Marcus Schwarz met with the Alumni Faces team in Munich. He studied electrical engineering in Ilmenau from 2013-2017. Afterwards, he got his Master's degree in Robotics in Munich and has now been working as a Data Scientist for almost a year. He still often thinks back to his student days in Ilmenau. In the interview he explains why student life in Ilmenau is so much better than in Munich.
On the one hand, the very good teaching that you get, how I learned later in my professional life, what and how some things were taught to others. On the other hand, of course, there is also the student aspect. The being together. We also went to the clubs regularly on weekends. And the fact that I lived above the D-Club caused many sleepless nights. In addition, my fellow students, my seminar group, number 306-84, and the internationality, which was very, very large even in the GDR times. All that I associate with Ilmenau.
I am from Erfurt and did my Abitur there and Ilmenau was the most obvious. Dresden might have crossed my mind, but the 40 minute drive were decisive. In addition, all of my classmates from high school ,who hava a technical degree now, went to Ilmenau at the time.
I was always good at math, physics, chemistry, that is, in the school subjects that are close to studying something with technology, and I never really had any doubts if it could be the right thing or the wrong thing. Although, I have to say that back then it was not common to have doubts about what you do and what you decided to do. Ultimately, the path of life was already somewhat predetermined (GDR). The possibilities just weren't there today.
One of the highlights of my life is that I failed an exam. That was in Marxism-Leninism, so it no longer exists today, but it was an integral part of basic studies at the time. With the same consequence that if you fail the first repeat exam, there has been a second repeat exam and otherwise your studies would have been over. Regardless of the grades in other subjects. I thought I could do it easily, in the end it wasn't like that and then I really had to sit down and studied Karl Marx's Capital and also read books on the interpretation of capital because the exam was about this topic and in the end I passed the first repeat exam with a 2.0, which is of course completely sufficient (laughs). So it took a big stone from my heart.
Back then, in the seventh semester, we had a six-month internship in an industrial company. I was in Erfurt at the time, at what was then the Zetkin repair shop, where I did engineering work. And then they offered me a job and ultimately I ended up there. So after graduation, there was no reason for me to think about anything else or to apply somewhere else. That fit well with my circumstances with the family and then I went back to Erfurt and got the job there in 1989. After that, yes, the Wende came and in the fall of '89 the big turnaround started. I was lucky enough to be able to stay with the company. The company was taken over by Siemens in 1990, and I stayed in Erfurt until 2005. Siemens had a factory there for power generation. Then I was head of design for turbo generators. In 2005, I went to Mühlheim an der Ruhr for one and a half years, which is Siemens' main plant for power plant technology, and then I was in Shanghai and Wuhan from 2006 to 2009. One year in Wuhan, two years in Shanghai, but at that time Corona was still far away. And former colleagues of mine from Erfurt, they were then in Switzerland, at ALSTOM AG and offered me a job and then I changed from China to Switzerland in 2009. I then also changed employers and joined ALSTOM. I then worked in project management for generator technology and in 2016 we were taken over by Elektra and now I'm with General Electric.
My working title is CYCLE PRODUCTIVITY and I am responsible for optimization projects in various service factories, where we do the service for power plant technology. The factories are all over the world, just not in Switzerland. So I'm practically on the move globally with Microsoft Teams. If Corona wasn't there at the moment, I would travel around a lot.
I always like to remember my first job in Erfurt. Maybe that's a bit of a glorification of the past. Otherwise, every change in working life has of course also led to changes in the personal living environment. With the change of job, also a change of place of residence. What I remember is, even if it was difficult, in the end everything turned out well. Every change has meant effort, has meant uncertainty, but in the end it just turned out well. I've settled in everywhere, of course you have to have a bit of the ambition to want to settle in somewhere else and in the end it turned out to be positive for me. I don't just want to aim at the monetary one, of course one thing is that with every change there are also developments in terms of income, but it is still the environment. You get to know new people, you get to know new perspectives, and I think that is a great enrichment.
So back then I was in a mountaineer or climbing club. I think it should still exist today. And then we always made the pilgrimage to Hermannstein in Manebach and climbed there. Anyway, it was one of my favorite places.
So partly with climbing. Unfortunately it was like that back then, as a student you generally had no vehicle available, so you had to rely on public transport. Getting away from Ilmenau was always very difficult back then, so it took over an hour to get to Erfurt. We were therefore mainly in Thuringia. Then sometimes climbing in Saxon Switzerland. Those were the highlights, otherwise going to the clubs. I think that's normal student life.
Now I have nothing to do with the people from the seminar group, but I still have contact with two or three other fellow students I met during my studies.
I always remember a saying that we had, that was “Either it's raining or the barriers are closed.” So there is the train station and if you had to walk to the train station, then you always had to cross the barriers. So I always associate Ilmenau with blue, like water. It rained a lot.
Deciding more consciously on your course of study. With the age of around 20 being able to really consciously assess what you want to do later in life, that is certainly difficult. But making the decision consciously is certainly what every student should do. In the end, I probably didn't make a conscious decision to opt for electrical engineering. But I've never regretted studying electrical engineering. Ultimately, the insight into what you are really doing only came with the internship, in the company back then. And then stop with working life itself.
Studying lays the foundation for life and it's not the end, it's just the beginning. Even when you have graduated, that is just the beginning of your future life. Life holds so many changes and surprises in store that you can see over time. Study is important, but it is not what is at the end of life. What you make of it, opportunities that you take or not take and those are the developments that will really come. The course of study only lays the foundation for this.