Building the foundations
by Markus Sturm - Vice President Integrated Systems
It has been seven months since I packed and moved to the US. My family joined me two months later, in September, for the start of the new school year. So far, it has been a rather exciting, but also challenging experience. From the private point of view, we went through the classical transition curve: intense euphoria in the beginning, followed by some short and heavy depression. Especially our 5-year-old had to learn a lot during those days when finding his way to school and his place in a new community. However, we finally progressed in all areas. Our children now understand English pretty well, they made their first friends and together we acquired a first good understanding of our neighborhood, the wider Grand Rapids area and of course the prevailing US way of life. It was funny to observe the kids during Christmas break in Austria, because after two weeks we got questions like: When are we going back home? And what they meant was Grand Rapids.
We were very happy to find a nice, furnished house in East Grand Rapids, a picturesque suburb. There are many other families with young children as public elementary schools seem to have a good reputation in this region. We are particularly impressed with the quality of living, as we have a small lake nearby as well as many venues for shopping, eating out and plenty of other spots for some enjoyable hours. Unfortunately, we will need to make another move after this first year, as our landlord will move back into his house. However, this is another typical topic in the US: people move all the time and are less tied to their home place. We will also manage this and our already existing network will help to find a good solution. In Grand Rapids there are numerous possibilities to also connect with other foreigners or expats, like a German Club or the so-called 3Cs (Coffee, Culture and Communication).
From the work perspective, there are lots of differences between the US and the traditional Austrian working environment. Time to market as well as lead time for project implementation are everything in the US, whereas in Austria we always aim for a product that is 110% ready before we launch it. The US economy seems to move a lot faster, decisions are purely measured based on cash effect or the effect on profit & loss. The systems integration business in the US does not yet have the size of Europe, therefore, we are currently broadening our capabilities and building up the needed team. There is definitely a lot of potential in the US market waiting for us! We are well on the way and have the big advantage that we can take the learnings from others in order to take one or the other shortcut. I am very thankful for the international colleagues, especially from TGW Systems Integration in Austria as well as TGW UK, because we get support whenever we ask for best practices, specific documents required or just some simple feedback on certain issues. The US team I am working with, is very dedicated. Together we can and will make a difference and definitely further grow the Integration business in the US.
Coming from a larger organization like TGW Mechanics, it is very interesting to change into a comparably smaller entity which is being established in an important market like the US. It is a complete change of perspective. Decisions can be made and executed faster due to the less complex processes, people have to wear multiple hats and sometimes we just need to find a pragmatic workaround in first time situations. However, we also enjoy the power of this very important sister company, as we work closely together on most of our projects. To combine the best of the two worlds seems like the golden mean. Therefore, we need to continue exchanging people, listening a lot to each other and make sure on a constant basis that we have the global optimum in mind.
Our new life in the US has surprised us in various positive ways and we are looking forward to our future adventures here. It is very rewarding to see the progress – not only business-wise, but also with our very own intercultural skills. We are not only building foundations on a professional level, but also for our very own future.