Creating room. Using the keyboard to create new worlds for fantasy characters, that fascinated Christopher Back as a teenager. “What can I do to make my characters interact with each other? How can I enable a character in the game world to open a door? I really enjoyed working out answers to these questions.” For his family, his fascination was visible in the cable leading from the phone socket through his parent’s house towards his room. “Of course, I had to be online all the time.” Christopher Back had even more fun when he found a group of like-minded people to program games and applications with. “We worked with Java. We also had people with more experience in our group and I learned a lot during this time – among other things, how to coordinate a team in order to achieve a common goal and to distribute tasks accordingly.”
From secondary school to high school – and off to university
Following ambitious goals together with like-minded people: That is something Christopher Back also did at school. He passed the transition class from the Realschule to the Holbein-Gymnasium in Augsburg together with his classmates. At university, his study subject of choice was of course computer science. Christopher Back had a set goal: making a difference with his programming. Because of that, he started looking for an internship in mechanical engineering while studying computer science. He began working at Grenzebach in the area of industrial networks and went on to the field of control systems from there. “I learned a lot there and it was good to finally be able to apply the theoretical knowledge I had acquired in my studies.”
Sharing knowledge and experience as a tutor
Creating room. For the 33-year-old Master of Science in computer sciences, this includes sharing experiences and passing on what he learned. This is why he worked as a tutor for younger students during his time at the Augsburg university. “One task, for example, was for the students to create a software project together with a partner from the industry. At another event, the students and I focused on the content of lectures. Correcting assignments was also part of my role as a tutor."
“Our team at Grenzebach digital in Augsburg is very young. Cooperating with Grenzebach's business units and our development partners in Argentina and Greece, international exchange has become standard practice.”
Part of the founding team of Grenzebach digital
Creating room. Today, Christopher Back does this as Head of Software Development at the Grenzebach Digital GmbH in Augsburg. 2018, he was part of the founding team. Since then, the digitization and development platform SERICY, created in-house, has been the foundation to create room for the industry. The business units for glass, intralogistics, building materials: the colleagues at Grenzebach intensively share their knowledge in order to continuously develop the applications. “At the moment, we are, for example, resetting the control system for glass production technology. This gives us in the software development team the opportunity to work with our colleagues in the glass industry to completely rethink everything, to use new methods, and to include open source technology.” According to him, it was definitely special to be able to talk directly to those who were involved in setting up the control system 20 years ago.
Rethinking tools and technologies. To this end, Christopher Back values the personal exchange of ideas and these ideas are not seldom created in a casual conversation at the coffee machine. Today, a total of 15 experts are part of the Grenzebach digital team in Augsburg. When they exchange ideas about the future, artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an increasingly important role. “AI applications are relatively advanced, allowing, for example, to compare the optimal processes at a machine with the current status and thus enabling notifications about service and maintenance”, Christopher Back explains, adding: “Algorithms that learn from their users' input will be increasingly common in the future of mechanical engineering. Once all the disciplines start to intertwine, we'll be able to open up completely new possibilities for ourselves and our customers.”
A casual conversation at the coffee machine. That is not that easy to realize when it comes to the development partners in Argentina. Christopher Back and his Grenzebach Digital colleagues were therefore very happy to be able to meet the Argentinian team in person in February 2020 in Córdoba. „Over the course of a few weeks, we could work together in a room and figure things out using a whiteboard. This also made it possible to provide a personal and detailed briefing for our colleagues regarding the communication between machines and superordinate platform systems."
Working at the whiteboard in Argentina
According to Christopher Back, getting to meet the colleagues from their development partner in the second-biggest city in Argentina had again further improved the cooperation and very much benefited the joint project. “Being software developers, we think quite alike and can easily share and exchange ideas in English. It was still helpful to meet the people in person.” On the weekends, Christopher Back and his colleagues even joined their Argentinian co-workers for barbecues and got to know the region around Córdoba during hikes and excursions. Christopher Back is used to travelling around for Grenzebach. During his time in the headquarters in Hamlar, he often went to China for projects. One of his upcoming trips will take Christopher Back to Athens to meet the developers from inos Automationssoftware GmbH, a company belonging to the Grenzebach Group.
Into the Western woods and the Alps
Opening rooms. This is something Christopher Back not only loves abroad. He enjoys going for bike tours into the Western woods near Augsburg together with his girlfriend. From their apartment in Augsburg, it is not far to the best bike trails in the Lech-Wertach region. Both of them are also often drawn to the Alps to go mountain biking or hiking. “Mountains first” is Christopher Back’s motto for (long) weekends or short vacations. Together with his girlfriend, he enjoys the countryside in the Allgäu or Tyrol in hiking boots or on a mountain bike, and sometimes the aim might be to go even faster than the time before. In addition, they also explore unknown terrain every now and then, because in the end, it is the variety what matters. “The view of the mountains is incredibly calming, winding trails through the forest can be very challenging. Often a simple flow trail also has its appeal, as I can then enjoy the scenery more.” Christopher Back shares a motto with many mountain bikers: “Going downhill is your reward for going uphill”. And talking about rewards: Staying in nice mountain lodges with his girlfriend are also part of their tours. “After demanding stages and intermediate goals it is time for a bit of pleasure. Ambition is of course part of the game - in sports as well as in software development”, Christopher Back says. From the similarities to the differences that help him unwind and recover his energy: “Physical activity instead of working at a desk, nature instead of an office, the rustling of leaves instead of conference calls.”