News+Stories: We’re in your office at the Institute of Business Economics and Industrial Sociology at TU Graz. What exactly do you do here?
Sigrid Weller: I’m a university assistant for teaching and research. Basically, I am writing my doctoral thesis here and I teach; in other words, I am here for the students. I hold exercises and seminars, supervise exams as well as bachelors and masters theses, organise research seminars on research and writing – and if I’ve got any time left over, I carry out research.
Key word WING: apart from being a university assistant, you’re the managing director of the Austrian Association of Industrial Engineers – WING. What does the association stand for?
Sigrid Weller: WING is a network platform for students and graduates of industrial engineering studies, and represents the interests of its members, carries out knowledge transfer and promotes career paths. We see ourselves as a link between business and university.
WING is a network platform for students, and graduates of industrial engineering studies, and represents the interests of its members, carries out knowledge transfer and promotes career paths. We see ourselves as a link between business and university..
What does the association do for graduates of industrial engineering study programmes?
Sigrid Weller: Every member can use the XING platform of WING and network with other members using the WING database. Current offers of jobs are sent out using the WING newsletter, and separately by email or post. Also, in the spirit of knowledge transfer, we organise the WING Conference every two years and publish the WINGbusiness magazine four times a year, with each issue dedicated to a particular focus. The economics institutes of the Austrian universities take it in turns to be responsible for each issue and set the topics. Furthermore, it is also possible to take part in conferences or talks offered by members of WING free of charge or at reduced prices.
Can students also benefit from the advantages of WING?
Sigrid Weller: Some 400 of our 1,400 members are students. Student members are organised regionally in WINGnet Graz, Innsbruck, Villach and Vienna as well as in the Industrial Management Club (IMC) Kapfenberg. They can enjoy all the benefits of WING, such as the XING membership group, the job portal and the magazine. There are also other special regional events in the federal states, such as company tours, presentations of companies at the universities – the so-called Look IN events – and social get-togethers. I personally found out about the association through a Look IN event during my studies. At such events, representatives of companies explain what particular skills they are looking for. In this way, WINGnet supports students to take up direct contact with companies.
WINGnet supports students to take up direct contact with companies.
Does WING act as a broker regarding internships abroad?
Sigrid Weller: This happens occasionally in the framework of the general job portal when there’s a job vacancy. For international exchange, however, close cooperation of WINGnet with ESTIEM, the European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management is a great advantage. Very many international events are accessible through this cooperation and there is a lot of exchange.
What does reconciling the double function of WING managing director and university assistant mean to you personally?
Sigrid Weller: WING involves a lot of work – particularly before conferences. At such times, research misses out. But I cannot and will not put teaching last on the list. I like teaching very much. I find it a lot of fun. In the summer or semester holidays, when everything is quieter, I give my attention to the scientific studies side. For instance, in cooperation with WING, I carried out a study on the occupational profile of an industrial and management engineer, so they’re both interlinked.
When teaching and WING activities become quieter during the holidays, there’s more time for research.
What is the industrial and management engineer study about?
Sigrid Weller: We’ve done a detailed analysis of all WING university courses in Austria, what students expect from their studies, what core competencies graduates should have from the point of view of business, and what career opportunities are like on the job. The Institute of Business Economics and Industrial Sociology at TU Graz carries out a survey about industrial engineering and management in cooperation with the WING association every four years. The aim of this is to address young people who don’t yet know exactly what they want to study or what to expect, but also to give guidance to human resources managers in companies, who can, in turn, also give support for shaping university courses.
Basically, as someone from Ulm, I had applied to study at Munich or Karlsruhe, but then a colleague of mine gave me the idea of Graz.
What was the beginning of your studies like?
Sigrid Weller: For my studies of Mechanical Engineering and Business Economics I came to Graz rather by accident. Basically, as someone from Ulm, I had applied to study at Munich or Karlsruhe, but then a colleague of mine gave me the idea of Graz. We came here to have a look round and I liked it so much...
… so much that you stayed in Graz?
Sigrid Weller: Yes, I was really impressed by Graz. The city is not huge but there is everything here – and for cycling the hill country in the surroundings of Graz is only a quarter of an hour away. I like to do sport as compensation, and I find it very important to be able to get into the countryside fast. But staying here was absolutely the right decision.
I want to finish my doctoral thesis of course, and be a good teacher – that’s very important for me.
What plans have you got for the future?
Sigrid Weller: I want to finish my doctoral thesis of course, and be a good teacher – that’s very important for me. I am doing a lot of didactical training, such as ‘Teach, Present, Publish’ this summer – a three-week workshop with lecturers from Montclair University. Perhaps after my doctoral thesis I’ll go and work in industry, but in any case I’ll leave it open as to whether I’ll come back to the university later, because I really like it here.