From student to application engineer in one year

Kerim Demirtas on the Junior Sales Program at KEB

How to get started in professional life? The KEB Automation Junior Sales Program provides an answer to this question. Behind this is a traineeship that prepares graduates in twelve months for later employment in one of the sales areas of the KEB Group. Kerim Demirtas was the first employee at KEB headquarters to complete the program. In the interview he talks about his personal experiences and explains why you should bring a large amount of spontaneity with you.

Tell us about your career so far and why did you decide to join the Junior Sales Program?

Kerim Demirtas: After my high school graduation, I started a cooperative study programme at KEB. I studied electrical engineering with a specialisation in automation technology at TH OWL. During the semester breaks I then worked for KEB and in this context I received the recommendation from the head of training, Thomas Lalk, to orientate myself towards the area of sales. And I am still very grateful to him for this advice. That's how it ended up that I wrote my thesis on a sales-related topic and was offered the opportunity to go through the Junior Sales Programme at an early stage. That was particularly interesting because it tied in smoothly with my studies. It also offers a mixture of very different subject areas that are relevant for later work in sales.

How did the traineeship work? What stages did you go through?

Overall, the traineeship was very well organised and structured interestingly, yet it still offered enough flexibility to incorporate my own interests. I was given a plan for each quarter, which specified different stations. Among other things, I received classical training, was in the customer centre and in technical support, got insights into marketing and was allowed to be in the service department. For the longest time, five to six weeks at a time, I was involved in the various sales areas – i.e. export, application and field sales. In the first quarter of the programme, the main focus was to understand the company and the different processes in detail. In the following months, "learning on the job" was the key. I was able to learn a lot, especially in the application areas of plastics technology and woodworking, and was also involved in the commissioning of machines in which KEB drive technology is used.

What was the mentoring like during the programm?

I was supported by the Vice President Sales and Marketing, Norbert Schwabbauer, who coordinated the Junior Sales Program. In addition, the Head of Application Sales, Benjamin Mönnig, supported me in practical everyday trainee life with advice and action and also reliably helped me with questions about applications. But also the colleagues in the different departments I was allowed to visit were good advisors and supported me very kindly with all my concerns. Having a contact person at all times is of course particularly important as a young professional.

Were there any stations that you particularly liked?

There were definitely several. The insights into the service and development departments were important for the technical understanding of KEB products. I was also allowed to repair an inverter once. That gives you a completely different feeling for what our products can do. In technical support, I found it interesting to hear about the concrete issues of our customers and to be able to answer technical questions. During the program, the focus was on application sales, which is an area where technical know-how and sales interact. Especially the woodworking applications – with huge saw blades, for example – or shredder applications were really impressive. I really enjoyed experiencing these machines up close on business trips.

Did you expect to go on business trips beforehand? And were there any other points that might have surprised you?

Business trips, also abroad, happened again and again during the program – and sometimes quite spontaneously. For example, I was once asked if I wanted to travel with them to Spain the next day. Here it was about the servo pump in a customer's plastic injection moulding machine. I was also allowed to travel to Switzerland and Belgium, and in Italy I experienced on site what cooperation with KEB's foreign subsidiaries means. All this requires flexibility and spontaneity, which you always have to show despite the very good planning of the program. But that is exactly what makes the work so exciting and varied. Besides that, I was also surprised at how much I was trusted with. Among other things, I was allowed to give a presentation to a new client on my own.

How did your first contacts with customers go?

As a prospective sales employee, contact with our customers naturally plays a very important role. One thing I learned was how important it is to have a personal exchange at the customer's site in order to understand their needs as well as possible and to speak at eye level. I was looking forward to the first customer contacts right from the start. I then jumped into the " cold water" at the LIGNA, an important trade fair for woodworking machines, and looked for direct contact with current and potential customers on site. Basically, I learned that customer contact can take place in so many different ways: through private contacts, partnerships, visits, LinkedIn or, of course, emails and phone calls.

Would you recommend the Junior Sales Program to others and what skills should you bring along for it?

I can recommend the programme one hundred percent. In a short time, you learn so much, get an understanding of how a company and sales in particular work and, last but not least, you come into contact with many different people. In this respect, the traineeship brings you a lot further, both professionally and personally. In addition to the basic requirements – a technical degree or a certified technician – characteristics such as openness and curiosity as well as a good understanding of a broad range of topics are helpful. You should have the desire to look for a good solution even for challenging tasks, and self-confidence also helps in sales work. If you have this, you will really grow into the job during the traineeship.

What's next for you now?

I am happy that I will be working as an application engineer at KEB in the future. In the course of the program, I was asked which sales area I could best imagine for myself. And since I like to be close to the machine, I chose application sales. Here I will then work in the areas of woodworking and plastics technology and I am already looking forward to many exciting projects that I will implement there with our customers and my colleagues at KEB.

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