Ben Burgoyne Reflects on his Experience and Key Takeaways from his Company Transfer to Germany

May 12, 2020

Ben Burgoyne at the OmniTurm project site

Ben at the OmniTurm project site. He was the Lead Commissioning Agent for this project, a new 645,834-ft, mixed-use development in the heart of Frankfurt’s central business district.Five years ago, Baumann’s VP and Director of Commissioning Ben Burgoyne and his wife made the decision that it would be a good time in their life to relocate. They were seeking the experience of a different culture in a foreign country. With Baumann’s office in Frankfurt, Germany, Ben realized a company transfer could provide an avenue to not only fulfill this aspiration but also to advance his career, expand his international network, and experience a change of work environment. A few months after discussing the prospect of a company transfer with Oliver Baumann, President and CEO of the firm, Ben and his family found themselves in Frankfurt, Germany.

Making the Transition

The transition to Germany brought its own set of challenges to both Ben’s personal and professional life. A key part of the process involved obtaining permits and visas in order to legally live in Germany. Ben and his wife also had to figure out the logistics to move to Germany and find a place to live. They also had to learn how things were done there and assimilate to the culture. Some main differences were:

  • Ben had to learn to use four different recycling bins as Germany is big on recycling.
  • Don’t try to hand anyone a check, they’ll think you are up to something. Unlike in the U.S., money transfers are only accepted electronically.
  • Strangers felt comfortable offering unsolicited advice. In some instances, they pointed out things like your kids not being properly dressed for the weather and other harmless comments. They meant well but it took some getting used to.
  • Neighbors are not shy to point out that Sunday is Ruhetag, which means “a day of rest and quiet” in German. Unlike in the U.S., few businesses are open on Sundays and during the holidays in Germany. Nonetheless, it provided a nice break in the weekly rhythm and slowed down the pace of life, providing quality time with family and friends.
  • The public transportation system in Germany is great! There are several options to choose from—bus, light rail, train, or underground system—and highly accessible.
  • It wasn’t that easy to practice German as mostly everyone was eager to speak in English.

In the workplace, Ben had to adapt to a new office environment and working closely with the new office colleagues. Nonetheless, the Baumann culture was consistent in the Frankfurt office, though the staff are a bit quieter! Additionally, Ben had to become familiar with German industry codes and standards, such as VDI and DIN. He missed having the common knowledge and confidence level of knowing how everything works in the field, but gaining that expertise was part of the plan.

Working on International Projects

A core benefit of Ben’s company transfer was the additional international experience he gained and connections and relationships he built with industry leaders and clients in Europe. He played a key role in projects located throughout Europe, besides Germany, including Greece, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Although Ben had previous experience working on German projects, his proximity gave him the opportunity to fully immerse himself in the projects. The most notable and largest project Ben was involved with was the award-winning Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) project. As Baumann’s Project Manager and Lead Commissioning Agent, Ben managed the team to provide full scope commissioning services for all technical systems. The SNFCC project began in 2010 and took seven years to complete. Due to the size of the scope, the project required numerous in-person meetings and site visits. The team comprised partners from different countries—Germany, Greece, France, Great Britain, and the U.S. Recently, the SNFCC project was awarded the BCxA 2019 Building Award in the Ongoing Commissioning category.

During Ben’s time in Germany, the Baumann team further developed its operation diagnostics (OD) services. This OD methodology uses advanced visualization techniques to organize and analyze large amounts of trend data effectively. To support our OD services, Baumann adopted a new tool, Synavision, which provides a quick overview of the building and systems performance as well as the detailed analysis of individual systems and components. Most of the projects that Ben worked on included a scope that involved OD. Large-scale projects, such as commercial and corporate buildings, used trend data for operation, collected and tracked by the building automation system. The team utilized this data to evaluate system operation over long periods of time and thus optimize performance.

New Culture, Different Places and Family Changes

Ben’s new geographic location provided him convenient access to neighboring countries in Europe. He had the opportunity to explore other small towns and cities in Germany and European countries like Croatia. Additionally, Ben’s family expanded by two during their time in Germany! He and his wife became involved with the local community, school, and church to help his children fully embrace the culture and learn German. At home, Ben taught his children how to speak German while his wife taught them English.

Overall, Ben’s company transfer offered him a lot of unique professional opportunities, as well as personal experiences. He expanded his industry knowledge and skills relative to European clients and increased his international connections. Ben also traveled and explored new places with his family. It allowed him to embrace all things that come with living in a different country—culture, language, food, and people. This experience helped expand Ben’s understanding on how people from a different country and culture approach things and their perspectives on life, politics, religion and the like.