Doing Homework before Work: Going Part-Time for Continuing Education

This post was originally published in 2013. The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.

Before Ingolf Hoffman comes into the office at SMA, he often sits at his desk at home. That’s because the technician is currently completing a distance learning degree in electrical engineering while simultaneously pursuing his career at SMA. In the following interview, Ingolf explains what he’s had to do to make it work.

Ingolf, what do you do at SMA?

I’m a trained communications electronics technician, and I am also studying to become an engineer. I’ve worked in test planning at SMA since 2010. We build test devices for electronics production.

And now you’re studying electrical engineering?

Exactly. I always wanted to continue my education at some point. And, since I didn’t want to give up my income completely, I decided to go to school part time. So I did my research and decided on a distance learning program in electrical engineering at AKAD Stuttgart. I have all the materials sent to me at home, and I only have to be on-site for the exams at the end of each module.

Did your workplace support your plans?

Completely. I had talked with my senior manager, and the director also approved. The company is even paying half the costs of vocational training. My shift to part time was no problem for my colleagues either. Responsibilities on my team are pretty project-dependent, and they can be divided up so that it works.

And how has it worked out?

At first, I reduced my hours from 40 to 35 per week. After working like that for a year, however, I realized that I had a bit too much on my plate. Now I’m at SMA 20 hours a week, Monday through Wednesday, and that works much better. This way I have two full days to focus on school. And when we have to have a project ready on a tight deadline, I can also stay at the company for longer, I just have to prepare accordingly.

Any more tips to keep in mind?

When you set aside a day to study, you have to manage your work time at home carefully; it’s not a vacation day. You really have to have discipline and perseverance, and I had to come to terms with that. I have a lot less free time now. But it’s worth it, because in 4½ years I’ll have finished my bachelor’s degree.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed for you. Thank you for the interview.