From South Africa to Austria - Sean found his career-match at HOFER

Sean Smit from South Africa decided to start a career at HOFER in Austria in 2020. After months of strict lockdown in South Africa, he applied for a position in the International Supply Chain Management team and received a confirmation. In the interview with Sean you can find out more about him and why he decided to start his career at the International Management Holding of HOFER.

Sean, describe yourself in three words!

Sean: Adventurous, enthusiast and traveller.

Sean, how old are you?

Sean: I turned 36 years old in July.  The awesome thing was that I experienced my first ever summer birthday in Austria, while in South Africa it is winter during July, so this past birthday was memorable.

Where did you grow up and how?

Sean: I grew up in a small family along the South Coast in a coastal town called Amanzimtoti, KwaZulu Natal, where I have one brother who still lives in Amanzimtoti and my parents are based in Johannesburg.

Which language do they speak there? And Which languages do you speak?

Sean: In South Africa, the main languages spoken are English, Afrikaans, however Zulu is also spoken in the province I grew up in. Although South Africa has 11 official languages. I speak English and Afrikaans, I also can put together a few easy sentences in Zulu and I am able to speak a little bit of German.

 

Where did you work before HOFER?

Sean: I worked for a German company with the headquarter in the Black Forest, but in the subsidiary based in South Africa.

What education/training did you enjoy?

Sean: I studied a Bachelor of Commerce degree (BCom) in Logistics and a Bachelor of Commerce degree Honours (BComHon) in Supply Chain Management, which is comparable with the Master in Austria.

Where did you hear about HOFER?

Sean: I first noticed HOFER while I was on vacation in Austria, but my decision to apply for a position at HOFER was about three months later.

Why did you take the decision to apply for a job at HOFER?

Sean: This is quite a story. My partner and I were on vacation in February 2020, as part of our vacation we planned to visit Austria for 3 days and we loved our vacation time in Vienna. However, I was always convinced that I would move to Germany with the company I was working for at the time. Covid-19 pandemic then struck. We were all sanctioned to home-office for lockdown in March 2020. By May 2020, I felt the need to change something as being in one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, got me thinking about how monotonous life can be and that we should always challenge ourselves for change. Nonetheless, I came across this position advertised by HOFER by absolute chance. I could not have imagined that a South African guy would move to Austria to work in International Supply Chain Management for an enormous international company. Life should always amaze you.

How did the application process look like?

Sean: The actual online application process was seamless and easy, although there were many additional documents required for the application than what would typically be required in South Africa. I had three rounds of thorough interviews with HOFER and with each interview phase, the audience grew bigger, and the questions got tougher. Overall, the interviews were conducted in a very professional manner - I was seriously impressed, although very anxious as you never know if your impressions made the mark.

Did HOFER support you with your relocation?

Sean: Yes, absolutely! HOFER provided me with tremendous support during the entire relocation progress. When you have to say farewell to family and friends and you are about to move 12,000 km away, you already have enough stress. HOFER organised a company that helped me with finding a flat in Austria and bringing all my stuff from South Africa to Austria. Knowing that this process was supported by HOFER, gave me the opportunity to focus more time on my family and friends.

What was the biggest adaption for you due to moving to Austria?

Sean: There has been five major adjustments for me:

  1. Not being able to visit my parents every week, so now we do weekly video calls.
  2. Not seeing a lot of sun during November to April. Because in South Africa, you grow up with an abundance of sun, no matter which season.
  3. Driving on the right-hand side of the road in a left-hand drive car. In South Africa it would be the opposite. So parallel parking has been somewhat of a nightmare in the beginning.
  4. Check-out at any supermarket. The speed at which they scan the products and then the need to pack your own groceries is still somewhat of an anxious experience. In South Africa, there are packers that do this for you, so you do not end up feeling flustered by accidentally holding up a queue.
  5. The language barrier: As my German is at very basic level (A2), it is normal to get nervous in situations that require more than basic German speaking capabilities.

When exactly did you start at HOFER and how did your first weeks look like? (onboarding, etc.)

Sean: I started in November 2020. My first few weeks consisted of a lot of onboarding sessions, understanding the diverse workstreams within our department. I also got to know the exciting topics I would be working on and met my awesome team members.

What is your job about?

Sean: My job involves being part of the strategic planning for the future of HOFER/ALDI SOUTH’s upper supply chain performance.

How important is teamwork for you and how do you perceive it in your team?

Sean: Teamwork is the foundation of success. I enjoy working with my colleagues as they provide so much inspiration for new ideas and new ways of thinking. My team is supportive and we all share many common goals.

 

How does your typical workday look like?

Sean: A typical workday would include many meetings, interactions and consultations on a variety of topics.

How do you like Austria so far?

Sean: Austria offers breathtakingly natural sceneries. I cannot help myself from always taking pictures wherever we go. Another major plus is that it is effortless to get around the inner cities and from city to city with the public transport. Austria offers diverse cultures from classical art, to music history to beautiful architecture with so much royal history and so many unforgettable landmarks and beer!

What are your hobbies?

Sean: I thoroughly like travelling. I enjoy „Ausflug machen“ in all the wonderful places Austria offers, specifically hiking trails. I am also a keen history enthusiast and therefore drawn to exploring landmarks with history.

Do you often go home and visit your family?

Sean: Unfortunately, due to the Pandemic, I have not been able to go back home as during these times yet, everything is just so unpredictable in terms of border closures. I am however hosting my parents next summer where I will be able to show them Austria and its beautiful natural sceneries.

What do you enjoy most about your job at HOFER?

Sean: An awesome part of my job is that I get to meet so many interesting people, from Austria and from around the globe in the HOFER/ALDI SOUTH world. HOFER provides you with a platform to think out of the box and often colleagues have the opportunity to expatriate to another country and work on new topics. This is a great chance to gain vast amounts of knowledge and experiences.

 

Do you have a favourite HOFER product?

Sean: Who can argue that Choceur is not the favourite, right?

 

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