Eastbound Berlin, Westbound New Perspective

Michele Malski, Destination: Deutschland
Eastbound Berlin, Westbound New Perspective
Thursday, February 25, 2010

When we think about travel, we think about the luxurious escape of arduous work schedules and countless hours of laboring in the library. We dream about the weather, and what shoes to pack, and how wonderful it will be to share stories with loved ones as you first step foot in that predicted paradise. What we often forget, is the power of traveling—the power we glean from undetected learning through risk and embarking on a plane ride outside of our comfort zone. The power of traveling teaches us more about ourselves—our strengths and weaknesses and better informs us of the cultures we originated from as we become engulfed and deluged by the hosting environment’s cultural wave. It gives us time to self evaluate our knowledge and the opportunity to be vulnerable to the attitudes and social norms of diverse people. Traveling triggers self-reliance on our own instinctive navigational skills and communicative independence on those basic language skills you just have to keep delving out of the dusty foreign language cobwebs in your brain to get through each day. Travel acts as a "humbler," to show us that we do not know everything like we once contemplated.

I harnessed the power of travel on my way to Berlin, Germany. Here, I had the honor of externing, with the aid of the Cornell Extern program, for a reputable and successful transportation company known worldwide as Bombardier. The flight was six hours and forty-five minutes long, and with my jetlag unrealized, I eagerly stepped foot outside of the Tegel Airport on foreign soil.

After being welcomed into my host’s family on Sunday, each morning thereafter, I ventured into work with my host, Mr. Eran Gartner, who is the president of the Systems division of Bombardier. We commuted by rail with the U-Bahn or S-Bahn, which would be comparable to American subways and street-cars. On my first ride into work, my impression of Berlin was that this place was a big city with a small town feel.

The Bombardier Company headed by President A. Navarri, breaks down into two sections, Aerospace which is mostly situated in North American locations, and Transportation, which is currently headquartered in Berlin, Germany. Bombardier is one of the leading and most trusted names in the transportation industry ranging from services such as operation and maintenance of locomotives to building whole new lines from scratch for a developing city.

Within Bombardier Transportation (hereinafter BT), there is a further break down of specialization. There are six sub divisions of BT; Passengers, Locomotive and Equipment, the North American Branch, Rail Control Systems; signaling, Services, and Systems. This complex and cohesive company started and continues to be a family run business. The first big seller that kicked off Bombardier's business life was an innovative snowmobile and from there on out it was improvement, expansion, and success, success!

In the United States, we can see the presence of Bombardier everywhere, especially around our airports where APM or Automated People Movers systems have been installed and functional for years. For example in Los Vegas, we see Bombardier when we use the Automated Monorail system. In New York's JFK International Airport, we see the AirRail Transit Consortium (ARTC) using the Advanced Rapid Transit, which has been built and operated by Bombardier since it opened. Bombardier also makes the "rail news" quite often with massive deliveries to major commuter systems such as the New Jersey Transit, which recently just received new innovative locomotives that have dual power engines. These engines have the capacity to run on either all electricity or fuel; a significantly cleaner model than what was in prior operation. Many US metros and local commuter lines rely on Bombardier products, technology, and manufacturing from which are mainly made right here in the US. A proud accomplishment of Bombardier is located Vancouver, Canada. If we were to vacation in Vancouver, we would use the Advanced Rapid Transit of SkyTrain, the Millennium Line, which connects the city from start to finish in connection with Metro Vancouver.

So journey onward! For a week I traveled with the public transit right to the footstep of the Bombardier Headquarters, about a ten minute commute each way. My week did not consist of traditional intern work of pouring coffee for "real working people," but quite the opposite. I had a full-fledged schedule starting the moment I got there with an informational PowerPoint of the Systems division presented by Mr. Gartner himself.

Each day I met with a new department. The sectors I met with include marketing, internal and external, sales and strategy (in which I was asked to work and assemble a presentation via PowerPoint about the US transportation administration and Recovery Act details), finance, who was particularly busy wrapping up end of the year reports, passengers division, passenger’s plant site of Hennigsdorf, and Human resources in which changed my perspective on what these professionals within this field should actually be like; business coaches and mentors. I made great connections with each department, using my intermediate German skills to slightly impress the native German speakers and my witty—but professional Cornell charm to break the ice with others. Every employee within the headquarters was absolutely fantastic.

Every department had its own feel, its own culture, and its own personality, which made me feel as if my character broadened with the ever-changing environments as each new handshake and knuckles on the table nourished my communication skills. After each pre-assigned day, it was as if I took away a little piece of the puzzle of what Bombardier really was all about. By the conclusion of my experience, I could step back and appreciate the overall mastery of corporation art.

My last day was a tear jerker to say the least. I made my rounds of thankfulness to everyone I had met within Headquarters, and pledged to my mentors that I would keep in touch on my safe arrival home and in the future. I actually just got an email from one of my Bombardier correspondences, and nothing but grand memories and anticipation to explore more of Berlin in the future, muddled in my mind. I greatly appreciated my experience in Berlin and all of those people who made it possible for me to encounter such an invigorating opportunity to ripen my maturity, self-discovery, and independent confidence.

Sitting in the Tegel Airport, I looked at my ticket home where the exhausting seven and a half hour estimated flight duration was listed. Instead of groaning about the lousy movies they would probably be showing over the Mid-Atlantic, I felt a sense of accomplishment, a sense of a "belonging-utopia." I knew I would miss Berlin and all those places I had visited on my journey such as the harbor city of Hamburg and especially, the castle clustered city of Potsdam. Berlin made an impact on my life, one that is irreversible.

One that is positive.

And one that helped me personally and characteristically heighten as an independent, now international, Ivy League Lady.

Thank you.
Danke Schön.