Dirk Thelen

Nationality: German
City, country: Strasbourg, France
Study program/Degree: Process Engineering, Dipl.-Ing.
Year of graduation: 1991
Employer and position: PPG AEROSPACE Southern Europe, managing director

10 Questions

Why did you decide to study at the TUHH back then and was it in retrospect a good decision?

On cost grounds. I come from Hamburg, it was the right decision.

Can you recall your first impression of the TUHH?

It was a small university that had good relations with its professors and academic staff.

What motivated you to choose your study program and your profession?

I was interested in the subject matter.

How would you summarize your time at the TUHH?


5What was your favorite meal at the student refectory?

We didn’t have a refectory so it was either the canteen of the Tax Office or, alternatively, the nearest döner kebab place or the baker’s.

Where did you prefer to spend time in Hamburg or Harburg alongside your studies?


What is your advice for getting off to a good career start in your industry?

Follow your inclinations and interests, be open for other cultures and mentalities, don’t forget your family.

What do you use in your career that you learnt as a student?

In a professional discussion, analysis and expertise are of greater use than management studies.

What does your typical working day look like and which are the competences that you need for it?

Forget about the inundation of e-mail and tackle issues with a helicopter perspective.

If you were the President of the TUHH…

… I would do more for the alumni.

Dirk Lesny

Study program/Degree: Mechanical Engineering, specializing in Manufacturing Technology, Dipl.-Ing.
Year of graduation: 1995
Employer and position: ExxonMobil, project engineer in petrochemicals

10 Questions

Why did you decide to study at the TUHH back then and was it in retrospect a good decision?

Back then sounds like it was so long ago! I decided in favor of the TUHH in 1990 because it was a young and dynamic university that was going places and was already held in high repute. Another factor that that mattered to me was its outstanding student-staff ratio. In retrospect, it was a good decision and one that I have never regretted.

Can you recall your first impression of the TUHH?

A modern construction site with something that was supposed to become a pond … And then the theater in the Helms-Museum and Monday mornings in Eichenhöhe, where the air mostly smelt of left-over alcohol from the weekend’s events.

What motivated you to choose your study program and your profession?

The fascination of technology and all that can be done with it if it is used responsibly. Studying engineering also promised to be a sound basis for a wide range of careers – even if the job prospects were not brilliant in the 1990s (but that is history).

How would you summarize your time at the TUHH?

Hard, focused work – always with the target in mind but without entirely neglecting the advantages of student life.

What was your favorite meal at the student refectory?

Which refectory? We didn’t have one back then.

Where did you prefer to spend time in Hamburg or Harburg alongside your studies?

Evenings in the bars on Lämmertwiete and otherwise on the water (rowing, sailing, kayaking…), going for walks on the dike or in the Nordheide or the Harburger Berge.

What is your advice for getting off to a good career start in your industry?

Starting with a good technical grounding never to lose sight of the commercial or the overview. A widely based, soundly developed personality clearly also helps.

And when starting your career it is always a good idea to be flexible about where you work and to be ready to give much more than 100 percent initially.

What do you use in your career that you learnt as a student?

A surprising amount, considering they always say that very little of what you learn is of any use later. I make use of both the bricks and mortar of my main study program and the approach, the methods and the strategies that we learnt for our Vordiplom. In addition I have very often benefited from experience gained in the many jobs I had, be it at the uni as a student assistant or intern or as an intern or jobber at many companies.

What does your typical working day look like and which are the competences that you need for it?

There are few if any “typical” working days because the days are filled differently with organizational, analytical, information gathering or problem solving activities. That, of course, involves every conceivable and all of the conventional forms of communication.

But the competences I mainly need (with the technical expertise to back them up) are flexibility, team skills, motivation (of myself and others), and the ability to switch roles – between contributor and decision maker, for example.

If you were the President of the TUHH…

… I would not have the great job that I have now, so I am happy to leave that to people who are better suited for the job. But as his advisor I would try to underscore the importance of the following points: 1) connections with industry that enable students to get their bearings and to gain experience; 2) enabling students to gain an international orientation while nonetheless appreciating and making use of the benefits of a regional anchoring; 3) constantly underscoring the importance of education and vocational training in this country’s political landscape and enlisting support for it.

Markus Dölle

Master of Science (M.Sc.) Process Engineering
Graduation date: 28.11.2013

Uni. Over and done with at last? Or is it a pity that it is now all over?

After six years of studies I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I look forward to being able to stand on my own feet and to earn a living at last. On the other, it is a pity that my studies are over. I really enjoyed my time as a student.

Why did you decide to study at the TUHH?

Several factors interacted. It was not only that the TUHH has a good reputation; the location appealed to me too. I was determined to study in a larger city.

How would you summarize your time at the TUHH?

It was something of a mixed bag. The first semesters were very hard work because I had to learn how to deal with the way subjects are taught at university. Nevertheless, I had a great deal of fun at parties and the like. That was the case throughout my studies. There sure were times when the going was tough, but also good experiences and fun.

How did you cope with the course load of your study program?

Some parts of the course were extremely demanding while others were less labor-intensive. I reckon it is important to set priorities. That isn’t too difficult because sooner or later the pressure eases off and you can take it easy. Taking a break from time to time is important too.

Where in Harburg did you spend time as a student?

I often spent time with friends who live all over Harburg. I also lived for several years at the student hostel in Triftstrasse, where I frequently took it easy at the bar. For a while I played soccer with the Dynamo Heimfeld amateurs.

Where is your favorite place in Harburg?

I really like the port. I also spent a fair amount of time in the Schwarzenbergpark, of which I have fond memories.

And what was your favorite meal at the student refectory?

Hamburger, of course! They could definitely have dished up hamburgers more often.

If you were the President of the TUHH, to what would you attach importance?

I would attach even more importance to teaching. In Germany, sad to say, university professors seem more to seek funding and reputation by means of new projects. As a result, in my opinion, teaching tends to be somewhat neglected. And as I spent my semester abroad in Sweden, I have experienced a different approach.

Marko Ivanovic

Surname, first name: Ivanovic, Marko
Nationality: Serbian
City, country: London, UK
Study program/Degree: MSc. Global Innovation Management
Year of graduation: 2010
Employer and position: SC Johnson, Senior Business Process Analyst

Why did you choose the TUHH at the time and was it, in retrospect, a good decision?
Studying at TUHH was definitely a good decision. I had the opportunity to choose whether to attend my master studies at the university in Denmark or in Germany. I have decided to attend TUHH study program as I believed it will give me the opportunity to truly meet and learn about German culture and to have the opportunity to learn the language. Moreover, knowing that TUHH is a “young” university, I expected that it will excel all the other universities from the region.

Do you recall the first impression that the TUHH made on you?
The university campus is a very modern place with a lot of open spaces and well organized. I liked the infrastructure, but also the way classes were organized and topics we covered.

Where in Harburg did you spend your spare time?
We had a lot of fun in our student dormitory where we organized many unforgettable parties.

How, in a nutshell, would you describe your time at the TUHH?
Although quite far away from the Hamburg city centre, Harburg was a nice and quiet place to live, learn about German culture and enjoy the studenthood at the university.

Where do you live now, what do you like there and what is the biggest difference to Hamburg?
I live now in London, UK. What amazes me here is the possibility to meet so many people with different cultural backgrounds and experiences. What I miss from Hamburg is the structured and neat German lifestyle.

What are you doing now and did your studies at TUHH help?
I joint TUHH having a strong IT background, with a mission to gain some theoretical and practical experience in management and business topics. TUHH helped me to learn a lot about the business and management which I apply now on daily bases at my work. My current responsibilities are facilitation of process improvement initiatives within my company and managing IT projects.

What are your personal tips for a good career entry in your industry?
Be open-minded, be bold and courageous – it is all in the attitude and personality. Companies will hire you despite your lack of experience and will decide to give up on you if they don’t like you. In addition, prior to your graduation make sure you take part in as many practical projects as possible, acquire as many skills as possible, and experience as many things as possible. Finally, don’t be afraid to seek advice, not from friends of your own age, but from fellow-students who are a bit older.

How does a typical day of work looks like and which expertise do you need for this?
There is no such thing as a typical day in the modern business world. I talk to so many people around the globe, travel a lot and organize a lot of workshops. Afterwards, I follow up on those, manage projects and implementations… It is an endless fun, if you enjoy this kind of ride.

If you were the TUHH President …
First of all, I would be so proud of my achievements. Second of all I would make sure I touch base with the current students, engage in the open conversation and listen to what they think can be improved in order to keep the TUHH competitive among other universities.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Kai Borgeest

Surname, first name: Borgeest, Kai
Nationality: German
City, country: Aschaffenburg, Bavaria
Study program/Degree: Electrical Engineering (Computer Engineering) / Diplom, PhD
Year of graduation: 1993, PhD 1998
Employer and position: initially Robert Bosch GmbH, Stuttgart, development engineer and project manager; since 2003 University of Aschaffenburg, Professor of Automotive Mechatronics

Why did you choose the TUHH at the time and was it, in retrospect, a good decision?

My previous university was a “mass university” with an average study period at the time of nearly 16 semesters. At the TUHH the standard period of study was enough, and that included a study period abroad.

Do you recall the first impression that the TUHH made on you?

In those early days there was a great deal of improvisation. I remember, for example, the rats in the former Eichenhöhe ballroom evidently shared our interest in control engineering and dashed around the lecture room. The TUHH nonetheless made a modern, family impression, and that mainly positive impression was confirmed in the course of our studies.

How, in a nutshell, would you describe your time at the TUHH?

To begin with there was a lot that you simply had to get on and over with. It was only later that I found out what use it was. When in later semester more practical considerations came into play it was much more fun. The friendly, optimistic basic outlook was good.

What was your motivation for choosing this subject and this career?

Today I would opt for mechatronics, but back then electrical and mechanical engineering were my preferences. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what I had assembled, disassembled, or repaired as a youngster and wanted to have good career prospects.

What is your advice on getting off to a good career start in your industry?

Get a breadth of knowledge, including areas beyond the subject you are studying (such as international experience and societal commitment). Training as a student to write exams for a good grade in the time allowed may be a good way to get a good grade, but in industry you are no longer required to solve standard exam questions in the time allowed. It is more important to have understood everything and to be able to put it to use.

What do you use from your studies in your job?

An astonishing amount, more than the 10 percent that is often mentioned, but you almost always only know exactly what you need later on in your career. What matters is to understand a lot. Mere factual knowledge is always something that you can look up if required.

What does your typical working day look like and which competences does it require?

It starts with a whole lot of bureaucracy, e-mail pingpong and paperwork (tending to increase with each successive reform), but that is true of nearly every job, including jobs in industry. The key competence is to ensure that this work does not destroy too much productive time and that what cannot be avoided in these categories is nevertheless dealt with on schedule (time management). The most pleasurable part of the job is teaching and research. No day is like the next, which is how it should be. In teaching you need in-depth specialized knowledge, but it is much more important to enjoy teaching and have the courage to try out forms of learning that go beyond the classic lecture. At Universities of Applied Science (Fachhochschulen) research is much more difficult than at conventional universities, which is why most professors at Fachhochschulen do no research. I do – as far as I can. That is why the most important skill is the ability to improvise.

If you were the TUHH President …

I believe that the TUHH has the right President as it is. I would tackle many things in much the same way, especially strengthening the qualitative importance of teaching.

Dr.-Ing Ute Fleck

Nationality: German
City, Country: Zurich, Switzerland
Study program/Degree: Process engineering/Dr.-Ing.
Year of graduation: 1996 (PhD in 2000)
Employer and position: Hitachi Zosen Inova AG,
Senior Sales Manager for key-ready waste incinerators in the UK, Ireland & Australia

Why did you choose the TUHH at the time and was it, in retrospect, a good decision?

It was sheer coincidence. A fellow-student had looked into the process engineering program and it appealed to me because it continued to involve all of the scientific subjects. At times I found study program exhausting, but today I am more than glad that I made the choice that I did – and as a Hamburg person you are happy to stay in Hamburg.

Do you recall the first impression that the TUHH made on you?

The buildings were still in part very much a makeshift affair, but the subject matter that was taught was nevertheless very demanding, my fellow-students were interesting and it was a whole new world after school. At the same time, however, there was an incredible amount of theory and the constant question “What on Earth can I really make of it all in the future?”

What was your motivation for choosing this subject and this career?

Engineers were very much in demand, I have always been interested in science, and I wanted to find a job after completing my studies. If I had known back then what a wide range of jobs you can do with my qualification I would have opted for it in any case.

How, in a nutshell, would you describe your time at the TUHH?

Hard work, at times disillusioning, and at the same time the way to an entirely different and exciting world.

What is your advice on getting off to a good career start in your industry?

Listen to your heart, persevere with your first job even if it isn’t what you may have dreamed about, and then apply for the next job with more knowledge and understanding, including knowledge about yourself. Expect more from yourself than from others.

What do you use from your studies in your job?

Directly, probably nothing. But if I had not studied what I did I would never have been able to work my way into such complex technical issues as fast as I am now able to do. I have changed the area in which I work three times and always been quick to get my bearings. A word of advice that my professor, Prof. Dr. Brunner, gave me has always seemed to me to be very important. At the very least, he said, you must always be able to check quickly whether a result appears to be plausible or not. This gift of being able to judge complex correlations has always been very important for me – both in finding technical solutions and in commercial discussions.

What does your typical working day look like and which competences does it require?

For me there is no such thing as a typical working day. There is a rough plan, of course, but business trips usually become necessary at short notice and in the course of the day something always happens, be it in-house or external, that requires a swift reaction.
You typically need always to reset your priorities, keep an overview, motivate the team, be a good listener and, of course, a good salesman. My area of responsibility includes market development, preparing quotations, checking cost estimates, negotiating contracts, negotiating exclusivity agreements, making speeches at conferences, trade fair and customer event organization, finding partner companies, managing the different offer teams, building political networks, and being responsible for costs. I am lucky. My boss has a great deal of confidence in me and I can for the most part plan, organize and carry out all of this by myself.

If you were the President of the TUHH…

…I would sell the TUHH as the best university of technology there is.

Christoph Jung

Mr. Jung, you studied for an MBA in Technology Management at the Northern Institute of Technology Management (NIT) in combination with a master’s in mechatronics at the TUHH. What are your memories of studying at the TUHH?

I have very positive and intensive memories of my studies. My time at the NIT and the TUHH made a strong impression on my subsequent career moves and opened many doors for me. We wrote around 50 exams in our first year. In my second year I spent six months in China and was able to serve an internship with my sponsor, Körber AG. In spite of the burden of study and work I still had plenty of fun, I am happy to say.

What made studying in Hamburg-Harburg special?

The intensity of the double-degree program and the high volume of work coupled with the strong sense of community at the NIT made studying in Hamburg-Harburg special for me. I was a Class 07 student at the NIT. It was a class of over 30 students, only three of whom were from Germany. Living and working at close quarters in such an international environment was great fun and extended my horizons beyond the subjects I was studying.

In 2010 you and Daniel Kollmann launched the Massivkonzept startup. At the end of April 2013 Massivkonzept was acquired by the US e-commerce company Fab in return for shares worth around €20 million. Tell us a little about the idea and how your company originated.

Massivkonzept sold made-to-measure on the Internet using online configurators. The company was profitable from the start and we were fortunate to be able to scale it up without external investors. I am neither a carpenter nor a product designer.
After my time at McKinsey I worked on several business ideas, including peer-to-peer car sharing, for example. Once we realized that there was a wide, unused gap between IKEA and carpentry I concentrated on Massivkonzept.

What would you advise prospective startups to do on their way to success?

Go for it! I strongly believe that you can start up companies successfully if you uncompromisingly pursue that one objective. Working on a business idea alongside your studies or another job does not usually bear fruit. In Germany there are many opportunities to bridge the startup process financially, be it by means of startup grants or an EXIST scholarship.

Which knowledge and skills from your student days were helpful in developing the startup and in your present line of business?

My technical expertise was most helpful in the choice of furniture manufacturers in Eastern Europe and our programmers in India. My studies at the NIT were even more useful. Subjects such as business administration, employment law, and bookkeeping are now a part of my day-to-day work.

Studying in a straight line, a no-gaps resumé, first-rate grades, a head full of knowledge… What is important in your later career?

To do what you really want to do. Only then can you give your all and really be happy and successful. There is no such thing as the perfect resumé or an approach for everyone to adopt. What matters is to gain experience step by step and leave yourself enough time to plan your next moves strategically. And to have the guts to scrap a seemingly „perfect” resumé.

Dr.-Ing Alexander Nürnberg

Dr Nürnberg, you studied mechanical engineering at the TUHH and went on to obtain your PhD here. How has the TUHH changed since then?
In the Fall of 1983 I began my main course of studies in Marine Mechanical Engineering at the TUHH. Back then the Technikum was the only university building that had been completed. Parts of the hospital and all kinds of premises in the city center and Port area of Harburg were used for classes. Our semester consisted of 12 students.
Three came with preliminary diplomas from other universities and the others had already graduated from a university of applied sciences. We were the first year’s student intake to be taught at the TUHH. There were significantly more professors and assistant lecturers than students, and we enjoyed the attention that was paid to us.
There was a remarkable mood of change and a basic “yes, we can” sentiment at both the academic and the administrative level. Improvisation laid the groundwork for a successful start. We felt it was highly motivating. Today the TUHH has an outstanding infrastructure and has become an integral part of Hamburg. Everything is much more professional, larger, and different. That is a natural and necessary trend for a university that wants to remain in the premier league of technical universities.

Where did you spend your time as a student in Harburg?
In the mid-1980s Harburg had little to offer students. I can still remember the billboards in Eissendorf calling for “No University in a Residential Area!” So our status was somewhat exotic in those days. Specifically, I spent my time in the Technikum, in Harburger Schlossstrasse, and in Lauenbruch Ost. My leisure time was spent in Ottensen, which was just emerging as a trendy part of Hamburg.

How did your career progress after you graduated with a PhD in 1991?
On January 2, 1992 I started work as a development engineer at HATLAPA in Uetersen.
My mentor when I began my studies at the TUHH was my first boss. That’s how small the world can be! In 1994 I was appointed Head of Design, in 1995 Head of Production as well, and in 1996 Managing Director, which I still am. Even though I have now been working at the same firm for 22 years, no one day has ever been the same as another.

Good grades? Completing your studies in the regulation period? What matters for getting off to a successful career start?
My example is one of an unconventional approach. At school I took advanced courses in English and History, but with an average Abitur grade of 3.1 I would not find it easy to enroll as an engineering student today. I also took a remarkable ten semesters to complete my preliminary diploma – with a grade of 2.7. With today’s Bachelor’s program that would have been that! After a further four semesters I took my first degree with a grade of 2.0 and after a further four years I completed my PhD with a Very Good grade.
During my studies I worked a lot in industry and enjoyed taking on responsibilities. That made it easy for me to embark on a career, since when I have not done at all badly…

What, in your view, are the reasons for studying at the TUHH?
The TUHH is a modern, international university with clearly formulated performance standards. Its size enables students to make good personal contacts and the courses it offers are focused, thereby
enabling students to achieve a high level. What I also find remarkable is what it has to offer alongside academic considerations, such as in music, sport, or art. That is true quality of life.

Alongside your career commitments you are an active member of the alumni association and the TUHH foundation. What motivates you to undertake these commitments?
During my time at the TUHH my teachers were outstanding individuals to whom I owe a great deal. I have often compared our dealings with each other with those of the Greek philosophers and their students in the market places of Ancient Greece. The transfer of knowledge went far beyond the technical subject matter and the dialog honed my facility for thinking and understanding. Education is a very important good and I would like to make my contribution toward ensuring that it is provided in society.