My name is Naike Bennefeld and I am working with Continental since 2004. I started my career as an apprentice with dual course study in process engineering in Hanover, Germany. After several years of working experience in Germany and the US, I returned as Head of Utilities & Energy to Engineering Tires in 2015. Since almost two years I took also over the responsibility for Environmental Technology.
I made the decision to choose a career in the technical area while I was going to school. I used to work in the production department of a big furniture manufacturer located in my home region, the Weserbergland in Germany. Even then I often asked myself: How can it be improved? I realized my technical affinity, decided to take the path of engineering and began my dual studies of process engineering.
I started to look for companies I would like to work with and decided for Continental. What I personally like about this company is the work culture that every employee lives every day. Your actions really have an effect. I had that feeling right from the start, at my first interview, so the decision was quite easy.
My work in my department is mainly about sustainability. This is our focus at Utilities, Energy & Environmental Technology for our more than 20 manufacturing facilities on a global scale. We have three important pillars: The first one is to deal with energy efficiency, awareness, behavior and newest technology in our plants. The second part is utilities, which is not only generation of energy, but also everything that belongs to the infrastructure like active fire protection or building management systems. We were involved in every greenfield project in the last years to equip them with the best and newest technology to produce energy that we need for our processes in an energy efficient way. The third pillar is technology for environmental protection.
Unfortunately, the manufacturing industry is still a male-dominated domain. In my experience, men and women sometimes take different approaches to achieving their goals – both successfully. Good leaders recognize the added value that comes from this mix. Additionally, in my point of view I would not call the diversity quota really a quota, but rather ambition and awareness of the benefits women bring. All my female employees and colleagues – in this case engineers – did not get their job because they are women. They got their job because they are high-performing personalities who help Continental reach the next level and that’s exactly what matters.
During my time at Continental, I passed a lot of challenges but highlights as well. My biggest challenge and also the biggest highlight were the participation in a project as an expat in Sumter, United States. When I moved to Sumter, there was only a large green meadow with some poles under construction and a handful of colleagues. It is a lifetime experience to set up a plant, see it grow and experience the start of production in just one year. Another personal highlight for me is to start working on topics from scratch, for example energy was a new unexplored area. We had to find out how to do it in the best beneficial way that works for our tire process and plants and the same we are experiencing now with building up the manufacturing environment technology for the plants.
Even if I work a lot, my leisure time is important for me. My biggest hobby is scuba diving which allows me to travel around the world like in my job. My biggest highlight so far was swimming with a swarm of reef sharks in the Caribbean Sea of Belize. What I like most about it is that every dive is a new impression and experience. Under water you dive into a completely different world where usual communication does not work. That is why you have to trust your dive buddy 100% without talking and you are responsible for each other. Otherwise you will not be able to enjoy it at all. Since I grew up in the Continental family, I even go diving with some colleagues that have become friends. So far, I visited a lot of “places to be” for scuba diving: Hawaii, Caribbean ocean, South East Asia and Australia. At the end of the year, I will finally be able to enjoy the Pacific as well as the Caribbean ocean in Panama. This will certainly be a whole new experience!