineer less than four years ago. When did you realise that you would also enjoy training others?
That became clear to me during my own training. I have always liked passing knowledge on and I enjoy working with people. The training was a lot of fun, and I was often able to help my fellow students with questions. Helping others felt good. I have also supervised pupils during their internships.
Turning, milling, welding – in your line of work, it is all about sheet metal machining, and precision is required at every step of the way. Is it more important to have a clear design drawing or a good tool, Serenat?
Both are important – the two go hand in hand. If you don't have a good tool, then even the best drawing is of no use. If your lathe tool hasn't been properly sharpened for turning, you won't get a good surface. At the same time, if your drawing is imprecise, the parts won't fit together.
You both enjoy drawing in your free time. Is that an essential prerequisite for this job?
Tijana: I think so, because when you draw, you need to be precise and think about proportions. In my opinion, already being used to doing that helps me with this job.
Serenat: It definitely helps. Drawing also helps to train your spatial visualisation skills. That makes it easier to tell how a drawing is structured or what it looks like from a different viewpoint. But it's not a requirement. In my training group, there were also people who couldn't draw but were still very good.
Tijana, what have you enjoyed most about the training so far?
The turning course and the courses in oxyacetylene and metal active gas (MAG) welding have been the most fun for me so far. I really like working on machines such as the pillar drill and with welding equipment.
And how did you get started as a trainee?
It was something completely new for me. On the Open Day, I found out that I would be the only girl in a group of twelve mechanical design engineers. I was excited, but also nervous. Once the training began, being the only girl wasn't a problem for me. We all got on well right from day one.
Serenat, how was your training at Mercedes-Benz?
We got on really well in our training group as well. We often had interesting complementary projects such as "Let's get professional!", which was about organising the end-of-course celebrations for the trainees. I particularly enjoyed working in project groups because it was an opportunity to meet other people who share the same interests. It also gave me the chance for some personal development as a result of various assignments such as organising and leading group sessions. I used to be very nervous when speaking in public. The project work helped me overcome that fear.
And how did your early days as an instructor go?
It felt like a pilot project. It took only two years after my own training, when I worked as a junior craftsperson in body-in-white special protection, before I was back there as an instructor [laughs]. Once I'd finished my training, my training foreperson asked me whether I fancied sitting in on some sessions at the training department. I did that for three months. During that time, he left the role and there was a vacancy. I applied for it immediately and got through to the shortlist for the selection process, where I managed to win over the recruiters with my presentation. The condition was that I had to train as a foreperson. I'm in the middle of that now.
You have been working towards your qualification as an industrial foreperson in metalworking since 2021. How extensive is this in-service training?
It takes about two and a half years. I attend foreperson lessons from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 or 7:30 p.m., depending on the subject, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Sometimes I have lessons on Saturdays as well. I've already completed my first five exams. After a full day of working and then training, I am sometimes very tired. But I'm only a few months away from finishing the advanced training, and I'm really happy to have had this experience.
Tijana, what do you particularly value about your training at Mercedes-Benz?
The fact that Mercedes-Benz offers me a secure future once my training is complete and the opportunity to work with helpful colleagues and other trainees. I also like that I can choose some of my free days for myself to balance things out.
How can we picture your cooperation at work?
Tijana: My managers share their knowledge with me and help me with problems. That's great. For example, our instructor is teaching me the various steps involved in using the machinery. She is also there for me when I need help. At our regular “development dialogue” meetings, where we discuss my development, she gives me constructive feedback on my performance and I give my own assessment of how I think I'm getting on as well.
Serenat: The development feedback meetings help to determine where trainees' strengths lie and where they have room to learn more. They are also an opportunity to formulate SMART goals for further development. SMART stands for "specific", "measurable", "assignable", "realistic" and "time-related". At the end, she can give her own feedback on me and the relevant section of the training. Feedback is not a one-way street. And it's clear that I can help only if I know there's a problem. Communication is therefore absolutely essential in our cooperation.
One last question: who or what inspires you?
Serenat: In general, I am inspired by people who, despite finding themselves in situations that appear hopeless, don't give up and instead pursue their goals. But in particular, my training foreperson inspired me both professionally and as a person. He has a very helpful manner, is a great person and he did his job so well!
Tijana: I know that I have already learnt a lot, but my instructor inspires me a great deal. Her journey is a great example to me, and maybe I'll follow in her footsteps once I've finished my training. At the same time, my family is always there for me to give me support and push me on, which really motivates me.
Before Tijana Basic began her training at Mercedes-Benz, cars did not play much of a role in her life. In fact, she was more interested in her hobby of folk dancing. Today, the budding mechanical design engineer would most like to drive a Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé. She left her home in Bosnia and Herzegovina with her parents and four sisters in 2017, partly to take advantage of the better opportunities for education available in Germany. She has now made Sindelfingen her home, and likes to spend her free time out and about in nature or going to the gym. She does not yet know exactly whether she will take foreperson lessons after her training or whether she will begin a degree combining mechanical design engineering and design.
From an early age, Serenat Fleischer took an interest in helping her father tinker with the family car. When it comes to driving, the aspiring industrial foreperson in metalworking likes to put her foot down. When she's not exploring the Black Forest on motorcycle rides with her father, she dreams of one day having a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT parked outside her front door in Aidlingen. At the weekends, Serenat likes to cook exotic dishes with friends, and hopes to visit Asia one day. First, though, a trip to Greece with friends is on her agenda.