Two participants' views of the Graduate Onboarding program

At Wincor Nixdorf the world of Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Global Purchasing is complex and wide-ranging. It is also fascinating and very international. It is perfectly suited to university graduates with some knowledge of supply chains who want to kick-start their career at international level following their degree. In February 2005 we set up a two-year "Graduate Onboarding Program – Supply Chain Management" for talented graduates at our SCM centers in Shanghai, Singapore, and Paderborn. We asked two of the course participants, Heike Fortströer and Amanda Tan, for their impressions.

Heike Fortströer

Graduate Onboarding Programm – Heike Fortströer (photo)

Heike Fortströer joined Wincor Nixdorf's strategic purchasing division in January 2015. In October 2016 she moved to the Group company Aevi, which specializes in cashless payment systems. After completing a commercial apprenticeship, Heike went on to take a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and a Master's in logistics before joining Wincor Nixdorf's Graduate Onboarding Program.

Ms Fortströer, why did you decide to join the program?

I worked in a purchasing role during my degree, so I was looking for an opening in this area. Wincor Nixdorf´s onboarding program seemed to offer a good opportunity to settle into the company, acquire a wide knowledge of the subject very quickly, and gain a lot of experience at the start of my career. What I found particularly exciting were the international openings with a global company.

Tell us something about how the program was structured.

I joined the strategic purchasing division at Wincor Nixdorf's headquarters in Paderborn in October 2015 and over the last 18 months or so I have been in charge of four challenging projects. While I was working on each project, I was allocated a coach that I could call on for advice about technical issues or if I had any problems. I also found it really helpful that we were able to conduct regular project reviews in the group as a whole. That involves keeping each other informed about the progress of our projects, and swapping ideas on best practices and what we've learned.

At the end of each project phase we took part in further specialist training together with the others on the program. Two of the courses were held in Singapore. That was a really exciting experience. As well as training on specific subjects such as quality management and logistics, the program taught us different project management skills.

What projects had you been involved in so far?

I was given responsibility for four projects altogether over the course of the program. The first project involved planning for the outsourcing of various production areas, and in the third I was responsible for establishing an evaluation program for suppliers. At the moment I'm working on the tender documentation to select a logistics provider for the European market.

What was the highlight of Wincor Nixdorf´s Onboarding program for you?

To be honest, the entire program was a highlight because there were so many challenging and varied tasks. Also, I was allowed to define my projects and the best approach to solving them myself, and I was able to work very independently.

I really appreciate the fact that the program has allowed me to build up a large network in the company so quickly. I had a lot of help too from my mentor in the management team. He was always ready to listen and offer advice when I asked for it. That certainly helped to open doors for me especially at the beginning.

Thanks to all the international project work, I got to know many colleagues from all over the world and gained a lot of experience of other cultures. I found that working with colleagues in Asia helped particularly to expand my horizons.

The training in the different project phases was really helpful as a way of extending my knowledge and experience of my own specialist area. It opened doors for me in other areas, too. During the program, there were lots of opportunities to look at the way things work in other parts of the company, and I found that a very good way to progress at a personal level.

What skills or attitudes do you think are needed for the onboarding program?

You are expected to head up your own projects early on, so you have to be ready to work independently and create your own tasks. So I would say that anyone who wants to join the onboarding program needs to be particularly flexible, show initiative, and have intercultural and communication skills.

What is the next step for you after finishing the onboarding program?

I am now working as a purchasing specialist at our cashless payment company AEVI. It's an interesting job, and I'm looking forward to new tasks and challenges.

Amanda Tan

Graduate Onboarding Programm – Amanda Tan (photo)

Amanda Tan joined the company in October 2014 as a procurement executive in the supply chain department in Singapore. Prior to this she completed a degree in Material Sciences and Engineering at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

What made you decide to join the program?

I thought the program sounded very interesting because it was so international and offered training in different specialist areas. To me, it seemed to be the perfect career opening for graduates. I wanted to find out more about the program so I joined a seminar in Singapore with about 30 others, and that left me with a really good impression. I particularly liked the presentation by the Vice President Supply Chain, who talked about the challenges of supply chain management. That reinforced my interest in the program. I just wanted to learn how I personally can help to solve those challenges.

Tell us something about how the program was structured.

The onboarding program runs over two years. First of all, at the kick-off event in February 2015, we were given an introduction to the company. At the same time, our project sponsors talked about the projects that we would be leading. After that, we got to work straight away on our projects. At the end of each of the four project phases, all the participants took part together in one-week training courses in supply chain or project management. Altogether there were four training modules: Project Management, Driving People in Project Teams, Supply Chain Tools and Methods, and Quality Management.

What projects have you been involved in so far?

My first project involved implementing an IT supplier evaluation tool for the IT systems of our Asian companies. I spent the six months of that project in Singapore. Next I worked on a local project in Shanghai. From September 2015 through to January 2016 my job was to document the Master Production Schedule, which ensures that all the corresponding production processes are clearly defined and recorded.

The third project was my buddy project. Together with a colleague from Wincor Nixdorf in Shanghai, I worked on improvements to the IT tool that I had implemented during my first project. In my fourth and last project, I was responsible for optimizing the supply chain process with Asian suppliers. That involved spending November and December 2016 in Paderborn, so that I could work on the process workflow between Germany and Asia. At the end of the year I returned to Singapore.

How was your international phase, and what do you feel you gained from it?

I spent three months at our production site in Shanghai and two months at the end of 2016 at Wincor Nixdorf's headquarters in Paderborn. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many different people. I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to experience different working cultures and conditions in the two countries. That gave me a great insight into the various challenges facing the Group companies in Shanghai, Singapore, and Germany. This international experience really opened up new horizons for me.

What was the highlight of Wincor Nixdorf's onboarding program for you?

For me the highlights were my first and third projects, where the focus was on implementing an evaluation tool for suppliers. It was very exciting working on the new tool because there was so much potential to make improvements. I also really enjoyed working with the IT department and with colleagues in Germany. That involved evaluating feedback and conducting tests to find out how the application could be improved for users. That wasn't at all easy because it involved making changes to the supplier process. I am grateful in that respect for the excellent support I had from my coach, my mentor, and the project management office support team. The experience I gained was certainly very useful. I feel that I grew as a person over the two years, especially with regard to managing projects and working in teams.

What skills or attitudes do you think are needed for the onboarding program?

To make best use of the onboarding program you have to show lots of initiative and take responsibility for acquiring knowledge and building up your expertise. You also need to be open to advice from other colleagues and from the mentors and coaches. I also think it's really important to be flexible and adaptable so that you can fit in well in different business situations in the international working environment.

What is the next step for you after finishing the onboarding program?

To begin with, I want to build up experience as part of the supply chain procurement team. Looking further ahead, however, I'd like to work in other areas as well, such as project management.