Get with the programme

Linde’s European Graduate Programme hires high potentials: and it expects high performance in return. For current graduate, Erika Sjoberg, this is familiar territory: and it’s something she embraces.

“I played basketball growing up in Sweden, on a college scholarship in the U.S and for a club in Spain. I suppose it was quite a high level,” she says, as if her sporting prowess was nothing to be impressed by.

That was before Erika became one of seven successful applicants to be selected for Linde’s European Graduate Programme in 2016. As it turns out, Linde was impressed: not by her basketball per se but because this type of intercultural experience is one thing that it looks for in applicants. In fact, it’s a key element of the programme.

To discuss this and get even more insights into the EGP, we sat down with Erika and programme coordinator, Benedikt Balle. Here’s what they had to say.

On what sets the Linde EGP apart…

Erika: “After studying mechanical engineering followed by fluid mechanics, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I had a very technical background but felt strongly that working as a specialist wasn’t the direction I wanted to take. I’m a people person so management really appeals to me. That’s one of the things I really liked about the Linde programme – it’s clearly geared towards leadership.”

Benedikt: “We know we’re competing for top graduates, which makes this programme so relevant. We want to attract these high potentials and develop them into future leaders. It all starts with the selection process – often what graduates judge companies on – so we’ve worked hard to ensure ours is as smooth and transparent as possible. And we’ve had very positive feedback so far.”

Erika Sjoberg participant Linde European Graduate Programme
Erika Sjoberg, participant Linde European Graduate Programme
Benedikt Balle coordinator Linde European Graduate Programme
Benedikt Balle, coordinator Linde European Graduate Programme

On learning and development… 

Erika: “When you come into an unfamiliar area – like Sales & Marketing was for me – nobody sits you down, explains everything and tells you how to do it. It’s more like you go out there and find the information. Of course, you’ll always have great support and you’ll discuss goals and expectations, but really it’s about you finding the way.”

Benedikt: “When we talk about development, we use the 70-20-10 rule. That means that we see 70% of development as happening ‘on the job’ or ‘learning by doing’; 20% through coaching or mentoring and the last 10% through formal training. This is what we transfer on the setup of the programme. At the end of the day, it’s about preparing our graduates for future leadership positions – so what better way?”

On networking…

Erika: “Networking is a big part of the programme. I sometimes feel like being on the graduate programme gives you the confidence to just reach out to anyone. I usually just email somebody saying, ‘Hi, I’m Erika, I’m on the EGP and I’d like to know more, would you like to go for lunch?” It sort of tears down walls. From my experience, people from all levels of Linde are happy to meet with you and the support I have received has been great.”

Benedikt: “Yes, networking is something we do encourage – it’s about seeing as much of the company as possible across different countries – getting out there and talking to people. This is another important key offering of our programme, it’s a global network.”

Linde European Graduate Programme crew 2016 2018 Davor Pejic Shabnam, Fazel Aliki Pouliasi, Hannah Rosner, Kai Vogel, Nadine Eitel, Erika Sjöberg
The 2016-2018 EGP crew: (from left) Davor Pejic, Shabnam Fazel, Aliki Pouliasi, Hannah Rosner, Kai Vogel, Nadine Eitel and Erika Sjöberg

On mentorship and support…

Erika: “On the professional side, I have my mentor that I can go to anytime for guidance. I also get advice from those I work with on a daily basis – unofficial mentors I suppose! But the graduate group itself is also very important to me. We are a very small and close knit group which is great. I know I can always turn to them for support and we always have a lot of fun together during the trainings!” 

Benedikt: “Our graduate mentors are senior business managers. We want to tap into their experience and knowledge of the company. We see their role as supporting our graduates in networking, transferring knowledge as well as teaching about the Linde culture.”

Linde European Graduate group SEAGAS fuel refilling Stockholm
All aboard! The graduate group learns about SEAGAS fuel re-filling in Stockholm.

On taking on real responsibility…

Erika: “This is something I really like about the programme. The assignments you get are real. In my first rotation, for example, I was given the responsibility to review and advise on a filling method; I’ve just finished the business case for a new product launch in Germany, and I’m about to go to Lyon for a contract consolidation project. So, it’s not a case of ‘let’s find something for Erika to do!’ You’re assigned because Linde thinks you can offer something, so there’s an expectation there.“

Benedikt: “Absolutely. Each graduate covers mandatory areas of the business – operations, sales and marketing, and supply – and we match them to assignments within those areas according to their specific skillset, language skills, experience and so on. And now that we’ve improved the EGP’s visibility within the company a lot in recent years, the business is actively seeking graduates for their projects. These guys are high potential – so we want to see it met!”

On intercultural experience…

Erika: “Looking at our 2016 graduate group we all have international backgrounds which is strengthened throughout the program. I think we all have in common a curiosity for diving into new cultures, working with new people and pushing our boundaries – probably one of the reasons we were selected! Here in Munich, the Young Linde Professionals (YLP) social meetups have also been a great way to meet people from all over the world!”

Benedikt: “Our criteria for selection go beyond the University degrees and qualifications. When you’re targeting high potentials, most of them will perform on that front. So we look for other things, an important one being intercultural experience. We’re preparing graduates for leadership in a global company after all. In 2016 we formally introduced intercultural skills and management into training too.”

Curious? Then explore all details about our European Graduate Programme here.