How has the UAA network helped me make a shift in my professional career?
Meet Soroush Nakhaie, UNITECH Alumnus 2007. Holding a Phd from TU Causthal and currently working at Infineon as an Operations Planning Manager, Soroush considered it was worth explaining the story of how the UAA changed his life. Learn his story..
How has the UAA network helped me make a shift in my professional career?
Tell us about you…
I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. After the first year of my studies, I realized that the future perspectives were just too limited for me so that led me to take one of the most important decisions of my life; moving abroad.
Having seen my father’s complex but also exciting projects as an oil engineer were always a motivation for me to major in the engineering field. After some oversees university analysis and application processes, my decision went for RWTH Aachen. It had a good reputation and specialization possibilities in mechanical engineering which appealed me.
Along the way, I got to realize the ever increasing importance of managerial expertise in professional settings, especially in complex environments of multi-national corporations. RWTH was back then strongly promoting UNITECH for offering such qualifications for technical students. Being part of UNITECH enabled me on the one hand the possibility to gain academic knowledge in Management of Technology as an exchange student in TU Delft and afterwards to put this into practice over two internships with corporate partners; SCHOTT and Infineon.
In one sentence, how would you introduce yourself?
I’m very interested in getting to know different cultures, which by the way I don’t differentiate in private or work settings since I think these go pretty much hand in hand. For this reason I enjoy travelling to new places especially for a few years in order to get a closer touch and perspective about ways of handling life and business in different parts of the world.
When did you make the toughest decision in your life?
My toughest decision so far was when I had the letter of admission to a language course in Germany and decided to leave my home country, Iran. This meant for me leaving almost everything behind on my early 20s and begin a whole new life in a place where you barely speak the language and where there’s no cultural common base.
What are you currently doing?
Currently I’m working at Infineon’s headquarters in Munich for the department of Corporate Supply Chain. As Scenario Planning Manager, I’m responsible for concept development for strategic contingency planning and also a number of projects to improve operational planning processes. It makes it very exciting to deal with objectives, interactions but also conflicts within different time horizons in supply chain planning. Therefore, for a more effective discussion and implementation it has also been very important for the department to travel regularly specially to the Asian sites to hold workshops and growing a broader network in different supply chain functionalities.
How did your journey with Infineon started?
My journey first started as an intern back in 2009 with Corporate Strategy. I was mainly very amazed by the exemplary culture and mindset of the staff overcoming a very tough time almost standing before bankruptcy turning the situation now into sustainable growth and profitability. On the other hand, the scoping of my internship provided a well-trimmed project dealing with complete spectrum of analyzing the potentials for the niche market of smart grid for Infineon. Having the possibility to present and discuss the outcomes with the strategy management, the internship at Infineon left a very positive experience on me.
What were you up to once you finished your studies?
Having my master studies completed together with practical experiences mostly in strategy departments, I was very eager to deepen my technical knowledge in my favorite field of renewable energies while still being in touch with strategic perspectives. I found this possibility at the Energy Research Center of Lower Saxony in cooperation with TU Clausthal, where different long term scenarios for the German energy supply and storage were to be developed and then on the more detailed level simulated and calculated. My PhD studies took from 2010 until 2014, 2 years of which I was a scientific assistant directly at the university and the other two years an external PhD-student along with my job at Infineon.
How and when did you decide to join a graduate program at Infineon?
In 2012 after about two years of my PhD studies, I happened to see the LinkedIn post of the UAA about the job ad at Infineon. It was a mixture of many reasons which led me to apply for the job although before this I was not seeking a new job. It was also the exceptionally simple application process of Infineon, which eased up considering the opportunity.
Weren't you more into research? Was that a "big" change moving again towards the corporate world?
My PhD studies required me to look into some very detailed technical aspects of the integration of renewable energies. This topic itself however required a broad understanding of several disciplines all over the energy supply chain and therefore content-wise stepping out of the university was not as issue for me. On the other hand, the matrix organizational set up, influence hierarchy and decision making processes in international corporations are completely different from that of universities. This of course makes a huge change but also offers unlimited potentials to develop interpersonal skills in this new complex environment.
When did you decide to jump into the corporate world?
What pros / cons did you see in that change?
My intention after deciding for PhD was originally to start my career in the corporate world. So the “when” was rather depending on the studies to be finished. Here of course there are many pros and cons. Within an international company there are many possibilities for being transferred to other positions, growing to take more complex responsibilities and being re-located to other countries. The universities mostly by its nature cannot offer this, where you more or less remain within the same institute and under the same supervisor. However the university environment offers a higher degree of freedom regarding research topics and also financial responsibilities towards stakeholders. This indeed should be given to promote fresh and new ideas and let them flourish and be tried out without being that much concerned on return of invests.
Do you think the UAA adds value to the network? If so, why? ..and how?
I think one of the biggest challenges for any people’s network in the long run is to maintain it. Within the international surrounding of UNITECH by its nature, it is most likely that many Alumni will move to various different places and hence holding up the ties is sometimes a big challenge. In my opinion having such organization with numerous events in several cities has a great advantage in being able to address as many Alumni as possible by not only promoting networking amongst Alumni but also amongst current students in a more efficient way.
Actually I found the idea so good that as a proposal for our trainee project at Infineon, I suggested to set up a similar community internally by highlighting the success story of the UAA to our higher management.
If you could give an advice to UNITECH students or to late professionals in general.. what would it be?
It's very good to plan ahead, but with all uncertainties out there you should remain flexible to adapt to new eventually very exciting situations. I've faced this a few times, especially when I got the offer from Infineon in the middle of my PhD studies. Of course this was very risky for me since even staying until the end doesn't necessary mean a successful PhD graduation. Trainee programs in general also aim at developing management skills, which is quite different comparing to technical specialization in PhD studies. But I took the chance since I saw the traineeship as a unique opportunity for an intensive international exposure and of course no risk, no fun!
What have been one some key learnings in your time in UNITECH?
One key learning for me was that being successful in today’s working environment while facing people from different educational and cultural backgrounds it is undoubtedly crucial to be able to understand your counterparts. This was demonstrated to us on the first UNITECH’s day by a very simple cards game. Here each party was given a number of cards but with different rule sets and had to play together without being able to talk about the rules. It was one of the examples among many others, but the message was the same, which was only focusing on what “I” think as the appropriate and fitting rule for everyone’s problem will not result into success in such environment.