Cohort 2021/2022

Cohort 2020/2021


We interviewed former mentors and mentees and asked about their experiences with the programme. You can read the interviews here:

Interview with Claudia Finke

The mentors from the fellows & friends programme have various backgrounds. Claudia Finke, former director of the Hertie Foundation, now working in the Board of the Düsseldorf Airport, took on the role of mentor last year. She advises that key to a successful mentoring is not necessarily having a similar background with your mentee, but that it lies in openness and curiosity, and that in some cases, it can lead to a friendship, too.

ff: What motivated you to take part as a mentor in the Mentoring Programme?

“A sense of connectivity with the Hertie Foundation. I thought, I might give something back. I wanted to play a part, to make a difference and contribute. It was curiosity as well. At first it was quite a surprise that I did not have a mentee a lot younger than me. This was not a mentorship about a young adult finding their way into professional life. Instead I had a mentee just about my age and we got on very well together, in some ways we are even very much alike. On top of that, Valentina is a fellow of the Horizonte Programme, which I had once helped to design myself, that was fascinating.”

ff: How were the mentoring sessions structured?

“I think both of us are very structured persons. We started phoning once a month, as a fixed date. And very early in the programme we arranged a meeting in Hamburg where she is based as well as in Dusseldorf, where I live. We were really dedicated, we both wanted that the other one takes something home from the programme. With time, we realized we had some sort of common ground on which we kept in contact and exchanged ideas. We did not need to phone once a month eventually. We even spent weekends with each other’s families. After some time, we became friends. But then, this is not something that you have to have for a successful mentorship. You cannot expect this, it might happen or not.”

ff: What topics did you cover?

“Main topics were the professional career, personal development, being the leader of your own life, finding work. It became very private as well. Valentina has a profile very different from mine, we had been interested in different topics in our professional career and university studies. That added a lot of interesting aspects. If you are open, it does not matter if you have the same profile or not, same age or not. It is all about curiosity, it is all about getting to know people, and forming some kind of relationship. It is what you make of it.”

ff: What did you particularly take with you from the mentoring sessions?

“A mentoring means seeing the world through another person’s eyes. You are part of a common journey leading you both to different places that neither of you could reach without interacting. Trust that you will make some sort of difference, without putting yourself under pressure. The mentorship develops along the way.”

ff: What would you recommend to new mentors and mentees?

“Before you start, you should reflect on what you want to take home with you from this mentorship: Is it an answer to a question you have? Is it an enrichment to your personal contact network? Or is it an inspiration for a professional decision that you have to take? The mentorship should be focused on what you put into it, while at the same time you should be open about what it is you get out of it. Otherwise you risk not recognizing in which way you might be or have been profiting.”

Interview with Christian König

Many mentees apply for the fellows & friends Mentoring Programme at cross-roads: they are either finishing a degree and are looking into beginning their professional life or they are thinking about a career change. This was somewhat Christian König’s motivation, too, since he was looking for guidance with respect to continuing his studies, and further specializing. The programme, though, surprised Christian and opened up other relevant channels, too.

ff: What motivated you to take part as a mentee in the Mentoring Programme?

“I have been part of fellows & friends since 2016, when I was a participant in Jugend Debattiert, the debating competition, that Hertie Foundation co-funds, and I knew I was tapping into an enormous amount of intellectual resources at Hertie. When applying, I had just graduated from my Bachelor’s degree, in Politics and Sustainable Development, and I knew I wanted to purposely re-orient myself, and do this within a structured programme, with someone who has more experience. It was very helpful, in terms of figuring out the direction in which I was going. I needed some help with applications for a Masters programme, and with understanding how the policy sector works. Oliver, my mentor, works for the Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs. During the mentoring programme, my circumstances changed: six months of internship turned into two years of work and I have postponed my Master studies to next year. But the core reason of my motivation stayed the same: using the programme to figure out what I want, what is best and how I can get there.”

ff: How were the mentoring sessions structured?

“We talked via Skype and always structured the feedback process as a conversation, it was quite informal. What we want to do now, despite the fact that the mentorship has finished, is to go back to some of the methods, and look at those and try more structured approaches.”

ff: What topics did you cover?

“We focused on professional development, on the professional environment, on workplace situations. We also covered topics of the policy sector and methods for reflection, which is something I want to look at more, to find ways to structure learning processes. So we had a focus on soft skills, on the one hand and hard facts on the other hand.”

ff: What did you particularly take with you from the mentoring sessions?

“Talking to someone with more work experience, it gave me a realistic outlook about learning to relax in a new situation. I am new to professional life. Taking a step back, looking at it all with perspective and using it as an assessment tool, that gave me more clarity in assessing a situation. Oliver is very forthcoming; it is the second time for him that he acts as a mentor. He is still in touch with the other mentee, too, in terms of infrequent checking and conversations about that person’s progress. We are moving into a similar modus.”

ff: What would you recommend to new mentors and mentees?

“Pro-activeness firstly and being willing to open up as well. For both sides, do not hold back on what you think. Trying out different formats, use different tools and different things that Hertie is offering. Do not come into the programme with the most certain aims. It is good to have aims, but since the programme works best in times of orientation, when you need support and guiding, you need to include changing circumstances as well. I would have never expected how things developed at the beginning of the mentorship, so take the possibility of change into the commitment to the programme.”

Interview with Andreas Schröder

Some mentors return to the fellows & friends Mentoring Programme. This is, for instance, true for Andreas Schröder. Andreas participated three times in a row as a mentor in our programme. He is otherwise an active Hertie Fellow, too. Andreas commutes for work, every week, from Düsseldorf to Paris, and could imagine having mentoring sessions on the train, too. Sometimes, the borders between formal and informal mentoring become flexible and the mentorship even continues after the official programme comes to an end, as he tells us in the interview with fellows & friends.

Ff: What motivated you to take part as a mentor in the Mentoring Programme?

“My main motivation to take part in the programme is to get inspiration myself from young and ambitious people. I enjoy listening to them. I like to give advice as well, but I do this in a humble way, I give ideas, not prescriptions. The role of the mentor is a good balance between listening and talking, I think. On top of this, I like to further develop my skills of being a mentor. I would be interested in being again a mentor. You learn something about yourself in such a programme, so this is one reason to recommend this experience to everyone.”

Ff: How were the mentoring sessions structured?

“The Mentoring Programme has developed over the years, from a mainly face-to-face meeting system, three years ago, during weekend seminars, to something that is more digital. Since I am relatively busy, a video conference gives me more time for the mentoring. I still have face-to-face meetings with the mentees, and I try to arrange them in combination with other events. I had three mentees, Anastasia, Yana and Amed. When Yana visited me in Paris, I organized meeting with someone relevant for her PhD. I inspired Amed to become part of the ff Hertie Energy and Environment Network (HEEN), which I am currently coordinating. Amed came to Paris and co-organized a conference with me and other network members. This was still happening within the Hertie framework, since HEEN is sponsored by the foundation. I accommodated Amed at my place, and in the evening, he shared personal stories with me. That was a moment of amazement. That would never happen during a mentoring session at Harnack House.”

Ff: What topics did you cover?

“We talked a lot about career development and job offers in two mentorships, since the mentees were at the beginning of their careers. In another case, we were talking more about content and soft skills. Anastasia was more interested in environmental issues, since she was at the beginning of her studies. Yana was already a PhD student, so she was more knowledgeable of energy topics. But one thing I did in all three mentorships, was to write recommendation letters or support applications by other means. I also gave the mentees an introduction to the International Energy Association, my current employer in Paris.”

Ff: What did you particularly take with you from the mentoring sessions?

“What I particularly take away is the help we got from the Hertie Foundation. I participate in other programmes, too, which lack a structure behind it, so people abandon it after some time. I believe in the need of a certain framework, which is offered by the foundation for the ff Mentoring Programme. Our face-to-face meetings in Paris, for example, were supported by the foundation. I am also inspired by listening to these young people and I hope I helped them in their career development. I am still in touch with Amed now, as he is looking for jobs, my support to him goes beyond the timeline of the programme.”

Ff: What would you recommend to new mentors and mentees?

“You have to find a balance between listening and giving advice. That is a tip for the mentor. Give very focused advice, not only positive feedback, but something that helps. For the

mentees, I did appreciate it when the mentees showed understanding for the time limitations of the mentor. A clear initiative for the meetings has to come from the mentees. Some people take more initiative than others. And I let them do it. This is my way.”

Interview with Julia Gundlach

Some mentees in the fellows & friends Mentoring Programme are looking for a space of reflection. This is also the case with Julia Gundlach, who had already a job aligned after her studies at the Hertie School. Besides a wide overlap of interests and topics with her mentor, he has also inspired her to become a mentor herself someday.

ff: What motivated you to take part as a mentee in the Mentoring Programme?

“I had just finished my Master of Public Policy at the Hertie School and thought it would be great to have a mentor for the time after graduation. I had already started a job, so it was a good time to have a reflective exchange with somebody. Christian, my mentor, is really engaged in data science and I had just begun working at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. Therefore, there was a big topic overlap, and a similarity of networks. It was a lot of fun to connect people with each other and to exchange views on technology topics.”

ff: How were the mentoring sessions structured?

“Fortunately, we were both in the same city, in Berlin. During the first two meetings we wanted to get to know each other and our respective work. In the following we initially wanted to focus on a specific technology topic for each meeting, but this changed along the way as we simply had so many different topics, that we were interested in. At the beginning, I created a google doc, in which I wrote down the main impressions of our talks, after each session. Having a logbook was a nice way to reflect after the meetings.”

ff: What topics did you cover?

“As we are both interested in technology, we focused on digital health, data science, AI. With time, other topics also became important: we talked about entrepreneurship, what constitutes good leadership and how to manage expectations.”

ff: What did you particularly take with you from the mentoring sessions?

“During this mentorship, I appreciated a lot that I got to know a perspective of someone who went through a similar education as me, since Christian is also a graduate of the Hertie School of Governance. It was very insightful to have more perspectives on how you can develop from studies to work. Furthermore, I greatly benefited from his knowledge of technology topics and greatly enjoyed our discussions. I appreciate that our mentorship has not ended after the official deadline but that we will continue our conversation.”

ff: What would you recommend to new mentors and mentees?

“Take the opportunity to create a reflective environment, in order to distinguish the mentorship meetings from your daily talks with colleagues, friends or family. We started all the meetings with each of us taking three minutes of uninterrupted talk on how we arrive at the meeting. This was a great way to create a different atmosphere.

Other than that, just go for the mentorship, because it is a great experience on both sides. There is a great pool of people among the Hertie fellows, from whom you can learn a lot and the Hertie foundation has shown that they can match people very well. I believe that everyone should have a sounding board of contacts, meaning people that you know you can call and reflect with them on decisions you are facing. One realization I had after this mentorship, is that I would also like to be a mentor at some point. It is a great experience to have the opportunity to reflect with someone and also see how they develop over a year.”

Video & Podcast Mentoring Programme

Podcast (German)

In the Podcast, some participants explain how they benefit from the GHS mentoring programme: Podcast

This contribution was produced Kurt Woischytzky, Jugend debattiert alumn, in February 2018.

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What can you expect from the online mentoring programme?

A positive climate and appreciative atmosphere from the beginning
At the kick-off meeting in the framework of the Hertie Fellows Summit, mentees and mentors get to know each other. They discuss and plan their cooperation for the entire programme. For the duration of the eight-month mentoring programme, the participating tandems will have access to a group in the fellows & friends online forum where they can exchange views with other mentors and mentees.

Tandem meetings are the core of the mentoring programme
The core element of the programme is the individual mentoring between a mentee and a mentor. During the programme, the tandems have individual discussions and work regularly on their goals. They also have opportunities to meet in person as part of the mentoring programme. These personal meetings are complemented online by regular skills sessions and feedback sessions. Due to the pandemic circumstances, these meetings can of course be held in digital form.

Space for lateral thinking and supported reflection: skills sessions
Mentees and mentors are methodically supported throughout the programme, helping them to reflect on their specific roles and responsibilities. Mentors have the opportunity to deepen their leadership and advisory skills. This is done in the context of skills sessions and individual online sessions.

To the last vintages

The aim of the Hertie Foundation’s mentoring programme is to provide targeted support to the Hertie fellows as current and future decision-makers and active shapers of their tasks in science, business, politics, culture, civil society and administration.