City, Country: Vienna, Austria
Study Program, Degree: Process Engineering/ Dipl. Ing.
Year of Graduation: 2005
Employer and Position: Managing Director, Forschung Burgenland
Why did you opt for the TUHH at the time and was it, with hindsight, a good decision?
The TUHH had a very good reputation at the time. Other factors were the personal atmosphere and the very attractive campus. I spent several years working for the student body and am still in contact with former fellow-students. The only problems I had were, for a long time, with thermodynamics. Eventually I sorted them out and worked for two years as a thermodynamics tutor. By learning the subject several times for exams I ended up knowing the subject really well 😉
What motivated you to choose that subject and this career?
I felt that the combination of chemistry and mechanical engineering was great. My dream back then was already to develop hydrogen storage for vehicles, and process engineering with a specialization in energy systems was the obvious choice. An important milestone was then, without a doubt, the time I spent as an assistant with Prof. Jobst Hapke at the Institute of Apparatus Engineering. I was able there to work at an early stage on highly exciting research projects in hydrogen storage and to do my diploma project there. That, indeed, was the entry ticket to my career.
Where, apart from your studies, did you most enjoy spending time in Hamburg and/or Harburg?
I often got together with friends and we made intensive use of the little spare time that we had. There were parties in our shared apartment, outings for freshmen and, as I vividly recall, there was downtown inline skating. There was even a direct inline skating route from Mönckebergstraße to Große Freiheit 36 for an after-skate beer. And then there was the Elbe beach at Övelgönne and the Strandperle bar; I still go there whenever I am in Hamburg.
What is the greatest about your job?
After graduation I failed to get a job in the automobile industry, but I had an exciting space research job offer in Vienna, and there I really was in charge of developing hydrogen storage systems – for satellites. It was a truly exciting time in which I learnt a great deal and had a whole lot of design leeway. I went on to head and further develop the research group. Five years ago I was offered the headship of a study program at a technical college along with the position of joint managing director of the research subsidiary. Had it not been for my time at the TUHH I would never have considered taking up that challenge. For a year now I have been the sole managing director of a research company with a payroll of 40. My best decision after completing my studies was definitely that of taking on the job that gave me the most design scope for my career.
What did you learn at the TUHH that you still use in your career?
My former fellow-students thought it was hilarious when I told them five years ago that I was back in the lecture theater but this time as the lecturer. I wasn’t exactly the student who passed every exam at the first attempt with flying colors. I now greatly appreciate the sound basic knowledge we were
taught in Hamburg. Thermodynamics is simply difficult and sometimes you need to listen twice to understand it. Later there are countless opportunities
to put it to good use. I also have great respect for the organization of a study program and a lecture. I now know just how hard and arduous it is to design a high-quality lecture and to organize a good class schedule.
What shape does your typical working day take and which competences do you require for it?
My day always begins at the coffee machine. I then go to my PA to discuss with her the meetings that lie ahead and to sign a slew of bills. The open and respectful way of dealing with people that I learnt from the professors at the TUHH is a great help in dealing with my present colleagues. After the first conversation I usually settle down to answer the most important e-mail. There too, prioritization is what counts. Otherwise my working day
largely consists of team meetings and discussions. Structured self-organization is the most important way to tackle very different tasks. I am also very active on a number of bodies and responsible for the research company’s external impact and for communication with our stakeholders. Holding a Press may sound easy, but when it is you up there and journalists from regional newspapers and the regional TV channel are asking questions you need to be able to give straightforward answers. Improvisation is important too, of course, because there is never a time when everybody keeps to the plan. So my working day could hardly be more varied.
If you were President of the TUHH, …
… I would first say to myself “Marcus, that is just too much of a good thing.” I would then consider who was better suited for the job and nominate
him. As I have a good insight into the work of a university president I cannot imagine that post ever being in my resumé. But 13 years ago I would surely have said the same about my present position. So I should maybe best start looking into where I can best work on my doctoral dissertation… 😉