OHB is one of the top three European aviation and space companies. A listed company, it is an important player with many exciting big-ticket contracts awarded by private and institutional clients. Galileo, Meteosat, SAR-Lupe and ExoMars – the list of projects is long and diverse. OHB has roughly 2,500 employees around the world. Yet, it has its origins in the “German Mittelstand”. Employees can benefit from the advantages of both worlds. Sigrid Pander, Marion Scott and Leena Busche from Human Resources describe what working at OHB is like and what sets OHB apart.
Working at OHB can be summarized in three words: We.Create.Space. This is simultaneously the shortest summary of the aviation and space group’s history:
We – these are all the OHB employees throughout the entire Group and at all its locations.
Create – signifies that employees work on new things that are unprecedented. Every single step is at the cutting edge. Ever since its earliest days, OHB has been a space pioneer and is committed to preserving this pioneering spirit. For this reason, it offers employees opportunities for implementing creative ideas.
Space – This is what the Group’s business is all about : space applications, satellite systems, rocket drives, exploration missions and new paths in life sciences.
A mid-sized company can also be a group
OHB’s origins go back to a mid-size company that has steadily grown. Since going public in 2001, it has evolved into one of the most successful European space companies, working on projects for ESA among others. Within the OHB Group, some 2,500 employees based in Europe and South America work on innovative technology projects and scientific studies for exploring and utilizing space.
Innovation and creative particularly thrive in flexible structures
What sets OHB apart from other companies in the space industry? “We offer greater flexibility,” explains Marion Scott, head of HR Policies and HR Controlling at OHB System AG. “We don’t have the rigid structures and processes of large groups, where clearly defined process steps must be followed for just about everything.”
Our employees have far greater scope and can actively exert influence on processes. Every employee is encouraged to make a contribution and is able to articulate their own ideas. Whenever possible, employees are assigned to projects in which they can develop and unleash their own potential.
“OHB is a very good place for people who don’t need rigid structures for everything but prefer flexibility and initiative.”
This is a good fit for many engineers who have a scientific background, appreciate being able to work independently and do not like rigid structures. The space industry is characterized by project work. For OHB, a project is normally something unique and unprecedented. “Engineers operate at the frontiers of what is technically feasible. That is why the path forward is not always clear,” explains Sigrid Pander, HR Director People & Organization Development at OHB System AG.
“Developing your own solutions and entering uncharted territory - if that’s how you like to work, then OHB is the place for you.”
What OHB expects of candidates. In addition to their professional qualifications, they should be able to work on a structured and autonomous basis. They must like thinking outside of the box and seeing the big picture. Conversely, this means that not everything is defined in advance and that there is not a standard form for every aspect of work. The technology is demanding and so is the project management. If you are willing to accept this challenge and actively contribute you have a good chance of success.
The pioneer approach: don’t ask, just do it!
OHB’s credo has always been: “Don’t ask, just do it!” This is deliberate and basically also the typical attitude of a pioneer: I have the courage to assemble my team. I try out new things, make mistakes but learn from them. The employees have completely different relations with each other, going far beyond their own team. “All employees, all teams – and ultimately the entire company – benefit from this form of collaboration, this attitude,” explains Marion Scott.
Scope for development for all employees at OHB
Obviously, OHB also has employees who need clearer structures to realize their full potential to optimum effect. This places particular demands on managers, who must define the appropriate framework for this to happen. “That’s obvious. If you look at OHB’s development and how broad our footprint has become with all our affiliates, you can see that we require many different types of employees. They all find scope for developing their careers at OHB,” says Leena Busche, HR Specialist Recruiting at OHB System AG.
Job changes within the Group are supported
OHB’s growth and its present size are seen as an advantage by many job candidates. This also includes the possibility of taking on international assignments. Many people from Germany join OHB as they are fascinated by the development of satellite technology. This particularly applies to the company’s facilities in Bremen and Oberpfaffenhofen. However, far more options are available thanks to the affiliates. “One employee joined the company as a project manager in Bremen, working in a cross-sectional function for many years, and has now shifted to OHB affiliate LuxSpace to take on a responsible management position. Despite this, he is still part of the group,” says Sigrid Pander.
“There are different possibilities for rotating within the company and for assuming a new position without leaving us.”
The scope for such career change is very much in demand. This particularly applies to “Generation Y” when they graduate: For the most part, they speak English or other languages well, have already spent a semester or completed an internship in another country and expect to be able to continue applying their knowledge. This possibility is a genuine asset, similar to what is possible in a large group, even though OHB only has around 2,500 employees.
Careers can progress very quickly
This gives university graduates individual scope to develop. They join the company, gain experience step by step and develop their careers. Employees can hone their profiles and have the assurance of being seen. OHB’s Oberpfaffenhofen facility, for example, has more than 400 employees.
Most of the employees are known to management and HR so they can rely on being seen. This means that their own career can take off very quickly: A department management leaves the company. This is followed by talks and a visit to the assessment center, and, before you know it, a young employee has assumed a management positions in only a few years. This contrasts sharply with a large group, where careers often progress through predefined stages.
“If you can use media, suspend time and space that enable joint activities with other places, you don’t have to move anywhere else.”
In short, what are the reasons for applying for a position with OHB?
Employees can find both aspects: the family-like feeling of being part of a mid-size company with flat hierarchies and short paths but also large structures with departments, projects and an international footprint. Employees are able to work flexibly and make a positive contribution in many areas. The company is based on its employees’ motivation and initiative. This provides ideal conditions for experts who like to structure their own activities and work autonomously but who have an appreciation of the “big picture” and do not shun responsibility.