Look. Pretty Clever.
She was at a girls’ school and never wanted to learn a job that involved physics. Now, Alexandra Lück is working almost solely together with male colleagues, cutting thread, drawing wiring diagrams, and getting robots up and running. The 18-year-old is training at Daimler AG to be a mechatronic engineer. Physics and mathematics, amongst other things, are part of her daily life – and she absolutely loves it.
“I would choose this job all over again,” says Bremen-born Alexandra Lück, who is currently in her third year of training. “The fascinating thing about being a mechatronic engineer is combining the two vocations of mechanic and electrician, which covers so many different subjects. There’s something different nearly every day, and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
Although Alexandra Lück, the graduate of a girls’ secondary school, is only one of five women among 60 trainee mechatronic engineers in Mercedes-Benz’s Sindelfingen factory, she does not feel out of place. Quite the opposite, in fact: “I think it’s great doing something that’s not a typical girls’ thing,” she says. It was naturally a pretty big adjustment after school. “When you’ve been around girls for years, it’s very strange to suddenly be surrounded by guys. And getting accepted is much more of a challenge,” she adds. “But once you’ve been accepted as an equal, it’s actually sometimes easier to deal with guys on a day-to-day basis than with girls. You don’t have to watch everything you say, and there are fewer misunderstandings.”
Preferring a boiler suit to a desk
When looking for the right job, Alexandra Lück did various internships when she was at school. Like her friends, she tried out typical careers for women first. “After a week in a kindergarten, I knew teaching wasn’t my thing,” says the self-assured young woman. She then did an internship in a bank. “But sitting at a desk all day was too boring for me.”
The keen archer and skater realised that she preferred manual work, and took up an offer by Daimler AG. It was the summer of 2008, and the automotive company was offering two-day work placements. Alexandra decided on two placements – one as a model-building mechanic and the other as a mechatronic engineer. She thrived in the latter, and after four days she knew: “This is it, this is just what I want to be doing.” She immediately enrolled for training.
Physics – as exciting as a thriller
She doesn’t know the first thing about cars, but for this job she doesn’t need to. The work she does involves plant systems such as assembly lines, lifting platforms and industrial robots. So among other things, she is learning to cut thread for hydraulic systems, drill holes in 1.2-tonne steel plates to attach robots, programme robots, and draw wiring diagrams for governing and control systems. “It’s all extremely interesting and a lot of fun,” Alexandra enthuses. “I never would have thought maths and physics could be so exciting. It’s all about building mechanical, electrical and electronic components and assembling them into complex systems.” Her training will take three-and-a-half years.
Many of the tools required for mechatronics cannot be moved by one employee alone. For example, the bench vices on the milling machine weigh 25 kilogrammes. “We have to tackle it together – we’re a team after all!” laughs the slim, 1.82-metre blonde. And sometimes, when the screws are too tight, she has to take a hammer to them. Alexandra admits that doing this training has made her more confident, more assertive and better able to handle conflict.
A love of technology runs in the family. Her older brother has also trained in mechatronics, but in another company. And her twin sister has trained as a vehicle interior designer, also at Daimler. Outside her job, Alexandra Lück is a typical 18-year-old girl who likes shopping with her friends, reading romance novels and thrillers, and enjoying her first car.
Her first love – the smart fortwo
She had already obtained a driver’s licence at the age of 17 and was eagerly awaiting her 18th birthday, when she could finally drive her dream car – a smart fortwo. “I love the smart, its shape, its charisma and this unique driving sensation,” she says. When she talks about the city runabout, her eyes start to light up.
The big day arrived in August 2011. She got her own smart fortwo – with heated seats. “I really need those,” laughs the prospective mechatronic engineer. Since then, she has not minded quite so much getting up at five o’clock in the morning to drive to work. And perhaps one day, she will turn another dream into reality: to work as a mechatronic engineer at a Mercedes-Benz factory in the USA.
Getting girls excited about technology
Alexandra Lück is one of about eleven per cent of women training in engineering in Daimler AG’s German production plants. Young women can choose from more than 20 different commercial or technical jobs such as mechatronic engineer, vehicle mechatronic engineer or technical model builder.
Daimler is committed to using a variety of methods to get girls interested in technical jobs. During the annual ‘Girls’ Day’, the production locations in Germany open their factory gates. Some 600 girls participate each year to find out more about the different jobs and test their technical skills. Some Daimler locations then offer a one-week internship to those girls who are interested. This is known as ‘Girls’ Week’.
Additionally, Daimler is cooperating closely with schools, especially also with all-girls schools. In autumn 2010, Daimler initiated the national training initiative, ‘Genius – Daimler’s Young Knowledge Community’. In cooperation with the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Education and the school textbook publisher Klett, Daimler engineers have developed teaching materials on the topic of ‘future mobility’. The engineers are also visiting the schools and talking about their daily working lives. Additionally, a separate website at www.genius-community.com
offers interactive applications on science and technology along with information material for parents and teachers.