In 1996 I spent 12 months as an international management trainee in the Mercedes-Benz “Nachwuchsgruppe”. We were a group of 12 ambitious young men and women who during the course of one year were allowed to do 3-4 months projects at Mercedes-Benz/Daimler plants and offices all over the world. Even though we did not see each other much (most were not at headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany) we became pretty good friends during the year. We used a predecessor to regular email to keep in touch when we were abroad and every 3 months we all had a one week management training session in Germany.
After the one year program all of us started the rat race within Daimler to get to a good management position as soon as possible. We kept in touch through lunches (making lunch appointments was a very important task at Daimler, without planning them days in advance you had to go to lunch alone – but that’s another story) and sometimes because our work fields overlapped in projects. After I left headquarters in Germany at the end of 1999 to move to Beijing contact reduced a lot, except for some emails. And when I left Daimler in 2002 I only kept in touch with a few people.
One of the people that still sent regular updates was Markus Keiper, among others about the non-profit ChildrensFriends.org that he set up in his spare time with his wife Dinoshi. He had left Germany (and Daimler) not long after me, and his career for MTU led him to Australia, India and now Singapore. A few days ago he sent me a mail saying that he would be in town this week, so we decided to meet up.
It was great to see him again after all these years. I think we had not seen each other in person for maybe 12 years, but he hadn’t changed much. Quite amazing. We talked for a few hours about what life had brought us over the past years, about our interests and of course about our families and kids.
Markus is still in direct contact with several of our former colleagues, and it struck me that the ones who had always said that they wanted an international career were still in headquarters in Stuttgart. But most of them had great careers within the company (several are at the vice-president level or higher by now) and that’s also worth a lot of course.
I am glad we’re back in touch and I will certainly visit Markus and Dinoshi on my next trip to Singapore, so we can catch up in more detail.