From Audi Intern to Firm President

​Daniel Weissland was an industrial engineering and administration scholar from Germany studying the automotive enterprise in 1998 as an intern at Audi of America in Michigan, whereas struggling to grasp his English-speaking host household and colleagues.

In 2015, he turned president of Audi Canada and right this moment leads Audi of America, headquartered in Herndon, Va., as its president. Although it might have been fast, Weissland’s profession development from intern to the C-suite didn’t comply with a linear path. 

Weissland was apprenticing on the German Federal Railways in Munich earlier than realizing the job would not result in the life he needed to create. He resigned and returned to highschool to earn his highschool diploma and attend Hochschule Munchen College of Utilized Sciences in Munich.

In school, he interned at Volkswagen South Africa in Uitenhage (now Kariega), South Africa, and at Audi of America—then headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich.—earlier than graduating in 1999.

SHRM On-line talked with Weissland in regards to the position his internships performed in making ready him for his international profession, which has included:

  • Shifting by way of yearlong positions as a full-time worker at Audi AG, the corporate’s luxurious sedan product, from 1999 to 2005. He served as product supervisor, distribution supervisor for Northern Europe, seller community growth for Northern Europe, and gross sales supervisor for Eire and Portugal.
  • Incomes a grasp’s diploma in enterprise administration from Hochschule Munchen College in 2005.
  • Progressing by way of different areas of Audi AG from April 2005 to August 2015: gross sales director and deputy managing director for Audi Volkswagen Center East, assistant to the board of administration member for advertising and gross sales, and space supervisor for Southern Europe.
  • Finishing the superior administration program on the College of Navarra’s IESE Enterprise College—the College of Navarra’s graduate enterprise program—in Barcelona, Spain, in 2013.
  • Serving as president of Audi Canada in Ajax, Canada, from August 2015 to January 2018.
  • Serving as president and CEO of Volkswagen Group Canada in Ajax from December 2017 to September 2019. Volkswagen is Audi’s dad or mum firm.
  • Serving as president of Audi of America at its present headquarters in Herndon, Va., since September 2019.

The next responses have been edited for size and readability.

SHRM On-line: What sort of studying experiences did you have got as an intern within the automotive business?

Weissland: I labored within the division for industrial engineering. I primarily did workplace work, with one exception: In South Africa, many occasions when individuals received paid, they did not present up for 2 or three days [after]. All of the white-collar employees needed to go to the meeting strains to complete these automobiles [in their absence]. On a standard day, they end 100 automobiles; we completed 10 automobiles.

The employees went on strike for a number of days whereas the manufacturing facility meeting line was in the midst of making ready for the launch of the brand new mannequin. It was necessary to clear the meeting line and end the outdated fashions first. For the reason that employees went on strike, we—the company workers—had to assist assemble the remaining outdated fashions.

It is a tradition that I might by no means been uncovered to earlier than, and one thing you must study. The takeaway: Be ready for brand spanking new challenges and handle it. There isn’t a e book you’ll be able to learn to arrange you for all conditions in life, on the job or off the job.

SHRM On-line
: What recommendation are you able to give to college students to get essentially the most out of their internship?

Weissland: There isn’t a linear means of a profession. Be open, take alternatives as they arrive. Work exhausting and be relentless. Daily, attempt to do your finest. Be keen to step exterior your consolation zone; I bear in mind [my] errors and realized rather a lot from that.

As a scholar, I used to be at all times enthusiastic about automobiles. I needed to grasp the enterprise behind it. I attempted to get a foot within the door; that was one of many aims I had for my internships. That is the place my ardour began for the automobile business. As an Audi intern, I had a bit carpool I used to be managing for the management crew. I had alternatives to drive these automobiles by way of the carwash and replenish the fuel tank. Nonetheless right this moment, I really feel a ardour for the automobiles.

SHRM On-line: What affect did mentorship play in your profession journey from intern to president?

Weissland: Once I was an intern, my mentor was my boss. I am nonetheless in contact with him; he nonetheless lives in Michigan [where Weissland interned]. He needed to rent me at [the end of my internship], however as a scholar in America and a German citizen, it was not that simple at the moment to get a inexperienced card or visa.

It is necessary for a mentor to encourage you to step exterior your consolation zone. Certainly one of my mentors [later in my career] instructed me, “You must study to play all of the keys on the piano if you wish to be a grasp.”

[During my U.S. internship,] one employee who began three or 4 weeks after me helped me rather a lot. I used to be in a position to get some recommendation on how issues work. You must depend on the crew, discover any person that can assist you, coach you and develop inside the group.

SHRM On-line: You’ve got constructed your 24-year profession working for Audi. It is extra typical nowadays for individuals to maneuver round. What recommendation are you able to supply to younger individuals seeking to develop their careers inside a single firm or business?

Weissland: It is about loyalty. So long as I noticed a profession path I may develop and loved working there, why ought to I alter employers? Particularly with worldwide corporations, you have got tons of alternatives. I did not see a purpose to vary corporations simply because I could make a number of thousand {dollars} extra someplace else. I consider within the firm, I consider within the values of the corporate, and [I created] a path for myself to develop and develop.

My recommendation: Be open and use the alternatives. And you must get pleasure from what you are doing.

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