Success stories
Kaunas IN
2021 08 30
HELLA team in Kaunas consists not only of returned emigrants, but also of attracted foreign talents

While some wonder how to stop the brain drain or compete over talents in a cramped market, other companies turn their eyes abroad. They either bring back the emigrants or invite valuable professionals from other countries. While implementing its ambitious development plan (after the implementation of all the planned stages, the company should have about a thousand employees), HELLA Lithuania, operating in Kaunas FEZ, has already brought back over twenty emigrants to live and work in Lithuania since the beginning of its activities. It has been noticed that almost every time a position for an administrative employee is announced, people, living abroad but seeking to return to Lithuania, and, therefore, looking for work here, apply for it. The company especially values the experience of such candidates and their excellent knowledge of foreign languages – not only English, but also German, as more and more positions are emerging in the company that also require German.

 

We talked to two HELLA Lithuania employees with two very different but similar stories: Brazilian Tatiane Valter Dos Santos and Lithuanian Medertas Zeltinis, who returned from emigration to the United Kingdom.

 

The first snow of life and other Kaunas experiences

Tatiane came from sunny Brazil to foggy Kaunas almost a year ago. And, yes, the “sunny vs. foggy” wasn’t used here by chance. Among the biggest differences that Tatiane noticed upon her arrival not just to another country but to a different continent, were these climate differences. In Kaunas HELLA branch, she works in the Quality department and this job is not new to her. Before that, Tatiane was already part of the HELLA Brazil team for 5 years, and, in general, she has been working in various positions in the automotive industry for 16 years.

Tatiane Valter Dos Santos (photo from personal archive.)

Two things motivated Tatiane to bring her experience and join HELLA in Lithuania. For some time now, she had the idea to try and work abroad and in addition to that her partner has moved to Kaunas for work two years ago, so killing two birds with one stone, seemed like an attractive opportunity.

As the company itself, its internal culture, and the work specifics were already well known to her, the biggest challenge in the new phase was to adapt to a different culture and climate. As Tatiane says, the dark season of the year was not the only thing she had to adjust to. “Short and dark days sometimes just knocked me out of the rhythm. It would happen that at 6 p.m. I already wanted to go to bed and sleep. Quarantine and its requirements have also become a challenge and, of course, coffee. In Brazil, I was used to drinking strong coffee every day, so it took me several months to discover my favorite type of coffee here in Kaunas. On the other hand, the white winter was a pleasant discovery. I saw snow for the first time in my life, and the snowy landscape left an indelible and wonderful impression!”

She says that for the first time she heard about Kaunas and Lithuania after reading about the new HELLA branch opening here. And before coming here, Tatiane looked at the country’s history, language and even discovered an article, which said that Brazil is the second non-European country, after the United States, which has the largest number of Lithuanians. São Paulo even has a Lithuanian district called Vila Zelina where Lithuanian food restaurants can still be found.

“I find Kaunas to be a cozy city where history and the present are closely intertwined. I enjoy the lakes of Lithuania and the security that exists in your country. In addition, Kaunas has a lot of space to grow sustainably, without destroying nature and preserving the green face of the city. I am only disturbed by the excess of cars and aggressive drivers.

I very much hope that after the retreat of the pandemic my friends and family will be able to visit Kaunas one day. I will definitely show them your beautiful lakes and parks; we will visit the Ninth Fort, Pažaislis Monastery and other historical places; we will take a walk in Laisvės Avenue and if we’re lucky, visit a basketball game!

 

The return was prompted by a suitable job offer

Medertas, a native of Pasvalys, emigrated quite early. After leaving a job in Vilnius and studies in Kaunas, he moved to the United Kingdom when he was only 19 years old. There, he worked for one production company for 12 years, gradually improving his qualifications and moving from the lowest position to the production manager. According to Medertas, who currently works as HELLA Lithuania operations project manager, as long as he remembers himself, he always wanted and had the opportunity for improvement while working, therefore, he enthusiastically took up the training offered by his previous workplace: from English language courses to team management to business improvement.

Medertas Zeltinis (Photo from personal archive).

“In the first year, England turned out to be very gloomy, I couldn’t imagine myself living here for more than half a year. But after a while, especially after getting acquainted with a girl from Biržai, my future wife, things started to look up. We both improved our English language skills, worked long hours and saved money for our goals. We got married, had two daughters, bought and modernized a house. To achieve all of this, we worked full-time in different shifts to take care of the children on a shift basis. We spent time together only during the holidays, because otherwise we could barely see each other,” the Lithuanian recalls his life in emigration.

In 2018, with the Brexit process gaining momentum and visiting Kaunas several times, I felt an indescribable desire to return home.

“The decision was made both by the city, which was becoming more beautiful every day, an obvious improvement in people’s culture, higher quality standards, and, of course, relatives living here. Finally, we wanted to send the children to a Lithuanian school, receive excellent Lithuanian health care and communicate in our mother tongue,” Medertas lists the reasons for his return.

There was only one “small” thing missing: a job.

“It was probably the most worrying moment. I didn’t know what kind of work culture I will find after coming to work in Lithuania, what were the qualification requirements, so we decided to return only when I felt safe changing my employer.

Job interviews took place online while I was still in the UK, and the main requirements for my current position were a good knowledge of English, experience in production/teamwork, diploma in engineering or other type of education, and the ability to communicate effectively.

Already after the first interview with HELLA’s human resources specialist and future manager, I was very pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a certain interrogation, qualification testing for a suitable candidate, but I had a friendly conversation about the company, values and opportunities for improvement. Therefore, I can safely say that I chose HELLA primarily because of the opportunity to continuously improve knowledge, the collegiality, my favorite field of electronics, flexible working hours (because of the possibility to take or pick up children from kindergarten or school) also due to the high reputation of this brand, which provided guarantees that everything will be transparent in this workplace,” says the man, who has returned to Kaunas and has been working in the team for two months.

“So far, I am very pleased with the decision I made, and I am especially glad to see my happy children, who see their grandparents or cousins at least once a week and have made friends with other kids in the neighborhood. I should also mention that, compared to the UK, we find a large selection of food in Lithuania, better water quality, excellent communication with any city, super-fast internet, impeccable order in shops and restaurants,” Medertas notes. According to him, Kaunas became more beautiful, well-maintained places to spend time with children emerged: Pažaislis Monastery surroundings with the yacht club gate on the side, Castle trails with a children’s playground, Laisvės Avenue and Vienybės Square. These are just a few places that a family managed to visit after returning to Lithuania.

Source: Photo by Irina Mažuolienė.