Dennis Paustenbach is 31 years old and has been work­ing for Quality Automation GmbH since April 2016. More than two years ago, he decid­ed to take a part-time dis­tance learn­ing course and is now about to write his master’s the­sis. We asked Dennis some inter­est­ing and per­son­al ques­tions about this, which he was hap­py to answer. In the fol­low­ing, you can read about his moti­va­tions, dai­ly study rou­tine and pri­vate plans after com­plet­ing his stud­ies. Of course, you will also learn some­thing about the frame­work and con­tent of the study and not least per­son­al tips from Dennis to those read­ers who are cur­rent­ly think­ing about start­ing a dis­tance learn­ing pro­gram themselves.

Let’s first look back a few years. After Dennis com­plet­ed his appren­tice­ship as an elec­tron­ics tech­ni­cian with dis­tinc­tion in 2010 as one of the best in his class, he first worked in his pro­fes­sion for a year until he decid­ed to start cer­ti­fied tech­ni­cian pro­gram at night school at the Berufskolleg für Gestaltung und Technik in Aachen. Already here he expe­ri­enced what it was like to have to study and take exams while work­ing. This went so well that Dennis caught up on his tech­ni­cal high school diplo­ma at the same time, and so by the end of 2015 he had his tech­ni­cal high school diplo­ma and was a state-cer­ti­fied technician.

Why study?
At the begin­ning of 2016, his pro­fes­sion­al path led to the elec­tri­cal design depart­ment of QA. After a lit­tle over a year in his new job, he decid­ed to pur­sue the part-time dis­tance learn­ing Master of Science in Electrical Engineering with a spe­cial­iza­tion in Automation Engineering at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, Department of EIT.

When asked why he chose this course of study, Dennis has sev­er­al imme­di­ate answers: “Because of my train­ing as a state-cer­ti­fied tech­ni­cian for automa­tion tech­nol­o­gy and because of my work up to that point as an elec­tron­ics tech­ni­cian in the field of automa­tion, it made sense for me to also com­plete my fur­ther edu­ca­tion in the sub­ject area. I also found that elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing suits me and that I enjoy it a lot.” Furthermore, he sees the field of automa­tion tech­nol­o­gy as very future-ori­ent­ed and grow­ing strong­ly in the com­ing years. “I think that tasks that will have to be solved in the indus­try in the future require a good basic edu­ca­tion. I want to be pre­pared for this not only prac­ti­cal­ly, through my job, but also the­o­ret­i­cal­ly through my stud­ies. I want to gain a deep­er insight into the the­o­ry behind the things I apply and use in my dai­ly pro­fes­sion­al life.”

The study
The dis­tance learn­ing pro­gram at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences con­sists of 7 semes­ters of stan­dard study time, with the 1st semes­ter being a prepara­to­ry semes­ter, due to the lat­er­al entry from tech­ni­cian to master.

“Only when you have suc­cess­ful­ly passed the exams of the prepara­to­ry semes­ter, you are allowed to start with the actu­al stud­ies”, Dennis reports. He remem­bers the time well: “Getting admit­ted to the pro­gram at all is a chal­lenge. In addi­tion to an appli­ca­tion with a resume, a let­ter of moti­va­tion and a let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion, you also need a good tech­ni­cal degree to be invit­ed to the entrance exam. If you pass the entrance exam and the exams at the end of the prepara­to­ry semes­ter, the actu­al stud­ies begin. From orig­i­nal­ly more than 40 lat­er­al entrants inter­est­ed in study­ing in the admis­sion process, only 4 peo­ple actu­al­ly start­ed the studies.”

The con­tents
Classroom lec­tures are held four times a month, usu­al­ly on Fridays and Saturdays, but some­times also on Sundays. The exams at the end of a semes­ter are divid­ed over two week­ends. Most of the knowl­edge has to be acquired in self-study after work or on the week­ends off. “This already requires a high degree of self-dis­ci­pline and moti­va­tion, espe­cial­ly after a long day at work,” Dennis tells us. Due to the Corona pan­dem­ic, there are cur­rent­ly no face-to-face events. This saves trav­el­ing to the uni­ver­si­ty, but makes per­son­al inter­ac­tion and knowl­edge exchange with fel­low stu­dents and pro­fes­sors more difficult.

In the first part of the pro­gram, stu­dents are taught in-depth fun­da­men­tals of elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing. Topics such as sys­tem the­o­ry and sig­nal pro­cess­ing are on the pro­gram. In the sec­ond semes­ter, stu­dents choose a spe­cial­iza­tion. Special meth­ods of con­trol engi­neer­ing, learn­ing con­trols, robot­ics and elec­tro­mo­bil­i­ty are just a few of the sub­jects. Interdisciplinary sub­jects such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy, employ­ee man­age­ment and labor law are taught regard­less of the spe­cial­iza­tion. The pro­gram con­cludes with a master’s the­sis and the aca­d­e­m­ic degree of Master of Science.

The mas­ter the­sis at QA?
Dennis is cur­rent­ly in his 4th semes­ter and his master’s the­sis is due in the com­ing sum­mer semes­ter. Here, of course, our first ques­tion was whether he would like to write it at QA or gain new expe­ri­ence in oth­er com­pa­nies. “I would like to do my master’s the­sis at QA, this has already been clar­i­fied and I am very hap­py about it. Only the top­ic still needs to be clar­i­fied,” Dennis tells us. Here at QA, he has many oppor­tu­ni­ties to direct­ly put into prac­tice what he has learned and is also sup­port­ed in many ways. “I’m very glad that QA has my back here, whether it’s from spon­ta­neous vaca­tions to study just before exams to my pro­fes­sion­al career after graduation.”

What’s next after graduation?
Dennis sees his future con­tin­u­ing at QA, after grad­u­a­tion he would like to stay with us, but ori­ent him­self more in the direc­tion of soft­ware devel­op­ment. There are already inter­nal agree­ments on this, he tells us. In his pri­vate life, too, things will change after grad­u­a­tion: “I am con­fi­dent that I will have more time for my fam­i­ly and friends again. After grad­u­a­tion, a new phase of life begins and top­ics such as fam­i­ly plan­ning and build­ing or buy­ing a house will also be on the agen­da in the next few years.”

We would like to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to wish Dennis every suc­cess in his fur­ther stud­ies, his pro­fes­sion­al career and, of course, that he achieves all his goals and wish­es in his pri­vate life.

Further tips for our readers 
If inter­est in study­ing or oth­er fur­ther edu­ca­tion and train­ing has now been aroused, Dennis has a few more tips: “First of all, you should be aware that study­ing while work­ing is very time-con­sum­ing. Friends and fam­i­ly often take a back seat, espe­cial­ly short­ly before exams. In gen­er­al, you should be very self-moti­vat­ed and have the will to fol­low through with your stud­ies. Good sup­port from your employ­er is also very impor­tant. In addi­tion, you should have the prospect of a posi­tion in your own com­pa­ny or in anoth­er com­pa­ny that fits in with your fur­ther edu­ca­tion, so that you can apply what you’ve learned direct­ly after your studies.”