Involvement and support during the internship
Simon Kowal did an internship at the finance department of the GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft at an early stage of his studies. He reports about his application, the job interview and the insights he got during his internship.
After my second semester studying Global Business Management at the University of Augsburg, I spent 6 weeks at the GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft, completing an internship in the finance department from late August to October 2011. During my internship I got great insight into the different working fields of the GEA Group’s finance department and was able to acquire and improve important skills.
To gain practical experience and learn about everyday life in a company, I planned an internship at an early stage of my studies. Naturally I already had expectations and was looking for a company that was internationally oriented, had a decent size and, most importantly, was related to finance. But the location and my field of tasks were also important. All in all, I was aiming pretty high.
After learning that many large corporations were not really interested in second semester students, I tried a different approach. By asking many friends, I learned some facts about the GEA Group, which I had only previously heard about in stock market news. At the time, I had no idea about its business model, but after researching online, I was quite impressed and got interested in the company. So I applied for an internship at GEA and received positive feedback shortly afterwards. The finance department was looking for an intern and invited me for an interview.
At that interview, the Head of Corporate Finance and a human resource manager asked me about my personal interests, previous skills and voluntary commitments in any clubs or organizations etc. – usual job interview questions aimed at learning more about me as a person and whether I would fit in with the company. At the end, they told me about the dress code and congratulated me on getting the internship.
Things kicked off in late August with my first day at work. I was quite excited when I arrived at the GEA building in Düsseldorf. My new colleagues welcomed me very kindly and gave me my complete schedule for the next six weeks. I was introduced to all the different working places and their specific tasks. Then in the second week, I started working in the treasury section. There, I had my own projects and scheduling control, and prepared for a new software introduction, which I found very interesting due to my general IT affinity. I learned about the requirements and uses of treasury software. More generally, I also learned about many little things beyond the actual tasks, things that university classes cannot cover: for instance the different perspectives of my superiors and colleagues on business topics or the experiences they had in their previous jobs and education.
From time to time, I was able to gain insight in other departments, e.g. investor relations or innovation management. This gave me the chance to learn about very different perspectives and the variety of tasks in an internationally operative company: definitely experiences I would not like to have missed.
As for my colleagues and superiors, they paid great attention to my level of knowledge after completing only two semesters at university. They immediately explained processes and answered my questions in detail. I really learned a lot during my six-week internship and this not only supported the theoretical understanding I gained from my lectures, but also the other way around. In other words, I benefited from my practical experiences back at university since I know how theory is applied in practice.
A further point worth mentioning is that I was able to attend many meetings and was even allowed to accompany my superiors at business appointments in Frankfurt. It’s a good indicator of how quickly I was involved in the finance department work and how I was accepted and supported during the internship.
Ultimately, I am sure that this internship with the GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft was a great opportunity for me and my education. It also taught me vital skills that are needed in an international business environment focusing on finances. The internship strengthened my career choice decisions in general and showed me tasks I might like to accomplish in future. In short, it is not always necessary to work in a bank or insurance company to gain experience in finances. Other companies that are not focused on this sector provide just as exciting perspectives and insight!