Alumni Spotlight #7 - Michael Tanner
Michael Tanner is currently a Software Engineer working at Axon. Though he studied Mechanical Engineering at Purdue, he taught himself how to code over the last 2 years to pivot into his current industry. While at Purdue, through GEARE, he studied abroad in Germany at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. He was also a panelist on the recent GEARE alumni panel, where he discussed his experience in GEARE in even more detail.
Elaborate on your work experience.
I worked for Mercedes as part of GEARE, but didn't like it. So then I went to work for SpaceX and eventually went full time at Blue Origin. Now I'm in Software because I saw more opportunity in it.
What did you learn from GEARE?
I learned to exist in German society! By the time my abroad stay was over, I had countless German friends and even more memories. I'll never forget the people I spent time with and I'll always feel their influence on me and my way of thinking.
What would you do differently if you went through the program again?
I would not take my internship so seriously. I had nothing to do, yet I showed up to the office eight hours a day every day. I should have taken more time off and travelled more during that internship.
What advice would you give to current students?
Go find native groups and organizations to join. I like lifting weights, so I joined two German weightlifting teams. This made me part of a community where I was the only English speaker. This accelerated my language learning and gave me an unfiltered view of German culture. Also, I lived in a German dorm with German/International students and spent little time with the other members of my cohort. I'm not suggesting you avoid your cohort, but the more you branch out, the more intense your abroad experience could be.
What skills did GEARE help you develop that you find useful in your professional career?
GEARE and going abroad made me realize there is more than one way of existing in the world. There's more than one way of thinking. There is more than one set of values to live by. When I put it this way, of course it sounds silly, but Germans do live and think differently than Americans. Their language encourages different thought patterns. Their culture values different ways of spending your time (spoiler: they value their leisure time more than Americans. In other words, you meet fewer workaholics). Professionally, this has helped me remain open to different ways of doing things and continues to serve me well.
What is your fondest memory from your time abroad?
Towards the end of my stay, I went to the Southside Music Festival in southern Germany. I went with about a dozen Germans for a weekend and we had an absolute blast. The moment in particular that was my favorite was when we met another group of about the same size, none of the new group were willing to believe I was American! To this day, this is my proudest moment.
Do you have any interesting or funny stories to share about your travel experiences?
Of course, but these are best shared over a few beers in a pub :)
What local food do you miss the most?
When I lived in Böblingen, there was the best Thai food I've ever had just a couple blocks away. I will always miss Rainbow Thai.