Petra Welter spent two months in India on behalf of AXA. With curiosity, openness and courage, she immersed herself in a life that had absolutely nothing in common with her day-to-day routine in Switzerland, but that she found to be greatly enriching.
With 25 years’ experience in insurance, Petra used the time as a period of reflection: Apprenticeship at Winterthur Insurance, small detour into real estate management, return to insurance and all kinds of positions at AXA. It soon became obvious that her interest lay in claims handling. As a manager, she conveyed this passion to her staff for more than ten years.
Then it was time for her to have a change of scene. And what scenes would be better suited to an adventurous and travel-happy person than the colorful world of India? And as luck would have it, AXA Business Services in Pune urgently needed to fill a position, regardless of whether man or woman, so Petra grasped the opportunity: “Colleagues in Pune had already been completing tasks reliably for AXA Switzerland in a variety of ways for years. Now I had the chance to support them and at the same time have a long-awaited experience in another country.”
“I was treated respectfully at all times and in every situation.”
So she got on the plane in Zurich aiming to develop a new tool within two months. An exciting endeavor, not least when people in Pune sit in air-conditioned offices wearing scarves while the thermometer outside reads 45 degrees.
She arrived in Pune after a stop-over in Delhi: Indians like openness and love being together. Petra was welcomed with open arms, but she herself is direct, honest, funny and treats everyone equally. The 43-year old coached local staff and acted as an intermediary between the needs of employees in India and expectations in Switzerland. Thanks to Skype, she was also in daily contact with two colleagues in Winterthur who gave her technical support and set up the tool.
Petra’s support was worth its weight in gold: The tool and work instructions have now been set up, the employees know how to use it and the quality is at the right level. But the path was riddled with one or two obstacles: “We were under enormous time pressure and when I was finally ready for the introduction and training, there were no on-site resources”, laughs Petra who is very sporty in her spare time, either indoor climbing, skiing or climbing along via ferratas.
“Immersing yourself in a completely different culture is an incredibly enriching experience. I learned a great deal and was able to expand my horizons.”
How was the trip to Pune overall, a city in western India with 4 million inhabitants? Chaotic? Noisy? What was it like being a woman on your own in India? No problem for Petra who climbed Kilimanjaro a year ago and is a member of a mountain and ski club. From the very outset, she loved the warmth of people and the homely atmosphere. “I was treated respectfully at all times and in every situation, especially as a woman”, she said.
Despite working under great pressure, she occasionally found time for an excursion: Relaxing on Goa’s wonderful and sometimes empty beaches or enjoying the big city feeling of the metropolis of Mumbai with its population of 20 million. Petra particularly remembers the many colors, the brightly colored saris, the diversity, the food, the smells. New friendships have also been forged which she continues to maintain - this means that now she doesn’t Skype from India to Switzerland but the other way round!
For Petra, it’s obvious that it was worth leaving her comfort zone, believing in herself and taking a leap into the complete unknown. “Immersing yourself in a completely different culture is an incredibly enriching experience. I learned a great deal and was able to expand my horizons. Her stay in India was definitely made better by the fact that she already had travel experience, is open and flexible, but is also able to be on her own sometimes.