Ventilation controls and motor controls have evolved into more and more complex systems, and as an embedded software engineer at OJ Electronics, it’s not just a matter of providing a system that can switch the product on and off. It’s also about regulations, about understanding which system the product should be included in, and which errors can occur during installation, connection or use.
“You can’t just read up on these things. You need practical experience. My many years at OJ Electronics have been incredibly educational, when I’ve been out at customers’ locations and worked closely with their developers. We have the same sort of understanding, so doing things this way is a major asset and benefit,” Jörn explains.
At OJ Electronics, it’s not just the sales department that’s in contact with customers. Developers are part of the entire process right from the beginning, when we are getting to know a customer and developing a collaborative relationship.
“That’s what is special about OJ Electronics, and it’s only possible because the company is this particular size. When everyone knows a customer well and development is part of our collaborative relationship, we can tailor the product to the customers’s needs. This way, what we offer to the customer isn’t just a standard product, but a product specifically adapted to their needs. Not just an off-the-shelf product,” says the software engineer.
50-year-old Jörn Petersen was born and grew up just south of the Danish border, in northern Germany, but went to Danish-language schools and so speaks fluent Danish. After higher education in Flensborg, he got an internship in Sønderborg, and has stayed in the town ever since – working at OJ Electronics for the past 15 years.
“I have wonderful colleagues. Things are always relaxed between us. It’s very informal, with lots of humour. I really enjoy working in this environment.”
Jörn explains that when colleagues discuss work matters, it’s quite natural for them to speak in English since many of the terms and tools are in English. The OJ work force now counts more than 15 nationalities. But when they have private conversations on what they did over the weekend, their kids or the food in the canteen, they speak in Danish. OJ Electronics has many customers in Germany, so Jörn’s fluency in all three languages is a major advantage for him and facilitates dialogue with both customers and colleagues. And dialogue is a big part of everyday working life.
“When I can be part of the entire process and the customer collaboration, I also feel more ownership over the task and the product. It’s not just a task I’ve been handed. I have an important role to play in the dialogue with those who will ultimately be using the product. Really understanding what the product is going to be used for means that I’m more motivated and more committed,” Jörn Petersen explains. He also points out that it’s easier to minimise mistakes and misunderstandings when he, as the developer, feels a strong sense of responsibility for the product.
“It’s like sending your baby out into the world, so you want to put stabilisers on its bike to stop it from tipping over. It’s much more than a desk job. You live with the products – even after they’ve been sold and installed and are being used. We’re in ongoing contact with customers who may need to extend the product’s functionality along the way, in which case we provide a software update.”
The personal relationships between colleagues and customers are part of why Jörn enjoys his work at OJ Electronics so much. The company’s size is just right. It’s small enough for everyone to know everyone else. There’s a lot of helpfulness and generosity, and we work in cross-functional teams. But it’s big enough to have a broad customer base that constantly generates new opportunities and challenges. Technological development is an essential part of OJ Electronics, and the company is keen to invest when new products or markets show potential. And that’s important to Jörn.
“Working at OJ is like working on a speedboat. You get to be the captain, the helmsman and the machinist. If you work on a super tanker, you may only get to do a small amount of the work that’s done on the ship. At OJ, we work in a really flexible and comprehensive way, and we aren’t locked into a specific area of expertise. Our working day is full of variety, which means we need to be able to handle a wide range of tasks.”
In his time at OJ Electronics, Jörn Petersen has enjoyed being part of the massive development that has taken place in his profession as systems have become more intelligent and softwareheavy. Which has also created more work. When he started at the company 15 years ago, there were three software developers at the office in Sønderborg – now there are almost 20.