Two Auburn degrees propel alumnus’ career to Germany, China

Published: June 18, 2019
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Mac Patterson has been using his degrees from Auburn University since the start of his career.

The Atlanta-native began working at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance, Alabama, after receiving degrees in mechanical engineering and German from Auburn in 2014.

“As soon as I started, I think my very first day on the job, my boss, who was German, pulled me into a video conference room,” Patterson recalled. “The meeting was completely in German. My very first meeting was completely in German, which was a little bit of a shock.”

Alabama is home to the German automaker’s first passenger vehicle manufacturing facility in the United States.

After a short stint in Vance, Patterson earned a job in Stuttgart, Germany, working at the worldwide headquarters of Daimler AG, Mercedes’ parent company.

“I was using German daily, even in Alabama at my job,” he said. “After I had shown that I was relatively successful with it, and had an interest in moving to Germany, I received the offer to move over here.

“It was the best decision I ever made.”

Patterson came to the Plains to study engineering, but he also had an interest in German. He chose to major in mechanical engineering and minor in the German language.

The academic plan turned out to be pretty common among Auburn engineering majors simply because of the career options in Alabama alone: Nearly 90 German companies have operations in Alabama.

Patterson traveled to Germany in 2011 and studied German and engineering at the University of Stuttgart. Upon his return, he realized he was only a few credits short of a German major.

The decision to double major turned out to be quite meaningful as the dual knowledge essentially launched Patterson’s career.

“I hadn’t even been out of school a year when I moved over here,” he said. “Moving to Stuttgart was an opportunity to try different things, and to learn about a company at its headquarters.

“My German degree is just as valuable as my engineering degree. I’m an engineer, but I work in Germany. My daily work is in German. My ability to communicate with my colleagues is all in German.”

It can be overwhelming to start a new life in a foreign country, but Patterson said he had an easier transition than most, having lived in Germany before on study abroad.

Others, who haven’t studied abroad or became proficient in a foreign language, shouldn’t be discouraged from making a leap like Patterson did, he advised. A basic knowledge to be able “to get around and order food” is a good place to start, he said.

Patterson also advised Auburn students—especially engineering—to study abroad.

“It’s an opportunity to try things that are different than Auburn, and spend time, as in my case, in Europe and Germany, and get to experience the world,” he said.

Patterson has visited Poland, Hungary, Austria, Croatia, France, Spain, Italy and England, to name a few.

Working at Daimler AG has been an international experience, in and of itself. Patterson said he has colleagues from around the world, including India, Poland, France, China, South Africa and Hungary.

“If you're offered an opportunity where you might be able to work abroad, or even just travel abroad use the opportunity to interact with people that you wouldn't otherwise,” he suggested. “That can help your perspective and be really valuable to a large company like Mercedes.”

Patterson’s international experience took a major turn this summer when he started a 27-month contract on a project to help build a new car model in Beijing, China. He is currently taking lessons in Mandarin.

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