"Hi! My name is Ben and I come from Germany, a small place called Giessen, close to Frankfurt. I found out about the CERN TTE programme in an advertisement in the school I went to, Technische Schule Butzbach, by one of the teachers, who taught us statics and engineering. I have been here more than two years and I personally also advertised the programme last year in Erlangen, where I had a stand and posters at a job fair. Some people knew nothing about CERN, it was very positive to tell them about it. The typical reaction was that it was 'interesting', it's true that it's a bit off what you normally look for in a job. People were not aware that technicians and engineers would be sought after, and they even thought that the flyer, with its design, was for a gaming company!"
I had no hesitations in applying. What attracted me was that I lived abroad before, in Canada, and basically after my training I was looking for an opportunity abroad to speak English. When the CERN opportunity came up, it was an interesting chance. The process was slow at first then went very fast, I had a skype interview and then, there were only 3 weeks between the confirmation I had a place and the start of work.
So what do you do here at CERN?
For two years I worked with the LHCb experiment, supporting maintenance during the long machine shutdown, doing upgrading work and maintenance for the detector. When the shutdown ended, there was no more work so I joined the engineering group, Sources, Targets and Interactions team. I work for the nToF experiment, fulfilling mechanical requirements: if they change the detectors, I do the design of components, building devices, using a programme that I learned here: CATIA. I do the drawings, machine the part and participate in its installation.
LHCb is very big, both the detector and the department; nToF is smaller, more family like, some things are still at the beginning, everybody's learning together. It's a wider field.
What were the challenges when you arrived?
The first challenge was to adapt to life in Geneva but it wasn't too hard. : it's different, special, expensive, but it gives a lot: there is nature around us, mountains, so I do a lot of hiking, skiing. Hikes around Chamonix are really nice, I have taken great videos of my hikes with a drone.
What are the highlights of working here?
People. Going for lunch from people the world over, having great conversations about different things, sports, cultures, events. You always find something common among all the differences. I have also learned French but speak more Spanish as many members of the team are from Spain.
Any particular messages to other aspiring technicians out there?
Just do it. Give yourself a push, change your life in a good way. CERN helps you a lot, there is a hostel, loads of Facebook groups that make it easy to get a social life, it's located in centre of Europe and the airport is close by.
It's more than you expect: I had few expectations, I knew little, it turns out to be really cool.
How cool is that?