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Klaus vom Hofe

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Special connections

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In Germany, schoolchildren sing a song for new first graders. The lyrics say: "That strange flutter in your tummy, that's what we had at the start, too", or words to that effect. That strange flutter comes back time and again over the years. Even at work. But if you're lucky, you'll have a mentor or buddy to lend a hand. Do you have a buddy?

Buddies

Reboot on the job: if you're lucky, you'll have a mentor or buddy to lend a hand.

The first step is always the hardest. The first few days and weeks at a new job can be nerve-racking.  It can be hard to find your feet with new tasks, new co-workers and networks, even understanding "unwritten" rules. Just finding the copy machine and office supplies can be bewildering.

Over the last few weeks I have been in touch with three members of staff who weren't just left to their own devices when they joined Deutsche Telekom. They had a "buddy" by their side for support. But that support wasn't part of some huge mentoring program, like the sort all major corporations have. Instead, it was just colleagues who were happy to say "I'm always here if you have questions." I took the opportunity to speak to them all. I was very touched by their solidarity. So much so that I'd like to introduce them to you:

Direct line

Short ways to clarify questions for customers: Marion Jozefofski with her Buddy Edward Korby.

Short ways to clarify questions for customers: Marion Jozefofski with her Buddy Edward Korby.

Marion Jozefofski, based in Frankfurt (Oder), advises Deutsche Telekom customers on the hotline. She has been working in the service area for a long time, but only recently in the "Fixed Net Complaint Management" unit. It receives calls from customers affected by access faults, complaining about their bills or facing problems with the internet. For Marion Jozefofski, this meant a new clientele, different IT applications and a host of company specialists whom she'd never heard of but who are there to help out with tricky cases. This was also her first experience dealing with customers with complaints, who aren't exactly always in a good mood. But her buddy Edward was there to lend a hand with anything and everything. He dispensed useful tips and even jumped in when one particular situation was going off the rails: a customer who just didn't want to hear that updating her Deutsche Telekom products would fix the problems she had. "That was exciting and touching for me as a newbie. I can't get that customer off my mind. I wanted to help her, but I just couldn't," Jozefowski says, looking back. That's why her colleague's support, help and tips were so useful. "I had a 'direct line' to get my questions answered."

"I couldn't have done it without him"

"I couldn't have made a fresh start without him": Sylvia Gonschior and Jens Hellwig.

"I couldn't have made a fresh start without him": Sylvia Gonschior and Jens Hellwig.

Sylvia Gonschior has also taken a brave step. A teaching graduate, she was working for Deutsche Telekom's Smart Home team in Darmstadt. Her work there sometimes involved the Smart Home app. She even learnt how to make small changes to the app herself. "I was fascinated by the results of my work being visible immediately." That's when she decided to change her career path. She signed up to retrain in-house as a software developer. Since then she has been learning programming languages such as JavaScript and Html and how to build web applications and apps. Her buddy and teacher is Jens Hellwig, an experienced developer. They look like a well-rehearsed team. From the first day Sylvia realized how many tiny programming steps go into every little a button of an application. "It blew my mind, and Jens could tell," says Sylvia Gonschior. Jens Hellwig is impressed by Sylvia's "brave decision to give up a secure job in an environment she knew well and go back to square one all over again," as he puts it. "I have great respect for her. Through good teamwork, I want to show her that she made the right decision." He began assigning her tasks almost from the start and recognizes the time saved for the project. Sylvia Gonschior says, "Jens always points me in the right direction to solve challenging tasks for myself." There's no doubt in her mind, "My new start wouldn't have been a success without him."

"She's a role model for me, too"

Sharing many years of experience can only be useful: Julia von Esmarch und Monica Kummerow (r.).

Sharing many years of experience can only be useful: Julia von Esmarch und Monica Kummerow (r.).

The chemistry between Monica Kummerow and her buddy Julia von Esmarch is just as compelling. Julia, who has been with the company since 2009, told me, "We also get on well as individuals. I think that's key to a trust-based buddy relationship." Monica explained she got many offers of help when she joined Deutsche Telekom’s Corporate Communications. But what she likes most about her buddy is that they also talk about things "not related to our daily work in the office". They regularly meet for lunch and their conversations range from the department in general, its structures, to working methods and other issues. Monica knows she can count on Julia's advice and approach, especially for difficult tasks. "She is a role model to me because she is very structured, attentive, patient and has a good sense of humor." Julia recognizes the value of her experience built up over years in the job: "Sharing my experience can only help new colleagues." In the meantime, Monica's induction has come to an end. What's left is their regular lunches. And, just like I observed with everyone I met, an enduring special connection.

What about you? Do you have a story to share? Are you especially grateful to a buddy?

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