Soman describes the moment when she decided to apply for the work/study programme at PORR Building Construction, North Region, as love at first sight. She is now in the third practical semester of her Industrial Engineering for Construction and Real Estate course of study, having gained plenty of experience and expertise along the way. She still feels perfectly at home at PORR. We sat down with Soman to find out what made her choose the course and what makes working at PORR so special.
Why did you choose to do a work/study degree in Industrial Engineering for Construction and Real Estate? What was it that interested you?
I had already been studying civil engineering full-time for about two years. I was finding the course very dry and without much practical application. At the outset, I wasn’t aware that you could also do a civil engineering degree in a work/study format. I decided to change from my conventional degree programme to work/study, and ultimately signed up for an Industrial Engineering for Building Construction and Real Estate degree.
I like that that my studies are closely related to work at the construction company and the building sector at large. Degree courses in civil engineering and in industrial engineering for construction and real estate cover much of the same material, but industrial engineering is more geared towards business and company operations than construction itself, so I would be more likely to end up working within the company than standing around on a construction site. The business side of things appealed to me, so I finally opted for industrial engineering.
I always knew that I wanted to go into construction. I love travelling to places and discovering unusual buildings and sights. Most people tend to take a few snaps of a landmark or building and then go on their way. Not me. I want to know how the building was built. I've always been interested in the story behind it.
How did you find out about PORR while searching for companies, and why did you choose to come here?
The way it works is that you choose a few companies to apply to. That said, there’s usually a company at the top of your list. It’s like love at first sight. For me that company was PORR.
I was already familiar with PORR from a few construction sites in the city. At first, I didn't realise that I could do a work/study course with PORR, but when I checked out the list of partner companies on the university website, PORR was right there. I sent off my application straight away.
I also liked the company image that PORR presented on its website. I read everything: the five PORR principles, all about teamwork and how the company is looking to grow, including digitally. I knew that I wanted to end up here.
Which rotations have you done so far? Which activities/jobs have you enjoyed the most?
During the first practical phase, I worked in office-based technical support, on costings. I created my very first room book, focusing on three floors of the F4 project.
It took me an absolute age, I must admit, but it was my very first one and it was a learning experience – I realise that now that I’m in my third semester and on my third work rotation. This time around, when I had to create another room book it went much faster.
Since my second practice phase, I’ve been assisting the other members of my team with the FLT fishing harbour project in Lübeck Travemünde. I created a room book for that entire project too, as a way of familiarising myself with it. It’s a very large construction site with 12 big residential buildings.
Now in my third practice phase, my tasks have changed and I’m busy crunching numbers for drywall construction, phoning subcontractors and getting quotes. I sometimes work with iTWO BIM software, too.
It feels really good to be able to see a project through from start to finish and witness how a construction site changes as I work on my degree.
Now that you have a year of the work/study programme under your belt, can you tell us what makes working at PORR so special?
I love the team I’m in: no matter who you turn to, everyone’s happy to help. Communication is great here – the staff really talk to each other about what they're doing. That's so important and it’s what makes a team.
The projects are one of a kind, too – being able to work on the FLT in Travemünde is a dream come true. I’m really enjoying it, it's what I've always wanted.
I think everything is really well organised and structured at PORR. There’s a go-to person for everything. Most importantly, it’s easy to find the right contact at the company. If you enter a search term in the internal telephone directory, it directs you to the person who is responsible for that area and you can get in touch with them if you need further assistance.
Generally speaking, what’s it like to get out on the construction site and see how the project is developing?
It’s a unique experience. During my first degree, I just learned the dry theory from books; I didn’t get to experience it hands on.
Now that I’m in the work/study programme, it's fascinating to experience the actual building and help it come into being. I can actually apply what I’ve learned. It feels great when one of my colleagues starts explaining something to me and I already know what they are talking about. That kind of experience motivates me to keep on giving my all. Seeing everything happen in real time on the construction site is a great experience and enhances my theoretical knowledge. For instance, you don’t just read about reinforcement from a textbook, you actually get to see it at work on the construction site.
What would you tell schoolchildren who are interested in a work/study degree programme?
Theory and practice join up in all sorts of ways. Doing this kind of programme is very useful because you get to see what you've learned during your studies with your own eyes during the practical phase.
It works the other way round, too: what I’ve learned at the company stands me in good stead at university. In class, the professor might be explaining something and I realise that I know it already, as I’ve seen it in action at PORR. One time, we had to create a presentation in small groups. One of the tasks was to create a room book for a building. I took the lead on this task because I already knew how to do it.
You learn from both sides and take something away from each. That's why I would highly recommend a work/study degree. And best of all, once you graduate, you already know your place of work inside and out – company, concept and co-workers alike.