Study programmes: Information Management and Corporate Communications (BA) / Master of Advanced Management (MSc)
Employer: Startup „PineBerry“ (mango solar UG)
Position: Chief Marketing Officer & Co-Founder
How has your career been so far?
Directly after graduating, I transitioned into building the startup "PineBerry" (formerly "mango solar"), which I founded together with two former fellow students in mid-2020. We have developed a digital platform for solar energy in developing countries, through which people in rural areas can be supplied with clean energy. People in rural areas with clean energy. Because: there are still almost 1 billion people in the who do not have access to electricity! Since April 2021, I am also a board member of the Alliance for Rural Rural Electrification", the largest international industry association.
Initially, we did a lot of field research in our target markets in sub-Saharan Africa, with great support from HNU's Africa Institute, to assess customer needs bottom-up. The scientific work and the design thinking methodology, both of which I learnt during my studies, were of great benefit to me. Other helpful teaching contents that I was able to put directly into practice include agile project management, intercultural communication, user experience design, strategic marketing and, of course, all business basics.
That sounds exciting. What exactly does a working day with you look like?
Typically, the scope of tasks and responsibilities in a start-up is very broad, which makes the working day very diverse. When we're not on the road in Kenyan villages, my working day starts between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. - depending on when I finished work the day before. During peak periods, it can even be 4 o'clock at night. In general, I can arrange my working hours very freely, as we work in results-oriented 1-week sprints.
I either sit at my desk in the classic way or lie in our hammock in the office, always equipped with coffee or mate and chocolate biscuits. My main responsibilities are marketing and sales, and I also organise all appointments and am responsible for external communication. Once or twice a year, I also go to sub-Saharan Africa for a few weeks to do field research and customer acquisition.
Let us take a step back: What was special for you during your studies at HNU?
On the one hand, there are the professional competences that you learn in theory and apply practically in the form of many project works, the practical semester and optionally the Bachelor's thesis. Within the large selection of degree programmes, you can also set focal points within an area and sharpen your own profile. On the other hand, there are the so-called "soft skills", which in my experience are at least as important as professional skills - both in academia and in industry. During my studies, I learned to approach (sometimes seemingly unsolvable) tasks in a structured and solution-oriented way. Self-management and time management, prioritisation, communication, but also composure are other aspects that you can train well. There is also a large pool of opportunities for personal development, such as stays abroad, social commitment and voluntary work. The latter for me was in the form of the student council, where I experienced numerous beautiful, unforgettable moments!
Does one quickly make a connection during one's studies?
Absolutely! The most important and fun starting point is definitely the O phase. I met so many people on the first day and saved so many mobile phone numbers that my memory was immediately full. That was before the smartphone era - I then sent out rows and rows of text messages in the evening, always in groups of 10 (= maximum number per sending), to coordinate in which bar we would all meet. Even when the lectures start - studying brings you together and you experience a lot together, which also leads to long-term friendships. I'm very happy about a few friendships that have lasted until today and that are regularly maintained. In addition, two of my fellow students are co-founders of our start-up, so this contact is naturally very intensive.
How would you complete the following sentence?
HNU... "is for me a place of many challenging, educational and beautiful moments, which I always remember with pleasure."