Women in Tec: Studying electrical engineering at Daimler

When I tell people I’m studying electrical engineering, I usually get one of two reactions. It’s either “Wow, and you’re a woman… You must feel pretty lonely.” or “But that’s supposed to be a tough course of study…”

Neither of these reactions is justified. There are 12 students in my electrical engineering course at Daimler, and five of them are women. On the Friedrichshafen campus of the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University in Ravensburg, we’re learning together with students from other companies, and the proportion of women here is similar. In my opinion, electrical engineering isn’t any tougher than other subjects if you’re interested in it.

The decision

But let’s start at the beginning. I decided relatively early on to study electrical engineering, during an internship as an electronics technician for industrial engineering at EnBW in Forbach. That was my motivation to switch to a technical high school after ninth grade. But don’t worry: This is a good background knowledge, but it’s certainly not essential if you want to study this subject later on.

Because I’m from the Rastatt region, Daimler was naturally on my list of the companies I wanted to apply to for a work-study program. I wanted to be in this kind of program because I think it’s more effective and varied than a purely theoretical course of study.

The highlights of my first practice phase

The start of my studies in Stuttgart turned out to be exactly as interesting and instructive as I expected it to be. We spent the first three months of our program in the teaching workshop and the corresponding seminar rooms of Daimler AG. During these workshops and training sessions, we learned the practical fundamentals that prepared us for starting our studies at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW).

My personal highlights included a course on C-programming — that is, the basic principles of computer programming — as well as our shared team-building week and a course on operating robots that are used in production processes.

Studying in a place where other people go on vacation: Theory courses on Lake Constance

After that, we spent half a year on the Friedrichshafen campus of the DHBW, which is located on the shores of beautiful Lake Constance. There we attended small courses in a school-like framework and learned everything an electrical engineer needs to know. That included subjects such as the basics of electrical engineering, programming, and digital technology — working in the binary world with ones and zeros.

Although I was initially a bit skeptical and expected that the frequent changes between Friedrichshafen and Stuttgart would be strenuous, I can now say that it was definitely worthwhile. In addition to the great courses, in the summertime the lake is an ideal place for swimming and barbecuing, and in the winter you’re only an hour away from the nearest skiing area. What more could you ask for?

Practical phase 2: My first independent project

During the next three months after returning to Stuttgart, I experienced the highlight of our first year of study: my first independent project. Our task was to develop a new additional function for an automobile — in just three weeks. I can’t yet divulge exactly what we developed, but of course we may actually find this additional function in our vehicles in the future.

All of us who were involved in this project were very proud as we presented our functioning prototype. Another highlight was the fact that before we went on vacation we could get to know the new product range and get to know the surrounding area in several current Mercedes-Benz cars.

After a further six months at the DHBW, during which we reinforced our basic knowledge and learned more new material, we continued our practical work.

A team member at last — My practical assignment at the production planning unit

At the moment I’m in the midst of the first practical phase of my work-study program. I was allowed to choose the department I wanted to work in. The only condition was that the department had to be connected with electrical engineering. That’s the great thing about work-study programs: Everyone can decide according to his or her own personal interests and preferences. The advantage of studying at a big company is that you have a wealth of options. You don’t get stuck in a single department until your course of study is over. Instead, you can get to know new departments, tasks, and people every three or six months.

And you don’t have to work only in the area of development either. An electrical engineer’s possible assignments are extremely varied. In addition to development units, where you develop components for new cars, there are also other areas where I can put my technical know-how to good use.

In addition to purchasing and quality assurance, there’s also production planning, for example. That’s where I’m doing my practical assignment right now. Here I can ideally apply my knowledge about the electric components that are being used, both in the planning process and in talks with the suppliers.

A look at the future — an overseas assignment in the USA

My next practical assignment will be a special experience that I’m already looking forward to very much. It will take place in a country of my choice — and naturally at a Daimler location. Fortunately, there are plenty of those. I can also freely choose the Daimler location I want.

I’m planning to go to Sunnyvale in Silicon Valley in the USA, and to work there in the development unit for autonomous driving. That way I can experience the development area close up and subsequently decide what I’m best suited for and where I’d like to work later on.

My conclusion

The past 18 months have simply flown by. I’ve gathered lots of new experiences, and if I had it all to do over again, I would decide to apply to Daimler every time. Because of the small groups, studying at the DHBW is very pleasant and relaxed, and the instructors enjoy sharing their knowledge. The people in the teams accepted me in a very friendly way, and they always assigned me a project of my own that I could do really well with the help of my personal mentor.

Would you like to know more about our work-study program? You will find all important information on our Daimler career website!

Stefanie Bernauer is doing a work-study program at Daimler AG in Stuttgart. She is now in her second year of studying automotive electronics. At the moment she’s completing her fourth practical assignment, this time in the area of production planning.