Victor Hernandez
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“Every day at NORMA Group is a great experience”

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In our NORMAPeople series, employees around the world talk about their day-to-day work, how they came to the company, and what they appreciate most about their jobs.

Victor Hernandez actually works as a Metal Welding & Testing Specialist at the NORMA Group site in Juarez, Mexico, and is a member of the IME Tech Centre team. Last November, however, he was on a bubble assignment in the Czech Republic. In this interview, he talks to us about the experiences and insights he gained while on this assignment.

Victor, you spent three months in the Czech Republic. How did that all come about?

Back in May 2022, I was at the NORMA Group site in Hustopeče to support local employees during the relocation of the plant from Gerbershausen to the Czech Republic. In my position as Metal Welding & Testing Specialist, I am responsible for everything that is related to welding processes. The focus is on manufacturing, quality and technology – including topics such as process simplification, data management and analysis.

The plant in Hustopeče

The manager of the plant in Hustopeče asked me if I could provide some additional support. And so the idea came up to return as part of a bubble assignment. HR played an important in this regard, because the processes of such a bubble assignment are more difficult than I had previously imagined. There are so many documents required for the authorities – every country is different and has its own regulations.

How were you received by the local staff?

The colleagues are friendly and very open. I was always able to approach them with questions and they provided the support I needed in every situation and I’m very grateful to them for that. I also had the opportunity to get to know NORMA Group employees from Germany, Poland, Great Britain and Sweden.

“I realized relatively quickly that you don't have to speak the same language to communicate with each other.”

I was in regular contact with colleagues who only spoke Czech, but I did not. But it doesn’t really make a difference if you speak the same language just as long as you have the same passion.

We also spent time together after work. I learned that there is a lot of culture in this part of the world that I didn’t really know very much about.

So you were able to grow in terms of culture?

Absolutely! On weekends, I had a chance to do a lot of exploring, which allowed me to get to know people outside of work as well. Hustopeče is only about 150 kilometers from Austria and about 300 kilometers from Hungary. Poland is also pretty close. I visited cities like Brno, Prague and Budapest and, of course, spent a lot of time in Hustopeče. It’s an experience that I will never forget.

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Victor visited, among others, Lednice Castle and Křepice in the Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary and Bratislava in Slovakia.

What other things did you gain from your bubble assignment?

I gained a lot, actually: Empathy for people and situations as well as adaptability. I was able to expand my critical and strategic thinking, challenge my own ways of thinking, and pick up new sources of inspiration.

What were the differences between your day-to-day work in the Czech Republic and Mexico?

In Mexico, I check my email directly over a cup of coffee, because the time difference between Mexico and most European countries is about eight hours. Between 10 and 11 am, I then drive to the office and continue working from there.

In the Czech Republic, the start of work was similar – coffee is indispensable everywhere. But after that, all roads led straight to the plant. Hustopeče is a small town, so I walked to work every day. It was cold, but not as cold as in North America. So, I really enjoyed those mornings. I spent the first half of the day in production and then in the afternoon I was in contact with my colleagues in Mexico.

Would you say that the bubble assignment was your most enjoyable experience at NORMA Group?

Meeting other people, looking at things from different perspectives and seeing different cultures is always a great experience. And for me, it is a great experience that I get to have every day at NORMA Group.

“I have been involved in major projects. And that was very interesting and impressive. But overall, I would have to say that meeting people is what I enjoy the most.”

The bubble assignment was a great opportunity for that, because I was directly on site and was able to get to know the colleagues personally.

So, I would definitely say that the bubble assignment was a great experience, but I also enjoy every other day at the company because I always have the opportunity to communicate with people.

Would you like to do another bubble assignment in the future?

I certainly would! We are already talking about a second stay in the Czech Republic. But I would also like to spend some time in the UK or in Germany as well.

Ian Kane, Director of Manufacturing Engineering, is Victor’s supervisor and instrumental in getting Victor to complete a bubble assignment: “A bubble assignment is a great development opportunity that benefits both the individual and the company. Victor was the perfect candidate for such a stay because he is part of the IME Tech Centre team, which is mainly based in Europe, but he himself lives and works in Juarez. I am happy to say that the bubble assignment was a tremendous success for Victor – he was able to gain valuable experience that helped him integrate even better into the IME Tech Centre team.”

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