I enjoyed this weekend in Prague, which was my first time traveling outside of Berlin. It was important for me to get out because our company had a big energy conference that we had been working hard on, and when it finished up on Saturday afternoon I took a bus directly to Prague. I was traveling alone – and without a phone – which made for an interesting time for exploration. It was great to be able to just walk around the city and meet people who were either traveling or local who were eager to show me the city. The architecture was incredible and made for a great environment on top of the weather being fantastic the whole time I was there. I met a local Czech kid who showed me around both the tourist areas and the non-tourist areas which was definitely pleasantly unexpected. In an odd way, I learned more about the city without a phone than with one. I did not have any opportunity to look anything up about certain sites or even where to go, but instead asked questions to locals who were very excited to either give directions or explain something about Prague. Although I have enjoyed my time without a smartphone based on the cool experiences I have had, I am excited to get it back on Friday so I am able to communicate and actually know where I am going.
In terms of soft skills, working in Germany has taught me an incredible amount about dealing with people of another culture in a professional setting. Primarily, the workdays here have made me a more direct person. I feel that I see this transferring over to my daily life with friends and family. Since my supervisor is an extremely direct person who never tends to sugar coat the truth, it has absolutely rubbed off on me in a positive way. When interacting with others, I am more stern in terms of how I present a question or answer. I have learned that especially in a professional setting there is no reason to beat around the bush and you must be straightforward or else meaning can be lost. This is especially true when you are dealing with a different language like German. I have had experiences where meaning gets lost if I use idioms or something more figurative; This has led me to say everything for what it is in plain English.
On another note, I feel as though I have culturally become more aware of how to interact with a multitude of different cultures. In my work environment there are about 20 different nationalities working together, even though we are not in the same organization. I have made many friends there and picked up on how interactions may differ from how Americans usually interact. Since I am typically a pretty loud and talkative guy, it has been a challenge for me to tone it down and not talk to everyone there in a small-talk way. It has pushed me away from this sort of attitude and has led to more meaningful discussions on a more personal level. In general these two soft, transferable skills are something I am very grateful that I could learn. They are skills I will definitely be sure to carry over to my next work experience especially if it is within a culture I am not used to.
In terms of hard skills, I have learned about many different websites and skills within them that will be beneficial going forward in my career. For example, I have been using both IONOS and MailChimp a lot, which are excellent applications for creating websites and sending out newsletters, respectively. The company’s website operates through IONOS which does not have any translation option, so it took a little while to learn what the German words were in relation to English. They are the main applications that I use on a daily basis so my skills in navigating them have been constantly improving and I feel like I could explain it to someone else and feel like I am an expert. Also, I have improved many past hard skills that have been useful at Kiezconnect. For example, this year at Pitt I learned how to use the software called Tableau which is used to create graphs, charts and other data visualizations. I told my supervisor about this basic skill and he put me up to the task of creating different visualizations regarding the neighborhood that our company was focused on. This skill improved greatly and it felt good to show off a skill to my colleagues, as well as improve on them. I feel that these hard and soft skills will be even more ingrained in my mind based on the fact that I learned them abroad. The environment forced me, in a way, to pick up on these skills and now they will not be lost.