Nuttawee Danvivatanaporn, Manufacturing Manager at Unilever Thailand, set her sights on learning from the best in the engineering industry by moving to Germany before returning to Thailand. 

As part of our กลับบ้านกันเถอะ (Let's Go Home) series, the engineer shares her experience working in the country known for its reputation for precision engineering, as well as how being adaptable and resilient help her thrive and succeed in her career.

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Breaking out of her comfort zone

Nuttawee in Germany for her internship with Hexcel Corporation
Nuttawee, during her internship in Germany for Hexcel Corporation / Image by Nuttawee Danvivatanaporn

After graduating with a degree in materials engineering and working in Bangkok as a materials engineer for over two years, Nuttawee decided it was time to move out of her comfort zone. To gain a different perspective of the engineering industry and the world at large, she headed to Germany, a country renowned for its dedication to engineering precision and innovation. 

She enrolled in a double Masters degree programme in Germany and received an MBA in Technology Management and a Master of Science in Materials Science. 

And as part of the double degree programme, Nuttawee interned with Daimler AG, the automotive company that manufactures Mercedes-Benz vehicles, among other brands, and followed with Hexcel Corporation, an industrial materials company that supplies parts for aircraft, space vehicles and satellites, including parts for the Airbus.

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Navigating new cultures 

Her work experience in Germany gave her a fresh perspective on work culture. “My German colleagues were highly disciplined, systematic and efficient – they would have 20-minute lunch breaks, they don’t really make soft talk in the office, and would leave the office by 4pm after they have completed their tasks,” Nuttawee recalls.  

Being “young, female and Asian”, Nuttawee was constantly challenged at the start of her internships. “In Thailand, there are many female engineers, so most people do not doubt female engineers,” she says. “I learned that to thrive in a male-dominated industry, like in Germany, I need to be confident and independent.” 

She adds that the best thing about working overseas is meeting different people and being exposed to different perspectives. 

Nuttawee in Singapore with her colleagues from J&J
Nuttawee, with her J&J colleagues of different nationalities in Singapore / Image by Nuttawee Danvivatanaporn

After around two years in Germany, Nuttawee moved back to Thailand to work at Johnsons & Johnsons and later moved to a director-level role in Singapore. “I had a team that was made up of seven nationalities, and I had to learn to manage them, so soft skills came into play. It was less complicated to work with Germans as they are very straightforward people. Us, Asians, we tend to be more emotional.”

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Going home 

When the company underwent staff reorganisation, Nuttawee was at crossroads. She had to decide whether to move to another position within the company, leave and work in another company in Singapore, or leave the company and move back to Thailand. 

“I was already flying back to Thailand for a week every month, so it felt like a natural decision to move back home,” explains Nuttawee, who also received a job offer for a role in Bangkok.

Word of advice for professionals looking to return home 

There are a lot of benefits to working overseas. First, you are exposed to a different culture and perspectives, and more often than not, the compensation packages in Europe are better than what you can get in Asia. 

“However, you also need to consider your personal life too. It can get lonely if you are overseas by yourself, and if you have a family with you, you need to consider how your partner and children are adjusting to the foreign culture. So at the end of the day, you need to trust your gut and ask yourself, will you be happier overseas or at home? Can you adjust to a foreign culture?” Nuttawee says. 

As the world gets smaller with globalisation, you would work with people from different countries, says Nuttawee. And your overseas working experience will significantly benefit you in your career.

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