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Written by Sofia Koskelainen

Sometimes career choices evolve from unexpected events. In many cases, it’s not at all clear what we want to do in the future. There are people who know exactly which direction they want to go, people who are a bit lost with their career choices, and people who are in between.

Our software developer Thomas Wehlan was still finding his way as a computer science student at the Hochschule Niederrhein in Krefeld. This changed however, once he decided to take a course in real time operating systems. Through out the course, he was challenged and encouraged by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Quade to program software that would control a slot car on a “Carrera Autorennbahn”. For him, this was the turning point.

“When I was a student at the university I never wanted to do the software in the beginning. The first courses were about C and C++ and I found both very abstract and hard. In my last year however, we started doing a course about Carrera car tracks and we had to program software that controls the cars on the track. This project was the one that got me interested in programming. Now it wasn’t abstract anymore, it was something attached to the real world. Finally, I could see something that got me interested in doing software.”

Solving Real Life Challenges

In university, Thomas studied computer science with a background in electrical engineering. After finishing his studies, he wanted to work somewhere where software development was not just about the software, but where it was connected to the real things in life. This was the reason he got into the field of automation – to solve real life challenges.

“My everyday tasks include checking the backlog and going through the list of jobs that have been assigned to me. Then I have commissioning jobs where I go out to the factory or to the customer and work on the ‘real stuff’ and learn new things, as it’s a new or different robot than the last time. We have also space for creative work, so there’s a chance to try out and learn new things. It’s not a usual 9-5 job. Every day is different, and that’s what keeps it interesting.”

At Fastems, software development is always connected to solving real-life manufacturing challenges.

Thomas describes how Fastems’ international software development team keeps everyday work interesting. Working from different locations don’t really matter as days start with the daily scrum meetings with the software team in Finland.

“These daily meetings via Skype attach me to the team. I know what’s going on in Finland and how my colleagues are doing, and it’s also for them to know how I’m doing. I can really learn from these guys as they know almost everything, and they really help me to grow with my experience and my knowledge.

What really fascinates me about fastemsians, is that they focus on important specifics right away. Sometimes I might get so lost in the details that I can’t see the wood for the trees. Luckily, my co-workers are smart and sharp people who can immediately see where the problem is. Working with these people helps me evolve and get better every day.”

A Changing Environment and Flexible Work

When asking what motivates him in his job, Thomas has a simple answer: “It’s the whole package I would say”. In addition to the software being connected to real life, a changing environment and flexibility of the work are what really matter.

“We have the newest technologies available and work changes from project to project. We have interesting customers that do interesting things, and we work with interesting machines all the time. I think the work is very flexible, I can work at home or at the office – I could work from anywhere really.”

Thomas describes fastemsians as highly motivated and open minded. Teamwork is also something that he really values.

“Fastemsians are real team workers and they know that everything is a team effort.”

“In the automation field there are so many tiny bits that have to work together and that doesn’t stop with us. I mean, that’s really interesting about Fastems because everything works very well together when our automation is running.”

Thomas doesn’t have any single motto in life, but one saying which encourages to not be afraid of failing comes to mind: “Wer nichts macht, macht nichts falsch“, which means “he who does nothing, does not do anything wrong”.

“If you don’t try, you won’t fail, but if you don’t try there will be no success either. That comes to my mind a lot when I’m working. Better try it and take the risk and maybe fail, but at least you have learned something. Or you are lucky and it works.”  Thomas explains.

Read more from our People Series