Stefan Richard - a 22-year-old industrial mechanic who works at Carl Zeiss in Jena - and his younger brother Harald are the fourth generation of their family to work at Carl Zeiss. Their father worked here, as did their aunt, their uncle, all of their grandparents and two of their great-grandfathers. In spring 2011 three members of the family talked to editors of the employee magazine of Carl Zeiss about their work at the company.
“My father worked for Carl Zeiss, too. He originally came from Bad Kösen in Saxony-Anhalt where he trained as a lathe operator at a lime works. In 1925, one of his school friends was leaving for Jena to apply for a job at Carl Zeiss, so my father decided to go with him. The friend came away empty-handed, but my father was taken on straight away because the planetarium production department was short of lathe operators for its grinding shop.
When I left school in 1950 I started an apprenticeship in precision mechanics at Carl Zeiss and through a fortunate chain of events I soon found myself working in the test center.
To be honest, I had always dreamed of joining the fire department — partly because my father had worked in the Carl Zeiss fire department since 1930 and his job had really fired my imagination! Whenever I collected my bicycle from in front of the factory I would stand there and watch the firefighters going through their practice drills. When I finished my apprenticeship in 1952 I joined the volunteer fire department and began working there on the side. By 1968 I was the deputy fire chief and I ultimately ended up becoming a full-fledged firefighter.
We worked in 24-hour shifts, from seven to seven, with the duty team staying overnight and then continuing their shift in the morning. I did something like 500 extra hours a year for the fire department, which was never exactly easy for my family. But my wife knew how committed I was to the fire department before she married me. After the reunification of Germany everything was re-organized, including the fire department, and in 1992 my wife and I got the opportunity to take early retirement, which was a good move for us at the time.”
“Carl Zeiss has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Both my grandfather and my father worked at Carl Zeiss, and my school had close ties to the Zeiss “M” department which was responsible for measuring instruments and microscopes. All the older kids worked there twice a month — Carl Zeiss was really an integral part of our lives.
As a child I was really interested in model aircraft. I joined the aircraft model-making group and built all sorts of things, often without any instructions at all! After I finished school I joined Carl Zeiss to do my apprenticeship as a toolmaker. Then I had to do my three years of military service and I managed to get into the air force where I worked as an aircraft mechanic. Finally I returned to Carl Zeiss where I stayed until 1992. But when all the restructuring happened I was made redundant, which was a terrible blow.
My sons were just two and one-and-a-half and my wife was looking after them full-time. Anyway, I was put on a kind of waiting list and once a month I had to ask whether any openings had come up. While I was waiting I started working in a friend’s motorcycle workshop and I ended up staying there until the business dried up 15 years later. In 2007 I started working at the company LUCAS, which was founded by someone who used to work at Carl Zeiss. I am tremendously proud of my sons and their achievements, and I feel like I was able to pass on my interests and abilities to both of them, especially my mechanical and craft skills. I would love to work at Carl Zeiss again one day because I still feel as though I really belong there!”
“I inherited my enthusiasm for the fire department from my grandfathers. When we were younger we used to pick up my dad from work and we would often go and see how our granddad was doing in the fire department. It’s one of my most vivid memories — we were drawn to it like moths to a flame! But I also enjoyed model-making from a very early age. I loved playing with Legos and I can still remember how we sorted the bricks by color in old Carl Zeiss crates. Our dad always liked work areas to be kept clean and tidy and the tweezers and other tools were always neatly arranged on the table. I remember when we got a model kit that the three of us built together. It was so much fun that I started spending all my time on model-making: I was obsessed with filing, grinding, smoothing things out with a spatula and giving them a nice coat of paint!
I got along well at school and my good grades meant that I could pretty much choose any career I liked. I already had a place lined up to train as an industrial mechanic in the German armed forces, but after doing a kind of sampler apprenticeship at the Jena training center I decided that I would prefer to work at Carl Zeiss. I started my apprenticeship in 2005 and worked my way through all sorts of different departments during the three-and-a-half year training period. When I finally became a full-fledged industrial mechanic working on functional prototypes it was like hitting the jackpot! I was spending my days assembling things, turning, milling, everything that I really enjoyed! And instead of military or community service I have signed up as part of the fire department’s disaster relief team for the next six years.”