Dr.-Ing. Jan Biermann

Nationality: German
City, Country: Munich/Germany
Study Program/Degree: Mechanical Engineering Theory (D.Eng.), Mechanical Engineering (D. Eng.)
Year of Graduation: Engineering Graduate: 2005, Doctor of Engineering: 2012
Employer & Position: BMW Group, Development Specialist (Acoustics and Vibrations)

Can you tell us about an unforgettable experience that you had during your time at the TUHH?
For sure, the biggest and best personal experience that I had was certainly my year at the University of Waterloo in Canada, which I was able to do thanks to the TUHH exchange program. But I’ll also never forget studying for my very first exam at the TU (Maths 1). Until then, I always got by listening to the teacher and, by doing so, I somehow understood and retained information. At the TU I realized that this would no longer work and I had to learn how to learn. At first this was hard, but in hindsight it was a great personal experience.

Which skills do you use that you learned during your studies?
Put simply, I would say the way I learned to think like an engineer. During your studies, you think that the set-in-stone curriculum is important. But the most important thing, and the thing that my studies have helped me most with is the skill of being able to quickly familiarize yourself to work with new and very complex matters and to use an ‘engineer‘s approach’ when it comes to problem solving. To some extent, this approach differs enormously from other disciplines.

What is the best thing about your job?
On the one hand, I am working on a great and emotionalizing product. That helps to motivate me. On the other hand, I’m employed in a large and very international company. This has its disadvantages too, but the complexity of the organization, the processes and ultimately the technical aspect of the resulting products mean that every day you really do learn something new and understand more. In fact, no day is like any other and you have endless opportunities to use your skills and develop them. That is exciting.

What is a typical day at work like for you and what skills do you need for it?
You actually have to deal with ‘x’ number of different projects at the same time, which are all at different stages of the development process and therefore call for different tasks. That means that one day you might be working at the test station and analyzing measurement data. This can be an analysis of competitor vehicles, or you might be performing basic tests in order to understand basic physical relationships. On the same day, you might be thinking about simulation methods or interpreting simulation data from vehicle projects at a very early development stage. You are always preparing presentations, and presenting these at various meetings in different fields.
This requires high levels of multitasking skills and quick adaptability. On a daily basis, you have to work on improving your own specialist level, but also on understanding things more generally. This is because the final product is the result of a lengthy struggle to find the best solution, which is normally a compromise of a variety of conflicting specifications and aspects: technical, economic and legislative. You always have to have the ‘big picture’ in mind, and that can only happen with perseverance and by using powers of persuasion.

I would love to exchange a day with …
Angela Merkel

What would you ask an omniscient researcher from the future?
If evolution will manage to create the ‘second-generation human’, who can inherently deal with things mindfully, without egotistical and destructive drives, and use these skills to benefit their physical livelihood, as well as their social circle.

If you were President of the TUHH…
… I would encourage a critical reconsideration of the curricula. I was able to experience both the German system and its North American counterpart. Both are different and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. But in my view, neither are the complete package. I would try to combine the best of both worlds.