A week to remember for budding engineers

2014-08-27 - “This has been the greatest week of my life,” says Antonio Pimentel, an engineering student from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who has just spent the past six days in Switzerland as a guest of the ABB Jürgen Dormann Foundation for Engineering Education.

Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB Group CEO with some of the scholars.

Along with 30 other students from nine countries, Antonio came to Switzerland to attend the foundation’s international event in mid-August. Foundation scholars are invited to one international event as part of their overall scholarship program.

The week in Switzerland combines a series of presentations by senior ABB executives and technical presentations by the students themselves with visits to ABB factories, the Corporate Research Center in Dättwil, and the ETH Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. In addition, the students enjoy a weekend of leisure time, visiting Zurich, a chocolate factory and a tourist landmark Mount Titlis.

A series of firsts
For most students, it’s the first time away from their countries, their first flights and their first sighting of snow. The excitement is palpable.

For some the week’s highlight is the ability to work in international groups to prepare presentations; for others it’s the opportunity to listen and learn from senior executives, and for others it’s going up a snow-capped mountain.

Jürgen Dormann is flanked by Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB CEO (left), and JC Deslarzes, head of Human Resources and foundation chairman.
One of the highlights was an afternoon of presentations by ABB top executives. Ulrich Spiesshofer, Group CEO, gave details of his career, emerging business and technology trends and ABB priorities, and took time out to answer students’ questions. JC Deslarzes, head of Human Resources and Chairman of the Foundation, provided insights into his career choices and the opportunities awaiting graduates at ABB.

Claes Rytoft, head of Research and Development, provided an overview of R&D as well as examples of recent breakthrough technologies, while Maxine Ghavi, head of the Solar Industry Segment Initiative went into detail about the solar market and ABB's involvement in the Solar Impulse airplane project.

“I really enjoyed this last week in Switzerland. I met a lot of brilliant people,” says student Maria Kania from Poland.I took part in the official event which featured a discussion with the ABB CEO. I had the opportunity to talk to him in person, he gave us many helpful insights on how to work in a multi-cultural team, what is important if you want to be a leader, and told us how the life in the day of a CEO looks like.”

ABB volunteers
The week would not be possible – or successful – without considerable work by ABB volunteers. Members of the Foundation’s management team start work nine months before the event, coordinating with representatives of different functions and businesses around the world.

Question time for ABB executives from the engineers of the future.
“It’s a memorable week for the volunteers as well as the students,” says Bindu Kolath, one of the organizers. “It’s an opportunity for us show them something completely new, fire their enthusiasm, and potentially interest them in a career at ABB. The feedback we have received has been tremendous and makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

Some 150 students have won foundation scholarships so far, and many of them have had internships at ABB or gone on to land full- or part-time jobs with the company. For example, two of the Vietnamese students who came to Switzerland for the international event will not have long to wait for their next taste of ABB: They join the company full-time next month.

Foundation is expanding
The foundation was set up in 2007 and now has 12 university partners in nine countries. Work is under way to expand further with three more university partnerships being investigated in three countries. At least one is expected to be concluded by year-end.

The foundation is named after in recognition of Jürgen Dormann’s contribution to ABB. He served as Chairman from 2001 to 2007, and was also CEO from September 2002 to December 2004.

Final word
Final word on the week’s events goes to Bima Nugraha Sanusi from Indonesia. The snow on Mount Titlis made a deep impression. “I used to see ice just in a refrigerator. Going top Mount Titlis for the day was my first chance to touch snow and to be in an area of zero degrees. It was the best day of my life and I will never forget this experience.”

“The best week of my life,” said Antonio Pimentel