Posted by: Aimee McCracken

Today is Markus’s last day of his 6 month placement with us here at Smiley Monroe. Thank you to IAESTE and the British Council for connecting us with Markus – he has been a great addition to our team and will be sorely missed. Check out Markus’s blog below, were he talks all about his experience working with us and living in Northern Ireland.

I travelled over 1,330 miles from Austria to Northern Ireland to join the Smiley Monroe team in order to gain practical experience in my field of engineering and improve my language skills. I was also interested in experiencing a new culture in a different country. After 6 months I can safely say that my expectations were more than fulfilled and I am glad that I took on this challenge!

During my studies I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to go for a semester abroad, so I was glad when I came across IAESTE and the British Council, who both specialise in connecting students and companies for internships all over the globe. I knew straight away that this was exactly what I wanted to do after graduation. I had a precise idea of the internship I was looking for. I wanted to gain practical experience in a manufacturing company in an English-speaking country, to complement what I learned in my very theoretical study at university. Furthermore, I wanted to develop my language skills and experience a new culture and way of life. Smiley Monroe’s job description was exactly what I was looking for, so I was really happy when I got the good news that I was chosen to join their Product Support team.

I finally started my exciting journey in August 2018, when I moved to Belfast and started with Smiley Monroe at the beginning of September.

During the first two week I got the chance to spend some time with a team member from each department, in the factory as well as in the office. This was very interesting and helpful, as it allowed me to gain an overview and understanding of the company and its products. I felt that it was very easy for me to settle in and find my place because everyone was so helpful and kind from first day one.

What I enjoyed most from my role within the product support team was the great variety of tasks I had to deal with.  One of my main tasks was to support the team using the CAD Software Creo, but because I have used similar systems before it wasn’t too difficult for me to learn how to use it. In this context I had to deal with designs ranging from specific product adaptions for costumers, to factory equipment such as moulds or punches and designs for marketing. Working closely together with factory departments gave me the practical approach I was looking for.

I also got the chance to work on projects concerning manufacturing improvement and factory planning, where I enjoyed working closely together with Neal – Manufacturing Engineer.  This was very helpful as it allowed me to uncover an area that interested me a lot. In addition to my work in the office I was able to join Daryl and Chris on site a few times to gain a deeper understanding of the duties of the Product Support and Site Service teams, which was a completely new experience for me.

I would like to thank all the guys in my office and the Product Support team including Chis, Neal, Jamie, Morgan, Daryl and Wesley for their trust in me from day one!

Besides the challenges at work, there were of course a few language and cultural related obstacles I had to cope with, although the cultural differences to Austria weren’t too big. Beside from driving on the left-hand side, which was confusing at first and caused some near misses (not at work of course), I especially struggled with the fast talking speed and the strong Northern Irish accents from my colleagues. I remember the first few days in the coffee dock, where I hardly understood anything anyone was saying but thankfully it got better and better over time. Two of my favourite phrases which are used rather frequently, and I didn’t know before were “dead on” and “wee”. Adapting to the local food on the other hand was no problem for me at all. Thanks to Chris I am now almost perfect at making white stew, which I will definitely be making back home in Austria for my friends and family.

Finally, I want to thank Chris Monroe and Tim Monroe for giving me the chance to join Smiley Monroe for 6 months and the whole Smiley Monroe Team for treating me so well and for being so welcoming. I learned a lot and I hope that I contributed a “wee” bit to Smiley Monroe’s success!

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