Word of welcome by the Trade Fair Sponsor Marcus Breulmann Master Tanner and Leather Technician at Stahl Chemicals Germany GmbH
Please note you can read the total interview in the following languages:
English (see below), Chinese | Dutch | German | Italian | Portuguese | Spanish
Dear visitors to the trainee and student day in Stuttgart 2016,
I feel really proud to be able to welcome you to “the future” here. A career choice is not something final, but instead should be seen as a process that you can control. It is a gift, not a burden, although it might feel like that after finishing high school. This is especially true if you are not one of those people who have known what they wanted to become since they were young. I didn’t know either.
School was never my thing. I was happier dealing with motorcycles, being out of town or going hunting with my father. When the time came for me to think about what I wanted to do, I had an idea, but there didn’t seem to be a specific job for me: I wanted to do something with the environment, something that would challenge me creatively, but still be technical in nature. In addition, I wanted to work with people and, ideally, travel around the world.
One day, with my parent’s words of warning in the back of my mind saying it was high time I started an education, I unexpectedly cycled past a tannery. It was far from glamorous;
in fact there was the awful smell of chemicals.
It triggered something in me. Since turning 16, I have been a hunter and spent many informative, beautiful hours in and with nature, and have enjoyed eating game just as much. But what happens with the hides of the animals that were killed? Much too valuable to throw away! Tanners make leather from them, which they have been doing for thousands of years. Leather is made from all animals we eat; the hides are used for everyday items such as car seats, bags and shoes.
I applied immediately. After my apprenticeship, I continued and became a master craftsman and studied leather technology. The combination of craftsmanship and innovative technology still fascinates me today.
My employer's mission statement is as follows: If it can be imagined, it can be created.
If you imagine your path in life, you're practically already on it. And the journey is the goal itself, as is well known.
Your trade fair sponsor hopes you have endless amounts of imagination and inspiring moments at the fair.
Q&AWhat was your dream job when you were young?
My father was a passionate hunter and often took me along as a child. The ranger was the king of the forest, and that was something that really impressed me. He knew every plant and animal, could "read" the forest and meadow and understood exactly what was happening and would probably happen. Like an all-knowing master, a true professional of the wilderness. That’s what I wanted to be like!
Did you realize your dream job?
No. On one hand it was always difficult to find an apprenticeship in this field, while on the other hand I had and have sufficient contact with flora and fauna. I imagined something else for my career. I didn’t know that being a tanner would be my dream job until I actually worked as one. As a pupil, I didn’t realize that chemistry is a highly exciting system that functions like a bunch of LEGO blocks; you can create great things with just a couple of blocks.
What was your first experience in your current profession?
Shock. In a tannery, a classic artisan business, there are smells and intermediate products that are created as part of the various hide processing stages that are very unappetizing to say the least. However, when you’re holding that final leather article in your hands, you forget that right away. It’s all about what you’re used to.
What is the most fascinating thing about your job?
My job is ‘varied’ in the best sense of the word. From the countless ways of applying chemicals in the service of man and nature to the rather small, but absolutely international industry that is almost like a family. For approximately 20 years, I have had the opportunity to fly around the world, share experiences with people from a wide range of cultures, and develop procedures, colors and leather articles with them. I lived and worked in various countries for approx. 15 years. In addition, you almost always find a job as a tanner, because it is a very specialized area.
What path did you have to take in order to achieve your dream profession?
Over the course of my career it became clear to me again and again how important a good foundation is. I would not have achieved so much if I hadn’t worked as an apprentice for those years, my frequent job changes and of course the master and my training. Every station, every discussion brings new perspectives to the job. The great thing is that the chemical industry is very innovative, because the markets and conditions are constantly changing, just like the world we live in. This is actively protected and maintained in the long term by cleverly applied chemistry.
Did you have any doubts on the path to your dream job?
Of course, everyone has doubts now and again, and tries out different things. For example, I tried to start a small company outside the leather industry a few years back. But I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It resulted in me having to go back to what I was good at, and move on. You can learn from all your experiences, especially the bad ones.
What does a work day look like when you go home satisfied?
If all goes smoothly on the human side, and the staff and colleagues, but also customers, are friendly, helpful and tolerant. That’s what is highly motivating to me. The chemistry within the team has to be right too. Success does not come by itself.
Is there another profession that also interests you?
Working as a cook would certainly be exciting. You create something new from a combination of valuable raw materials, which in the best case results in a delicious dish. There are no limits to creativity, and a little chemistry is in the game as well. It’s basically the same as for a tanner: you have to find the right taste.
What do your family and friends say about your profession?
At first it was strange for my family, especially during my study. Every day I would come home absolutely filthy, but in a good mood. But when it became clear to everyone what an extraordinary profession it is, they gave me their full support. These days, a great sense of pride is what remains and my oldest daughter has benefited: she finished high school in Asia while we lived there and she has friends all over the world.
What advice do you give young people trying to find a profession that’s right for them?
As corny as it sounds, you should listen to your heart. And try things out! Even if you don’t like an internship much, then you at least know what you don't want. Friends or family often have the right idea even if you sometimes don't want to hear this at all. When you feel and see it, that means it’s right for you! Trust your gut feeling.