What motivated you to study Quality, Environment, Safety and Hygiene?
I didn’t seek it out from the beginning. I first studied sociology and political science in Giessen, but after a while I started to feel that though interesting, I wouldn’t really get ahead in life with these subjects. I then decided to study environmental management in Giessen, but that ended up not working out. Someone tipped me off to Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, so I took a closer look at its degrees and even enquired about my application chances. It turns out my chances were good, so I applied and a month later I enrolled in QUSH in Kleve. Right away I liked the direction of the degree programme – after all, I wanted to study something like environmental management. Looking back, I can confidently say that I made the right decision and I don’t regret it for a second.
What would you tell students who are considering this degree programme?
This degree programme is very broad, meaning you’ll study a lot of different things from fire protection to water pollution prevention, to personnel management and classic subjects like chemistry and business administration. The most important thing is to understand that you’re going to reach your limits at some point. If you’re good at something in school like chemistry, you’ll usually stick with it in during studies and never really leave your comfort zone. But QUSH forces you to study outside of your comfort zone, and you’re just going to hit your limits sooner or later. With hard work you can break through this mental barrier, but the point is you can’t just coast through your studies. If you decide to study QUSH, I’d also recommend you plan on doing a master’s degree so that you can specialise in a specific field.
My conclusion: For a first degree, QUSH prepares you like no other and I never regretted my choice to study it. The curriculum’s broad scope is a huge advantage when you land a job that gives you room to develop a range of skills, but on the other hand you should also expect that companies can have trouble classifying this degree programme because it doesn’t result in a specific occupational profile.
What were your career goals before your studies? Did these goals change over the course of your studies?
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have any clear career goals before university. To answer your second question, though: yes, my goals changed and took shape with every new lecture. Part of that was due to my personal interest in the subject we explored, but more often than not it was due to the teacher: well-taught material usually ended up winning me over before too long. I eventually settled on the fields of microbiology and hygiene and took most of the courses offered in these areas to really delve into them, but I also took a variety of electives to learn more about other areas too.
My career goals were also affected by my internships, which allowed me to work in all four main areas of QUSH. My first internship was in the area of environment. I worked at a wastewater disposal company specialised in cleaning drainage systems and doing pre-inspections.
For safety I did an internship/project at HSRW focused on occupational safety. Our goal was to develop an occupational safety concept for auto shops in nearby Emmerich.
For hygiene I did a two-month internship in India at one of our partner universities. There I worked on a project that investigated the connection between oral carcinomas and oral microflora. In other words, does oral cancer alter oral bacterial strains or is it the other way around?
I dedicated my internship semester to the fourth area, quality. I worked at a company that develops technical solutions for quality assurance, but which also offers consulting services for quality management systems. That was the main reason I wanted to be there. I worked together with a team from the Technical University Ilmenau to develop a new concept to show how companies can integrate quality management systems into their operations with as little effort as possible.
Today you work as Assistant to the Chief Supply Chain Officer. How did you land that position?
During my studies it became clear that I wanted to do something in the field of hygiene, ideally also related to food products, and that I’d like to work in quality management. After my internship semester I was looking for a thesis topic and I remembered an offer I had seen Gimborn, from the company I’m at now.
I applied and ended up getting a position as a student trainee helping to implement a quality management system according to the ISO 9001 norm. In other words, I basically implemented the concept I had developed during my internship semester. I took it a step further in my thesis by also implementing a crisis management system to go with it.
That’s basically how I got started at the company: in quality management and management systems. When I was finished with my thesis, I spoke with my boss about possible job opportunities and he said he needed someone who can think clearly and in a structured manner and because he saw these qualities in me and my work, he would like to offer me a position as his assistant. And that’s how I ended up where I am today.
What does your average day consist of?
I’m the assistant to the head of the company’s supply chain division. That includes the subdivisions purchasing, logistics, on-site production, quality assurance and quality management, but also managing outgoing goods and technical maintenance. On top of that we also manage our kitty litter plant in Bavaria. While my boss is ultimately responsible for all of these subdivisions, my job is to support him by leading a wide range of projects in these different areas.
My main responsibility is the coordination and supervision of integrated management systems. These include quality and crisis management systems, but also more recently energy management, callback management and a very intricate food safety management system based on the HACCP system (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) which requires a coordinated effort from numerous subdivisions. My job involves planning and conducting all internal audits, and coordinating external audits. In other words, I help keep the whole system up and running.
One of our larger ongoing projects is our company’s expansion to a new location with its own logistics and production systems. We’ve hired a consulting firm to help us tackle it, and right now I’m managing them as project lead. Our goal is to optimise our logistical processes and it’s a very exciting project to be working on. I’m also managing similar projects at the same time, like improving the SAP systems in our division by gathering feedback on improvements employees would like to see and integrating them into improvement processes.
How much potential for development is there in your career?
This is based on the premise that I don’t have a clear career description because none really exists for my degree in combination with my chosen profession. My work here is essentially applied interface management. It involves the chain between purchasing and outgoing goods and all the links in between, as well countless coordinating activities. It reflects exactly what QUSH offers as a degree programme: training not as a niche specialist, but as a generalist who holds all the different strings and understands the bigger picture. It’s about steering all sorts of processes, improving them and knowing how to scrutinise them. As far as my career goes, I’m working towards a promotion to Supply Chain Manager.
When you look back at your time at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, which experiences had the most impact on you?
I’ve thought about this question before and to answer it I really have to separate student life from actual studying. When I think of my studies, what left the most impact were the engaging lectures. But ironically it was the most difficult subjects – physics and chemistry for me – that left the biggest mark because I had to work so hard to prepare for those exams above all others. Back then I never thought that I’d be able to recall the most information from the subjects I struggled with the most.
Then there are things that were in the area between studying and student life, like excursions. We had a lot of those, something like 20 to 30. Once we climbed up a wind turbine and another time we toured a water treatment plant. Our destinations varied a lot, but in the end these excursions left a deep impression on me.
As for student life, HSRW was really small when I started, so I eventually got to know everything and everyone, both students and teachers. My fondest memory is as a member of the Faculty Student Representatives. We were the founding group and from what I’ve heard it’s developed quite well in the meantime. That’s something I want leave readers with: get involved and volunteer, because you learn so much from it. Working in the FSR gave us so many opportunities to do new things and contribute, and we really made good use of it.