Fascination for the broad spectrum of an IT research institute

Martin, you have been with us at the institute for about 2 years and just recently moved from the Communication Systems (KOM) department to the Infrastructure Services service group of the Central IT (ZIT) department. Tell us how that happened?

Martin: During my bachelor and master studies of computer science at H-BRS and afterwards I worked for 9 years in the IT Systemhaus at the Rhineland Regional Association. Our task there was to provide the roughly 19,000 employees with a well-functioning working environment. I enjoyed that, but at some point, I thought to myself, you definitely need something new. So, I applied for a job at the Fraunhofer FKIE. Through a private contact I had been hearing for quite some time that the institute was a great employer.

In October 2018 I started in the "Robust Heterogeneous Networks" KOM research group. The work here offers a lot of freedom and excitement, and you have plenty of opportunities to develop your skills according to your interests. Very soon after I started, I was also appointed deputy project manager and was allowed to take part in management training courses. That was a really good experience, and I learned a lot. If you prove yourself here, you can take on responsibility very quickly.

For me, however, the work was almost too free. Also, many of the work steps in the projects are highly dependent on collaboration with partners and clients. That can be strenuous at times.

From these experiences, too, I realized that what I enjoy most is exactly what I had been doing before: creating a well-functioning and secure working environment for my colleagues. So, I applied internally for the position of Systems Engineer Infrastructure and as of October 2020 I am now officially on the staff of the ZIT.


How did the change go?

Martin: It went without a hitch. The departments coordinated with each other, which allowed me to provide dual-track support starting in July 2020. This was done at my request because I wanted to see a final project at KOM through to the end. In spite of everything, I left the department with a heavy heart. It was a very nice, friendly team and a good working environment.


What are your responsibilities at the ZIT?

Martin: As the name of the service group suggests, we provide the infrastructure. We ensure that our co-workers and their computers are connected to the network, the Internet and so forth. You can think of it in terms of transportation: we create the roads and highways and regulate traffic. Security also plays an essential role – especially as an institute involved in defense, where scientists often work on classified projects or with classified data and documents.


In your opinion, what makes working in the IT department of Fraunhofer FKIE different from working for another employer?

Martin: That's it exactly, the FKIE. In terms of IT technology, you work here with the entire spectrum of a large IT research institute and in an important cross-sectional function. At many other large employers in the IT field, you do the same things every day. Here you have the chance to do everything and support everything that the various research and subject areas offer. The work is always challenging and diverse, which offers a lot of variety.


What would you like to see in your future at the ZIT?

Martin: I also found my work at KOM super exciting. For example, we participated in a major NATO exercise, the CWIX 2020, which had to be held as a remote event for the first time this year due to coronavirus restrictions. All of the nations were represented from their respective locations. We at KOM supported communications for the international exercise and made sure that nations such as Norway, the Netherlands and the UK were able to conduct joint testing.

We connected radios in Bonn with tactical middleware in Bavaria and routers in the UK. This requires secure, low-latency communications over distances of more than 1,000 kilometers. It was a challenge that we successfully mastered and was really fun. In the future, I'd like to see the ZIT also providing more support for such activities that arise within the various projects. That would be very exciting.