Axpo is constantly evolving. Former ETH students share details of the hiring process for Axpo’s traineeship programmes and explain why working in the energy sector is one of the most appealing options the job market has to offer.
By Yulia Yuts
poly-E-fair Company Relations Manager
March 22, 2021
By Yulia Yuts
poly-E-fair Company Relations Manager
March 22, 2021
The traineeship programme is an excellent and exciting way to enter the leading company in the Swiss energy sector, Axpo. We spoke with Samuel Rechsteiner and Annina Mehlisch who both did their master’s degree at ETH Zurich and are now Axpo employees. Samuel finished the traineeship programme in February 2020 and is now working at Axpo as Junior Optimisation Manager. Annina joined Axpo as a trainee in the field of quantitative analysis in April 2020. In this interview, they share what it is like to be an Axpo trainee and how their ETH education paved the way.
Life after ETH
In November 2019, Annina finished her master’s studies in Physics at ETH Zurich. She knew she would enjoy working in the constantly evolving energy field in general, and for a well-positioned energy trader like Axpo. She says that it is an interesting time to be working there. Why? First, the energy transition is currently a much-discussed topic, and second, Axpo is the biggest provider of renewable energy in Switzerland and one of the leading power traders worldwide. Therefore, following her graduation in April 2020, Annina was happy to take a traineeship position as Quant Analyst at Axpo.
Samuel always wanted to work in the field of energy science and technology. According to him, the energy sector has a lot to offer; from production, to distribution and trading. Since the energy business is quite international, it provides the diverse and dynamic environment that Samuel likes. The traineeship gave him a chance to get to know different job opportunities within Axpo. He is now in a full-time position as Junior Optimisation Manager at Axpo.
As a participant at the poly-E-fair, define what you want …
When describing the hiring process for the traineeship programme, Annina and Samuel both start with the fact that they were interested in Axpo. “I was regularly checking their website and career section,” Annina says. “Besides that, I also attended the poly-E-fair and related events, to get more insight into the company,” adds Samuel. They both agree that company events are a great way to learn more about the company and a perfect opportunity to meet company representatives and introduce oneself. “I believe this first point of contact helped me to get the trainee position,” Samuel adds.
In this regard, they also give advice for participants of poly-E-fair. Due to the limited amount of time at the virtual job fair (the poly-E-fair takes place on April 13th), it can be problematic to approach every company on the list. Therefore, good preparation in advance is necessary. Samuel and Annina think participants should formulate what they would like to do, study the programme of the fair, and focus on the companies that are most interesting to them and the best fit for their next career step.
…and success will emerge quickly
The hiring process for a traineeship position at Axpo lasts one to two months and consists of three rounds.
First, candidates submit their applications online and if they successfully pass the initial screening, they get invited to a video interview. The interview consists of 4 pre-recorded questions and answers have to be recorded before submission. The questionnaire is sent to candidates in advance, and they have around two minutes to answer each question. There is no instant feedback during the interview. Candidates are given time to prepare their answer before the recording starts for the final version. The second round of the interview is more interactive. Candidates are invited for a regular one-hour interview to get to know the company better.
Finally, the last round is an on-site assessment day including a case study. During this half-day, two candidates come to the site and present to two different groups of interviewers. In addition, candidates have to prepare a case-study, develop the solution within a given time slot and present it to the interviewers. The candidates also have the chance to meet future supervisors and mentors.
Axpo strives to provide the feedback on the interview quickly, usually within two working days of the last round.
Reflecting on the main skills that allow a candidate to pass the interview and be successful at Axpo in general. Annina and Samuel stress several skills that are important, like analytical thinking, a strong scientific and engineering background, the ability to think systematically, assess a problem, learn quickly and also have an adaptive and quantitative mindset. Additionally, Annina thinks an internship abroad was definitely helpful, “I did an internship in the UK after my bachelor’s degree and did my master’s thesis in Toronto. Working abroad in a different environment can be educational on many different levels.”
The path of trainees
During the trainee programme at Axpo, trainees rotate through 3 different projects in 18 months. Currently, Annina is supporting a meteorologist with his predictive modelling. Weather data is one of the crucial drivers of power prices and they are taking advantage of this by exploring possibilities to build a prediction tool using machine learning.
Projects can vary. Annina has already worked on another project, developing a power demand model to simulate power consumption in the EU, based on weather and schedule (working days vs holidays). Samuel is part of a team working on hydro power plant optimisations. Using advanced models of the various plants and considering fast changing model inputs like prices or inflows, they calculate the optimal production patterns for maximum profit in the different energy markets.
“Axpo offers you a diverse set of challenging tasks”
Samuel and Annina are inspired by the positive impact and practical significance of their work at Axpo. “My first project focused on developing a power demand model. It was encouraging to see that a responsible power analyst was testing it for final integration while I was still working on it. Axpo allows you to work on a wide set of demanding tasks with high impact to contribute to the success of the company,” Annina says.
Of course, high impact goes hand-in-hand with challenging tasks. Being at Axpo means constantly learning. Samuel remarks, “The trainee programme offers many different cool things, but you also have to realise that you get into new projects on a monthly basis within divisions you have never worked in before. And it all starts with extensive learning about the projects and tools to perform them. New places, new people, new teams. Every project is different,” he adds.
Annina agrees and stresses that the company is very supportive, “The trading division is constantly looking for new ways to improve their models. In such a competitive market, we need to constantly evolve. Because what works now, may not work in 10 years. So, at my job I am free to try new things and develop my own ideas, and my team is always providing me feedback. Besides all that, there are numerous online courses and one can spend time on self-development projects.”
Samuel adds that Axpo has its own knowledge academy with a huge portfolio of material and courses one can use for self-education. It is also quite common that employees are sent to external vendors to improve their language, IT skills, project management or communication skills.
The achievements of employees don’t go unnoticed. Axpo acknowledges the successes of their employees with public recognition or rewards, monetary bonuses, an ability to compensate for overtime and flexible working hours in general. In addition, the environment at Axpo is very rewarding. Samuel and Annina appreciate support from their team and colleagues. “People are very friendly, supportive and open-minded,” Annina says. “I really like working here. It is very interdisciplinary, with people from many different backgrounds and countries,” Samuel adds, “Collaboration in that environment is really nice and people are very open minded.”
Traineeship is just the beginning
Annina says that the advantage of the traineeship is that it allows you to explore the company spirit, projects and different departments within a short amount of time. The trainee gets a broad overview of what is possible at Axpo, which facilitates their career development after the programme ends. Annina’s take-away so far is positive, “I enjoy being an analyst and working in the energy sector since it combines economic, political and social aspects.”
Why do you like working at Axpo?
With no hesitation Annina answers, “Because Axpo is constantly evolving and developing.”