“Japan? Why do you want to go to Japan?” a friend asked me in spring 2017 when I told her about my plans to go to Japan for half a year to do an internship. But my motivation was clear: I wanted to gain some first international work experience, I wanted to learn something about the mysterious culture of Japan and besides this I wanted to enhance my English language skills.

My travel started at the end of September 2017 when I took a flight from Frankfurt to Tokyo. After I had arrived, I moved to my apartment which was located in Kamiooka, a district of Yokohama, the second biggest city of Japan. The internship itself started at the beginning of October. In Yokohama the Continental office is located in the so called “New Stage Building”, a modern office tower in the port region of Yokohama. I worked in the business unit “Advanced Driver Assistance Systems” (ADAS) in the department R&D – Research and Development. During my time as an intern I focused on strategy and planning tasks. Together with my supervisor and the homologation engineer of the R&D team I was responsible for a project, called “Homologation request tracking”. Homologation means the process of approving a technical product for a specific country by law. The goal of the project was the optimization of the process for the internal handling of homologation requests by customers. At the beginning of the project my task was to conduct a stakeholder analysis to identify weaknesses of the current homologation request process. Therefore I firstly identified all stakeholders which were involved in this process. Based on a questionnaire, I conducted interviews with them to collect necessary information. Subsequently I reviewed the already existing process together with my supervisor and the homologation engineer in several team meetings and discussed about possibilities to enhance the process. After this step we illustrated the optimized process as a flow chart diagram in Microsoft Visio and summarized the process into work packages with clear responsibilities. For the future internal tracking of homologation requests I developed an Excel spreadsheet, which should help the stakeholders to follow the process flow and track all necessary information. Last but not least we implemented the process and the Excel spreadsheet into the company by organizing and conducting trainings for the stakeholders. Besides this project I supported the ADAS Series Analysis team by analyzing and evaluating sensor simulation data. Therefore I developed VBA Macros in Excel to quickly analyze big amounts of simulation data.

During my time at Continental I was able to get insights in the work life of an international automotive company which is operating in the future field of autonomous driving. By joining the “Homologation request tracking” project, I could learn how to organize and conduct a long term project successfully.

Apart from the working activities, Continental in Japan organized a lot of events to get together with colleagues from a lot of different nations. For example, every month there was a so called “Language lunch”, where colleagues from different nations had lunch together and talked about the cultural aspects in their countries. In January, the “Multinational culture day” took place. An event where colleagues from all nations, that are represented in the Continental office in Yokohama, brought some typical food from their home countries and had dinner together. As a member of the organizational committee, I participated in the organization of this great event.

In the leisure time I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the foreign Japanese culture and see a lot of the country. At the weekends I often took a subway ride to Tokyo, one of the world’s biggest and craziest cities. Another weekend I flew to Okinawa, the so called “Japanese Caribbean” with dreamful beaches and landscape. In January I travelled to Seoul in South Korea, together with another intern from Germany and made a trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea.

During the time in Asia I made many valuable experiences and grew a lot myself. I learned how to find my way in a foreign country far away from home and away from my familiar environment. I also got some insights in the Japanese culture. My favorite cultural experience was the Japanese New Year’s celebration. I participated in the traditional custom which is called “Hatsumode” and visited a temple on the first day of January 2018.

In summary my time in Japan has been a great experience which helped me developing myself. During this time I got great insights into the Japanese culture and learned a lot about working in an international automotive company.

Finja Ostermann-Emden

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