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.