Renewables Exchange: Swapping Desks with Colleagues abroad

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View out of the office in Bad Vilbel showing wind turbines
View out of the office in Bad Vilbel showing wind turbines

“Would it even be relevant for me to participate?” That question came to me when we had the chance to participate in the pilot phase of the Renewables Xchange program. This program gives engineers the opportunity to work in another country for a few weeks. “Why would I want to swap desks with a colleague in Germany for three weeks?” Given that I’d been with Tractebel in Belgium for less than six months at the time, I assumed my contribution in Bad Vilbel, Germany, wouldn’t have much impact. However, by viewing it as an opportunity to learn new things and meet our German colleagues, I decided to take part. No regrets!

Escape the daily life

Like many people, I’m a big fan of traveling. I find that seeing and experiencing new things and meeting new people really helps to broaden your world view. And as much as I like my hometown in Belgium, it’s nice to escape daily life every once in a while and break the routine. As I started working in April last year, I hadn’t left Belgium for longer than a weekend since. So the timing of the exchange program in October was actually quite good! The plan for the exchange was to spend three weeks in our German office in Bad Vilbel, a small town right next to Frankfurt. I didn’t really know what to expect. But it seemed like a good opportunity to get in touch with our German colleagues and get to know the Renewable Energy division of Tractebel a bit better. Also, I hadn’t visited Frankfurt before. It was a nice occasion to meet up with a friend who lives not far away from where I would be staying. So, after sleeping on it, I enrolled in the program.

Arrival at the German office

After a six-hour drive, I arrived at the Tractebel office in Bad Vilbel. As soon as I got there, I joined the German colleagues for their after-lunch coffee and introduced myself. Then they showed me my office for the following weeks. The offices in Brussels and Bad Vilbel are quite different. In Brussels, we have large open workspaces and no fixed desk. In Bad Vilbel, everyone has their own office, sometimes shared with someone else.

I shared an office with Tim and later with Valentin, two very nice guys with whom I could have a chat every now and then during our work. As the day went on, I got to meet more people. It was a great start!

During the following days, I became acquainted with the ways of working in the German office – not too much of a difference from Brussels to be honest. 😉 I learned about the projects they are working on, which was quite interesting. My work at the moment is focused on the Belgian market. And from what I’ve noticed, there appears to be some differences between developing two wind turbines along a highway in Belgium and designing a 200 MW wind farm in some middle eastern desert. 😅

In that first week, we had a hybrid get together with the international Renewables team, after which we had a beer and some food together*. It was a good way to learn about the whole Renewables division!
*If you would like to know more about this hybrid team event, check the post I linked below.

…outside of the office

The time went by quite fast actually. It seemed to me that they made an effort to accommodate us well. I’m referring to ‘us’, since Mouhamet, a colleague from the international team in Brussels, also took part in this exchange. He arrived a day later than me. This was very nice, because I hadn’t had the chance to really meet him before. Funny that we met in Bad Vilbel, even though our “home base” is the same. We regularly had dinner together at the local restaurant right next to the hotel. We had some great laughs, and it was nice to not eat by myself every night! Keep an eye out for Mouhamet’s post about the exchange!

Mouhamet and me, posing in the coffee corner in Bad Vilbel, Germany

During the week, there was always enough life in the office. But over the weekends there was not much to do in Bad Vilbel, to be honest. So I used my time off to visit some nice places in the area. The weather was still nice, so I could enjoy the hilly landscape of the region next to the river Main. It was perfect for a hike through the vineyards and stopping for a tasting at one of the hundreds of wineries around. Next to that, I got to visit my friend I hadn’t seen in while who lives in Mannheim, an hour’s drives away. He showed me around and we had some great schnitzel and pilsner together! Finally, I also took some time to check out Frankfurt. On my last day, some colleagues and I went out in the city. It was great fun!

Some lovely scenes around the area: vineyards in Bürgstadt and Heidelberg

Finally, the exchange concluded with a goodbye dinner on one of my last evenings with a big group of my German colleagues. It was a nice way to end the three-week ‘desk-swap’ and a great way to converse with everyone outside of the office. Special shoutout to Dagmar for setting it up!

I would like to thank the German team for accommodating us, and everyone who helped make this happen. And definitely check out the other participants’ stories, coming soon! 😊

Would you like to find out what opportunities Tractebel has in store for you? Take a look at our job offers

Check out Dagmar’s blog post about the international hybrid team event “Teamwork across borders”!

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