Internship in Ecuador – Moderating Workshops and Learning what achachai Means

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This post is also available in: German

I am Melanie Kraschitzer, I am 26 years old and I am studying the master Management & Engineering at the University of Lueneburg (Germany). As the end of my studies was slowly approaching, I wanted to do an internship abroad once again. The ProMotion (student binding program of Continental) team arranged everything so I could go to Ecuador, the country of the panama hat. In Cuenca, I got to know the tire production and I was able to gather many exciting impressions. I did not work in a particular department or in a permanent team. Nevertheless, because of my work, I got in touch with nearly all departments in the factory.

The internship lasted from mid-April to mid-September. During this time I was responsible for the introduction of the Conti Business Teams in the plant. A business team (BT) works like a mini-company: it assumes responsibility for its own performance. The BT consists of a team leader and its members (e.g. shift supervisors and operators). Roles and responsibilities within the BT are clearly defined, in order to ensure the responsibility for managing relevant key performance indicators (KPIs). I was responsible for the development and organization of the project infrastructure such as team boards and KPI charts. During the preparation phase I also moderated SWOT analysis workshops and trained all business team members, from the operators to the department managers, in the new meeting structure.


Me with the typical panama hat

Since I already knew Spanish beforehand, I did not have to overcome any language barriers and could focus completely on my work. However, in Ecuador about two million people speak Kichwa in addition to Spanish, a variant of the Quechua language family. Like that I could also learn some new words in the everyday life. For instance “achachai” instead of “tengo frío” (Spanish for: I’m cold) and “guagua” (spoken wua-wua) instead of “niño” (Spanish for: child).

The things I liked best were that I was able to manage the project independently, the exciting work in a completely new working environment and the related challenges. To give you an example: I had to learn that it could take up to 15 minutes until all participants were actually present and therefore meetings rarely started on time. A planned extra buffer at the end of the meeting proved to be very helpful to discuss all necessary points in some cases. During the first three and a half months I lived with an Ecuadorian family and the last one and a half months at a friend’s flat. During the week I used to go for a swim with a friend regularly and on the weekends I used every opportunity to explore the surroundings of Cuenca with my new friends.

The Ecuadorian landscape is extremely diverse. In the west there is the warm and humid coast with about 25 degrees all year round. In the center do the Andes cross the country with mountains rising to more than 6,000 m above sea level (Cuenca is located at about 2,500 meters above sea level). You can find some active volcanoes in the Andes, such as Cotopaxi, Tungurahua and Sangay. I was able to see the first two in action. It is really exciting to see an ash cloud from a distance of only about 5 km!

In these five months I met wonderful people, ate delicious food and enjoyed a beautiful country. The newly gained impressions, practical experience and friendships will certainly accompany me for a long time. I am really grateful that the ProMotion team made these great experiences possible. Also the workshops taking place in Germany have already been very enriching for me. I joined the ProMotion program in August 2013.


Melanie Kraschitzer

Melanie Kraschitzer

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