When Mr. Rainer Hetzer, Head of Human Resources of the Chassis& Safety Division, visited the new Continental location in Lewes for the first time on the 30th of October, he pointed out what was my first impression: If you think of an innovative technology company which develops the most up-to-date 360 degree camera-based surround view systems for vehicles, you expect modern buildings with a lot of glass fronts. In contrast, ASL Vision is set up in an old clinker brick industrial style building from the 19th century. Even the Town Hall meeting took place in the traditional Pub “The John Harveys Tavern” on the other side of the River.
Anyway, many of my new colleagues come from India, Spain and Greece. A quite classic British, yet an inspiring international location. We are all taking part in completing the change of systems from an independent independent company to a segment of a large corporation. Since the acquisition was completed in January this year, many things have changed: New projects, new processes, new systems. There are also new German colleagues from a further new surround view location in Ulm, who are working in collaboration with the engineers here in Lewes on developing new products. Great Britain isn’t the other side of the world, but still a good place to experience globalization.
While the engineers try to solve software bugs, I’m working on the new accounting ERP (Electronics Resource Planning) System. Designed for a division of labor within a large company, our small finance team is working on nearly every accounting area imaginable. From “a” like accruals over “b” like bank account reconciliation to “v” like vendor management. In Lewes I get the (for a large company like Continental) unique chance to learn about the accounting and finance management straight from the roots. I couldn’t learn that much without our central function colleagues in Germany who patiently offer help. When we don’t know how to process a certain transaction in the new system, we can always ask.
But of course work isn’t the only thing to do in the UK. Just in the second week of my visit, the Queen in person visited Lewes to take a view on the most popular brewery in East Sussex, the “Harvey’s”. I joined the event and was very impressed of the people’s love and support for the Queen – hundreds of men, women and children waited during rainy conditions about an hour and a half, just to see the Queen’s Rolls Royce driving through the small high street for less than a few seconds. An old man joked: “The best thing of the Queen’s visit is the preceded maintenance of the potholes in our high street”.
A few days later, the year’s most popular event in Lewes took place, the “Bonfire Night”. This old tradition attracts tens of thousands of people every year. It is a large procession of different Bonfire Societies to remember the prevention of the gunpowder plot in 1605, when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the English parliament to strengthen the power of the Catholics in times of religious struggles. The whole event is of course more of a funny tradition than a real political event. Many English people were joking, Guy Fawkes would be the only person in British history that went with honest intentions into the house of parliament.
For me, it was a fascinating spectacle. Burning crosses and puppets, torches and a lot of firework were combined with crazy carnival costumes and music. The crowd made it very difficult to recognize the quite small town of Lewes. Huge fires, made of old woods, together with a firework display which went for about an hour have marked the end of an unforgettable evening.