Business management, building sites and boerewors – six months as an intern in South Africa

Eva Hanauer from Regensburg was an intern at Krones AG. For six months, she exchanged her place at university for a desk in South Africa. In this article, the 23-year-old tells us about her experiences far away from home.

“Hello. My name is Eva Hanauer. After six months, I can look back on a very exciting and enjoyable time at Krones in South Africa. As part of my business management degree course, I had to do two internships abroad. And South Africa has for a long time been top of my wish list. Well, I was looking for a German company in the Regensburg region, and my eye was caught by Krones AG. Now, looking back, I can say that this was a very happy choice.

The first time I met the South African team was during drinktec 2013 in Munich. I know, of course, what Krones manufactures as the market leader, but I didn’t fully realise the sheer scale involved till I actually saw it at the fair. As a layperson in this sector, it literally took my breath away when I compared the stand to those of other exhibitors. My future boss gave me a quick guided tour of Hall B6. So I was able to introduce myself to some of my future South African colleagues, which meant I felt better prepared when I got onto the plane.

Once I had arrived in Johannesburg and been welcomed by the sun, I went to one of the lodges. This is located quite close to my workplace. Which was fortunate, since the traffic was so bad that driving to work each day would have been a nightmare. My first day in the office was a Friday, and some of the staff came to work in a casual Friday look. Most of them express their loyalty to their favourite rugby team by wearing a colourful shirt. Rugby is in South Africa what football is to the Germans: an emotional spectacle that is best celebrated in conjunction with beer and bratwurst.

A perfect steak in South Africa

A perfect steak in South Africa

Talking of bratwurst. The “boerewors” is not comparable to the sausages we’re familiar with, and is much larger. Nor are the steaks, filets and ribs anything like the meat we Germans barbecue. Anyone that’s been to a “braai” knows what barbecuing really means. The meat arrives on the plate done to perfection, your mouth waters just to look at it. The braii is a quintessential part of the South African lifestyle, and is thus a veritable institution. I hadn’t been there three days even, and already my colleague Karen invited me to a braai at her home. We’re also, by the way, working on having a braii once a month at the office on a Friday (on the balcony) – to boost team spirit, of course.

Back to the work. I start my day in the office at eight o’clock in the morning. Many of the desks have long since been occupied at this hour, and everyone’s busy, brisk and bustling. This usually has two reasons: firstly, the traffic gets lots of people out of bed early, because in the rush hours you can easily spend two hours waiting around in a jam. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to drive to work in just five minutes. But this, too, works only if all the “robots” are working properly. Yes, I looked for them at first as well – the little robots who would show me the way. But in fact the South Africans just mean traffic lights, of course. Secondly, there’s quite simply lots of work to do! Krones Southern Africa is achieving steady, immense growth. The number of staff has risen by 25 per cent since 2009 alone.

For the first few weeks, I was tasked with conducting a sort of process analysis in LCS Retrofit and Spares. Basically, I trotted back and forth between the two units, drew up flow charts and saw how the individual departments function with each other. If there was an interesting meeting with a client scheduled, or if a client was being given a guided tour of some existing lines then quite often I was allowed to tag along. And I was also sometimes included when project managers drove out to the sites involved, which I also enjoyed very much. When problems had to be discussed in private, I was left with the technicians who kindly explained to me the Krones machines in all their complexity, and I also tried to remember most of it, which isn’t all that easy.

Intern Sven, Moses and Eva Hanauer in front of the Soweto sign

Intern Sven, Moses and Eva Hanauer in front of the Soweto sign

Things then got really interesting when the food and drink technology Africa 2014 came along. I was really lucky to be involved right from the start. From the very first meeting with the German organisers and the locals, it was clear that the clocks run differently here and lots of things simply can’t be done. And when the fair opened its doors on 18 March, I was there on the Krones stand. There was no sign at all of the chaos prevailing on the preceding days. The dimensions were much smaller than in Munich, of course, but for a first fdt in Africa the result was pretty impressive. What I particularly liked was talking to the staff and getting plenty of insights into the various remits involved. That’s precisely what I like about Krones: the openness and people’s readiness to share their knowledge and provide information.

I was made to feel so welcome in this office, and got so much help, that I truly believe I could not haven chosen better for my first venture into a workplace environment. Certainly, the size of the subsidiary also had something to do with this – with 126 people, you get to know each other more quickly of course. But quite apart from that, my impression was that the South Africans are very sociable. And a few words, too, on the subject of beer. Since I’ve been with Krones, I’ve developed quite an interest in beer. In my very first week, I was even allowed to lend a hand when the Krones office in Johannesburg brewed its own beer! The 20th anniversary celebrations of Krones SA were themed around the Octoberfest, which is why it was an obviously good idea to brew our own festival beer. So we formed teams of 4 for some competitive brewing, and stirred the huge vessels as if there were no tomorrow. Exhausted, but proud of our home-brewed efforts, we cold-stored several hundred litres for a few weeks. But it was well worth waiting for. Everyone thought the beer tasted great, and we celebrated in true Bavarian style. Dirndls and lederhosen as far as the eye could see … Funny to think I had to fly over the equator and end up 10,000 kilometres away for this. But it was great!