03.08.2021 | Trainee at Axpo: Kathrin Schweizer

“I grow with the challenges”

Kathrin Schweizer completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering at ETH Zürich and is part of our 8th trainee generation. After her studies, she searched for a position that would allow her to keep learning. She found what she was looking for with Axpo’s traineeship programme because it allows a large degree of personal and professional development. “I welcomed these challenges, and I was excited to apply my skills to solve problems,” Kathrin says.

Kathrin Schweizer

Function: Trainee Engineering

Background: MSc in Mechanical Engineering an der ETH

Assignments: Line construction and digitalization in the grid department, water conservation in the power​department, eMost in the renewables field ​

So far during her traineeship Kathrin had a variety of assignments: From automated inspections of powerlines with Artifical Intelligence (AI) and drones, to the optimization algorithm for the calculation of retention volumes, Kathrin did it all with a significant impact on Axpo. “My work is highly varied and challenging. I often grow the most when I’m facing the biggest challenges. My environment encourages me to go beyond my comfort zone. I do things like presenting my successful projects to a large audience of specialists at conferences. Thanks to my background, I bring new perspectives to the team and also expand my own technical knowledge because of the interdisciplinary collaboration at Axpo.”

In her assignments, Kathrin has been able to take on responsibility at an early stage and be the driving force behind her areas of expertise. “I am proud that I am given so much responsibility, even as a trainee, and that I can play an active role in finding solutions. I can have an impact on the future success of Axpo with my work, and that really motivates me.”

Why did you start your traineeship at Axpo?

After graduating, I wanted to work in a field where I could develop myself every day and learn new things. A trainee programme, in an industry that is going through changes, was exactly the right thing for me.

What are the benefits of a traineeship from your perspective?

A trainee has the chance to get an insight into different roles and areas and to develop and strengthen their skills in these roles. After the trainee programme, the experience enables trainees to apply for jobs where they know exactly what to expect and they can be sure that they will be in the right position for the long term.

Can you tell us more about the different rotations and projects during your traineeship?

In my first rotation, I was involved in two projects. I was able to drive an innovation project for bird protection on high-voltage power lines, and I also worked as a project leader in the digitalization at Grid 4.0. This project used drones and AI software to automatically inspect power lines for potential defects.

In my second rotation, into water protection, my task was to calculate the optimal volume of equalisation basins for hydropower plants. This can mitigate artificial discharge fluctuations in the water to protect it, and at the same time, electricity can be produced without operational limitations. 

In my current rotation, I am part of eMost, a innovative team of Axpo in the renewable energies division. I am responsible for building the database and web platform for monitoring mobile battery storage systems.

What impact will your traineeship have on Axpo?

​​With my projects I contributed to a variety of areas. I programmed a tool myself and thus contributed to the protection of the waters in Switzerland. In the innovation project, I was able to use my creative ideas to protect birds, and in the rest of the projects, I was able to use my project-lead skills to advance different topics. I think I impacted Axpo most with my openness to learn new things, my ideas and the creation of cross-departmental connections for different teams.  

What is a typical day at work as a trainee at Axpo, and what are the highlights?

My day starts with a daily standup meeting. Everyone says what they have done since the last daily meeting, what they plan to do before the next meeting, and where the risks and difficulties are.

After that, I start with my tasks, and depending on the day, there are also coffee meetings with the division or the trainee community. For variety, I always take on one or two tasks per day that are not primarily related to my core task. At the moment, for example, there are things I am doing for the organization of an engineering conference.

What was something you didn’t know before you started working at Axpo?

I didn't know Baden was such a diverse city. You can have lunch in the beautiful park across the street or take a quick dip in the river over lunch. In the evening after work, you can meet up with your colleagues in one of the many bars for an after-work drink.

What do you apply in your daily work, that you learned at university?

ETH equips its graduates with the ability to learn new things quickly and encourages the discipline to follow through with it. These are two qualities I apply to my daily work at Axpo. Group exercises and projects teach ETH students how to work in a team, which is also a highly regarded soft skill at Axpo.

What would you recommend graduates do at the start of their career?

It is important for students to explore their interests as much as possible during their studies. They should go abroad if they feel like it, and not feel too pressured to gain specific knowledge in a certain field. Being open minded is key. If you have a strong passion for something, go for it, even if your passion is learning new things. The beauty of a traineeship is having the chance to experience wildly different topics across several departments. So, pursue your interests and explore new topics, and always give your 100 percent.

Did Kathrin’s experience with her traineeship at Axpo spark your curiosity? You can find more information about it here. We look forward to hopefully meeting you during the recruitment process.

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