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By Dörthe Schmidt

    The south of France - not just sunshine and savoir vivre as Anna-Zaira Engeln soon found out. Last year, she took part in a work experience programme at a knowledge management company in Lyon and brought back plenty of new knowledge. Tiring, but very much worth the effort, was her summary.
    Anna, who works in communications electronics, was looking for an opportunity to fill in the time usefully between her vocational training and university. So she decided to find a work placement in IT abroad: "Since I'm interested in France, and my aunt, who lectures at Aachen Polytechnic college and likes to send her students abroad, was able to arrange the placement for me, I didn't hesitate", says Anna. But she was a little apprehensive before she set off. "I wrote down on a piece of paper all the things I was worried might happen or go wrong. I haven't kept the piece of paper, but I could have ticked off around 80% of them. Most of them actually happened." Despite that, things were not as bad as she expected and a lot of very pleasant things that she did not expect happened, and they outweighed the others. "They made up for it a thousand times over" she commented afterwards.

Even if you can't find moral support anywhere else, there's always the Maria Cathedral in Lyon.


You can find out more about Anna-Zaira, her life, her cat and France on her homepage www.anna-zaira.de

Anna joined these yetis for a snowy walk. She's second from left and is just being roped up.

If you're interested in knowing what else Kade-Tech www.kadetech.fr do, and want details of work experience programmes there, you can find out more from them.

    In terms of her career, Anna made great progress. At KADE-TECH she was initially dropped in at the deep end. The company collects knowledge from engineering experts and uses this to programme computer software. Their customers are well-known companies who want to relieve their top specialists from routine jobs in machine component design and use the time saved for more research work.
    When she started at KADE-TECH, Anna had enough knowledge of communications technology to programme a telephone PBX, but had very little idea of computers. "I knew that "Word" was for writing texts and "NT" was an operating system and that PC's have an ON/OFF switch. But that was all", she explains her level of skill before her visit to France on her own homepage. That soon changed. Soon, she was working on Kade-Tech's website and translating the company's image brochures into German. But her main task was to participate in a technical project.
    DASA needed data relating to the design of a cross-member in the floor of an airbus, and the task was to collect this information from experts and turn it into a program. The data were compiled. In the case of the cross-member for the floor, the task was to find out how thick the material has to be and how big the cutouts in the struts under the floor have to be in order to accommodate all the pipes and cables. "If a plane is too heavy, it won't fly or it'll use too much fuel - the same as a car. We have to find the ideal compromise, as light as possible but still strong enough." As a result of complex calculations, aerospace engineers have gathered lots of experience over the years. In order to avoid these engineers' having to recalculate everything if there's a minor change, KADE-TECH transforms this specialist knowledge into computer programs. Part of this is a 3D display of the entire object. That was what Anna had to do. She taught herself how to use the CATIA CAD program and C++ programming language and the company's own programming languages (e.g. GDL -Geometric Description Language and CDL - Class Description Language) and used these to transform the cross-members into 3d graphics.
    It was almost pure chance that this activity covered exactly the areas that she later wanted to study, but had, up to that time, had very little to do with. The course combines engineering, electronics and IT. Her vocational training had already covered electronics, but "in IT, I was very unsure of myself, I would never had had the courage to study it on its own." Since KADE-TECH was also involved in engineering alongside the IT elements, she got to know this field as well.
    Anna's new knowledge was not restricted to megabits and bytes, though. She was asked to present the DASA project to other trainees - in French, of course. Since that went very well, her boss asked to report to a group of engineers and academics on the project, which went so well she was applauded at the end. "All in all, I got a lot of feedback, which is not the case everywhere. Certainly not to the extent and in the manner they did it", says Anna, who comes from Essen, Germany. To top it off, she was appointed trainee of the year - KADE-TECH always designate one of their best trainees in this way.
    By now you might have got the impression that Anna spent all day and night stuck in front her PC, programming away. In fact, she also had leisure time. She was lucky enough almost never to be alone. On the one hand, she spent time with her colleagues or with students, because she was living in a student hostel and "no one gets the chance to stay alone for long there!" Often, she went off enjoying the Lyon nightlife or went up into the Alps to do some trecking or climbing, where she managed to overcome her fear of heights on the steep, 250 metre slopes.
    The French tended to follow basically the same pursuits as we do in Germany, but "they have a more relaxed attitude", says Anna-Zaira. In formal situations, though, it was quite the opposite. "We may think burocracy in Germany is bad enough, but in France it's far worse. The French wanted an international birth certificate from me, OK, that's acceptable. But then they said it shouldn't be older than three months. I ask you, what can possible change on a birth certificate?" Probably the French don't know, either.

kadetech-gruppeThis is what the people at Kade-Tech look like

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