Monthly Archives: February 2014

Blog Post #30

The goal was to come up with a blog post every day for 30 days. Well, I didn’t blog every day, but in the end I wrote 30 posts, which concludes my experiment. There were days without blog posts because either I didn’t have anything to say, or because I decided not to publish certain things. What can I say: I will not continue to blog that regularly. Not only because it takes a lot of time, but also because it feels way too self-centered. Still it was a good exercise. Here’s a list of all 30 blog posts:

Good thing: now I’ll have to find another 30 days project ;)

HR – follow up

I’ve started writing about it so I should finish it.

Where we left off: I had a job interview last week and I was expecting an offer in the next couple of weeks. Guess what: I received an offer today. And it did not come via a professional employer organization. No: Infineon made a valid, legit offer that truly is worth a thought.

In terms of money the offer is neither particularly good nor exceptionally bad.

Knowing what kind of salary to expect is one of the hardest things. Nobody in Austria really talks about their salary so you mostly rely on what friends tell you, internet research and what public research institutions pay (which has to be made public, because of transparency). Here are some examples of how I evaluated Infineon’s offer.

I have friends (also PhDs) working at Siemens VAI who earn about 5% more without the all-in option that Infineon has in all its contracts. The all-in option in Austrian contracts means that overtime will not be paid, as the salary is said to cover any overtime already. You would have to fight really hard to get rid of that option and accept a reduction in salary of about 15%. As 5% is not that much, it really comes down to the question of how much overtime you are expected to do. -> Neither good nor bad.

The post-doc position that my friend Reinhard has at university comes with exactly the same salary (according to the collective contract of the Austrian university system). My adviser also offered me a position as post doc, but I don’t think that the university landscape is for me. At any rate: -> Neither good nor bad.

Some information about what PhD graduates earned in Germany in 2012 can be found at – Being  just a little below what was the 50% mean tells me: -> Neither good nor bad.

It comes down to this: I will not sign that contract right away (as I would have if the offer were really outstanding) but I am also not going to turn it down. Starting in mid-March I will start looking for other options and when I have a range of offers, I will sit down to do my pros and cons list. The fact that I could put to use my knowledge in the probably most efficient way will be on the pros side and the salary will not be everything as long as it is above my personal limit of … well I am not going to share that number.

Actually I will not share any other information about my job search on this blog from now on. With HR being good at googleing these days, I guess it is safer that way. I am still glad I blogged about this first job application as it helped me bring order to my thoughts, realize what is important to me and define what my limits are.

Arts and Jazz

Another night out playing some jazz music. This time for the visitors of the vernissage of Austrian artist Jörg Wascher.


The gig was ok although for me listening to Jazz while looking at art (mostly paintings, but also some sculptures) and drinking wine is a little bit too much of a cliché. Plus I don’t like background music in grocery stores, so why would anyone like it at a vernissage?

But it’s not my call, we got paid for the gig and I really enjoyed playing with that group. We were four and we have not played in that setup before, but interestingly all share some kind of common history or are linked otherwise.

The trumpet player, Erwin, and I are friends for a long time. He also studied mechatronics, and obtained his PhD a couple of years ago. After being a post doc at KU Leuven he’s now back at JKU for another post doc position. His office is on the same floor as my office.

The bass player, David, was the youngest of our group, about age 20. He studies bass at Anton Bruckner university, the school where I studied jazz piano for some time. And here it comes: We also were neighbors for most parts of our lives! Our parents are still neighbors. David has an older brother Joe (we’re almost the same age), who is a brilliant guitar player. It really is interesting that neither my personal, nor Joe’s or David’s musical paths crossed while we still lived in Thalheim. – I played in a band with Joe later and with David for the very first time tonight, but not before anyone of us was older than 20.

The drummer, Markus, played in Joe’s band while we were teenagers, and I would see him every now and then from across the street. Also he was one of the best friends of a very good friend of mine, who I met much later – they went to the same music highschool. So I have met Markus again at a couple of birthday parties since then. – He went on to become a professional drummer.

It is funny to see how all of us are connected to other people in such diverse ways, how we develop our own paths. And sometime, like magic, they cross again, or lead into different directions …

Friends and Sausages

Four years ago, when our research group moved to the new Science Park building we used to go out or grab an after-work beer regularly. We let go of this tradition somewhere along the way. Last week we even found out that the beer in our refrigerator is well past its best-before-date (which some Austrians consider a serious offense).

I did really appreciate it when Herbert (this time it’s not a fake name, but he also works at Infineon) invited us to join him for a nice evening with drinks and sausages.

IMG_20140219_194751Some comments on the photo: His last name is Jäger, which is the German word for hunter and he really is a hunter. The trophies are from some of his hunting trips. Another curiosity: You can’t see it but he’s still using Winamp, that’s so 90s ;)


All names in this post have been changed.

Recently I blogged about jobs at Infineon. I was eventually pushed to submit a job application by an engineering manager – let’s call him John. John is a great guy. He and I had a couple of discussions before and what I have been doing at uni for the past 5 years is exactly what he’s looking for. – Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it.

If only I wouldn’t have to finish my PhD first, do all the things my adviser still wants me to do and engage in a serious search for a job. Guilty as charged, I have submitted the job application because John asked me to and not because I am really looking for a job – not before May 2014. His argument was that they would take the position away from him if nobody applied and that the whole thing going through HR would take a couple of months anyway. – I was invited for an interview by HR a day after I had submitted my job application, which was today.

On the bright side I’ve only had one interview so far, so I considered it good practice! The one I’ve had before was at age 16 and they totally screwed me: paying me minimal wage for programming php and mySQL. Fun fact: the HR head of that big company told me they can not pay more because I have no formal qualification. I do now realize that me knowing php, mySQL and HTML was a qualification that nobody at that big company had in 2000, so they really needed me. I was not aware of that and apparently negotiation skills were not one of my strengths at age 16. Actually my boss back then proposed a pay-rise later, without me even asking for one.

So here I was again: age 30, another HR interview, biased and suspicious. There was limited time to prepare myself: I watched youtube videos and read some articles about job interviews, but nothing can replace the real thing.

My verdict: Turns out HR interviews are still a pain in the ass. On one hand they try to make you a little insecure and on the other hand it feels like brainwashing.

The interview started off with Ms. Johnston mentioning that she had had interviews for that one position all day. – Good for her, still I don’t buy it that there were many applicants better suited for the job than myself. You might call me presumptuous, but my job for the past 5 years mostly was about building and analyzing radar systems using THEIR chips, which are only available to exclusive customers and us as research lab co-funded by them.

Obviously the interview continued with the standard questions. “Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years from now”. “What would your current boss say about you”. “Name 3 of your strengths and 3 of your weaknesses”.

One of my current colleagues who is quitting his PhD, lets call him Dave, had his interview in the morning, so I knew exactly what was going to come. When Ms. Johnston asked the “boss question” I answered: “I was waiting for this one, because I’ve heard about it from Dave”. “Oh … ah … that’s not on purpose … interviews are usually tailored individually”. I didn’t say it: “Yeah, right”. I went on to analyze what my boss would probably say based on tasks and responsibilities he would transfer to me + the awards that I have received. I ended with: “If you’d really like to learn about what other people say about me you have the unique opportunity to go and talk to people within this company such as Steve, Ann, Donald, … who I have already worked with and who know me for years now”. To which she responded “Oh, really … well … I did not really want to know what other people say about you, but what you think that other people might think, which indicates what you think … “. Again, I didn’t say it:  “Yeah, right”

The whole interview triggered questions: How honest should you be? What should you say? What should you rather avoid? On one hand everybody has blind spots and they are not the things that you want companies to know about. On the other hand do you really have to be honest about questions like “How many applications have you submitted?” Or one of her first questions: “Why did you apply?” – “Because John asked me to” which I of course replaced by “Because I’d like to put to use the knowledge I gained during my PhD in an optimal way, and because you could offer me exactly that + you could benefit from that! – A potential classical win-win”. Should you share your family plans?

The second part of the interview was what some of my friends describe as brainwashing, with mostly Ms. Johnston talking. Of course they offer great benefits, like day care or an international school for their international employees and so on. If you dig a little bit you will find out that most of them are only available on their main campus in Villach (=about 3 hours drive from Linz) as it would not pay off to install them for the 90 employees in Linz. They have a global salary system which is called the “Infineon Global Scale”. Ms. Johnston also spent about 5-10 minutes explaining possible career paths at Infineon and that they have successfully copy-and-pasted the IBM system (of course that’s not the way she put it) with “senior engineers”, “distinguished engineers”, “Infineon fellows” … Good for them.

The meeting concluded with Ms. Johnston telling me that in case of an offer I will hear from them via e-mail in the next couple of weeks.

My best guess is that there will be an offer that is well below what I stated as expected salary. In addition to that they may try to employ me through a professional employer organization, which is what they told Dave in the morning. This is where the real negotiations will start.

At any rate I will apply for more jobs and have more interviews before I sign any contract. For now I am thankful for the experience that I gained through this interview. While job interviews are not fun, they are required and the more used you get to them, the better.

Last Day In Venice

The last day in Venice is over and I am on the train again on the way back home. I had a great time and lots of great memories to take home with me!

A visit to the Peggy Guggenheim collection was on the list for today. While I am not sure about Peggy (she’s buried on the grounds of her collection right next to her 14 dogs), I am sure that I saw some great pieces of art today including some Picassos.

Some final walks without any specific destination but the goal to breath in some of the cities air concluded this short visit. I am sure I’ll be back some day!


The Second Day Wasn’t Bad Either

… the weather was not as good as on the first day, but good enough to allow for a visit to the Doge’s Palace and the island of Murano,

Murano is known for its long tradition in the production and manufacturing of glass. I don’t exactly know how much of the stuff you get there today is Chinese, but I guess the island still adds to the charm of the Venice.

We enjoyed dinner at a restaurant that had a beautiful view on the Rialto bridge.


They even had WiFi, so I could publish Harald Baumgartner’s Website after his show had aired directly from that Rialto bridge restaurant. Oh how I love technology …

A Perfect Day in Venice

The night train was not as comfortable as my own bed and I woke up every other hour, still it was way better than those 8 hour transatlantic flights that always give me a neck pain, when I sleep.

Whatever marginal discomfort the train ride might have left me with, it was totally blown away by the great first day in Venice. Here’s a photo that I took today: It shows Venice as seen from the bell tower on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.


Lots of sun, great places to visit, great art, not too many tourists (at least compared to Venice in summer). What can I say: A Perfect Day in Venice.

On the Night Train to Venice

I’ve never been in a sleeping car before. We boarded the train in Linz at about 11 pm and are expected to arrive in Venice at 8:30 am tomorrow morning. The compartment looks similar to the one in this photo, which I found on wikipedia

It’s not fancy, but it’s inexpensive and potentially promises the comfort of a couple of hours of sleep. The others, most of who boarded in Vienna already, are sound asleep, so I’ll close my laptop for now.