I was just in Taipei, and now I’m already in Untertuerkheim

So this is what Stuttgart looks like in February! Please excuse my somewhat unorthodox introductory sentence, but this is the first thing that came to mind after I arrived in sleety gray Stuttgart.

The thing is, I’ve been living in Taipei, Taiwan, for the past eight years, and when I flew out the skies were sunny and the temperature was 26 degrees Celsius. This trip sounds like a typical vacation scenario, but in fact getting ready to come to Stuttgart was an organizational challenge for me. After all, when you’ve lived in a tropical/subtropical climate for a long time, your wardrobe tends to get a little thin. In other words, most of my clothes are very summery.

So there I was, standing in front of the Mercedes-Benz Museum at eight o’clock in the morning. I didn’t need my alarm clock on this first day of February, as I woke up at 5 a.m. with no help at all. Suddenly, it once again started to feel like Christmas. I had finally been hired by the company I had decided to stake my future with. My desire to work at Daimler was basically an emotional one.

Day One at Mercedes-Benz Museum

As people at the company will know, Day One at Daimler is a bit like the first day of school. I joined a group of well over 200 other new colleagues in a big hall in the museum, and I was initially surprised to see that more than half of these new staff members were women, spread out across all the units and departments. It was nice to see that kind of diversity at Daimler.

First off, we were welcomed to the company and given a brief introduction to its history and where it will be heading in the future. This took about 90 minutes and was followed by the first break. They served pretzels, among other things. I have to admit that this broadened my culinary horizons. Being from the Ruhr region of Germany, I had always thought of pretzels as a Bavarian thing — but now I was being told that they are also a specialty from the Swabian region of Germany, where Stuttgart is located. That’s fine with me. Pretzels weren’t a common snack where I grew up, but they do taste good, and home is where the stomach is, as they say — or was it something else?

Hearty fare in the “Oil Canteen”

I should add here that of course I was also looking forward to checking out the different canteens at the plant in Untertuerkheim. I had my first meal in the “Oil Canteen,” where I decided to go for a dish of boiled kale with two smoked sausages and mustard. Friends, it’s the simple things in life that count, and when you’ve lived in Asia for as long as I have, a combination like that can really make your mouth water. But to get back to my Day One…

Safety at work and plant ID

After the break, we watched videos and heard presentations about safety in the workplace and the activities of the works council. And then it was time to officially begin my new professional life. I picked up my plant ID and walked onto the plant grounds in Untertuerkheim for the first time as a colleague among colleagues. Forgive me for being so dramatic, but this was a very special moment for me, one that I still remember very clearly. This was where I had wanted to be — and now I was there after spending 15 years as a freelance blogger.

Culture shock and exciting moments

For a decade and a half, I was more or less able to do whatever I wanted. My only limits were defined by my responsibility toward myself and toward the people who worked for me. Now it’s a global company that is setting the limits, and I’m well aware of what this means in terms of mutual culture shock. The coming weeks and months are therefore sure to be exciting.

But isn’t that what this is all about? After all, I’m now part of a company that’s in the process of reinventing itself after having existed for more than 130 years — a company that has had a fundamental impact on our world, our cities, and our societies. Just think about the way that personal mobility has made entirely new forms of social interaction possible. That’s why I have to tip my hat to the founders, Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz, and their pioneering achievements.

Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz

In my opinion (and now I know I sound like the tech blogger I was in my “previous existence”), they were the Jobs, Zuckerbergs, Bezos, Musks, and Gates of their time. We forget that all too often, but maybe the reason I remember has to do with the fact that if you’re a fan of a soccer club that hasn’t won a German Championship in nearly 60 years, you need to get inspiration and motivation from the successes of the past.

From the analog age to the digital age

Still, no one at Daimler wants to merely bask in the glory of past success — and the reason I’m here now is because I want to move into the future together with you. I’m a colleague — your friend “Palle,” who is now working at Daimler instead of for the Mobile Geeks tech blog. All of us are now facing fundamental transformations. For me as a geek (yes, I guess I’ll always be one), this means, above all, that exciting times lie ahead! And I want all of you to be a part of these exciting times together with me. It makes no difference whether you grew up in the analog world, as I did, or if you were born in the digital age. The journey ahead will affect us all, both professionally and personally.

I’m going to document this development at Daimler, but that’s not all. I’ll also be allowed to help shape it, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to. There’s so much spirit, ingenuity, and passion for the future of mobility in this company that I really feel like a four-year-old Sascha who’s been locked into a Toys “R” Us store over the weekend (although that store didn’t exist in Germany when I was that age).

As our CEO Dieter Zetsche said at the CES 2015 in Las Vegas:

“We invented the automobile back then, and now we’re going to invent the self-driving automobile of the future.”

That’s exactly what I’ll be keeping you up to date about from now on!

P.S.: Umlaute

P.S.: My German readers may be wondering why I didn’t use umlauts — the two dots above some vowels in German. The answer is that I’ve lived outside of Germany for more than ten years and I’ve been using English keyboards for 15 years now. But wait — this will be my last official post without umlauts, as my colleagues were kind enough to get me a nice “QWERTZ” keyboard with the German umlaut letters. So I’ve not only arrived in Germany in person — from now on, my articles and the way I write them will also be authentically local.

 

Sascha Pallenberg is Head of Digital Content at Daimler’s Communications. As an experienced online editor, he focuses on creating content at the interface between the automotive sector and the IT industry for Daimler online media.