Alumni Insights: Daniela Sellmann (Intercultural Management and Communication)

William Shakespeare starts one of the monologues in his play, “As You Like It” by saying:

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”

If we all live on this stage, why could not we tell stories – our stories? We at Karlshochschule believe that each individual has their own story and that they are the creator of their own fate. This series of interviews with our alumni students aims to tell the stories of the ones who used to live some years of their story at Karlshochschule and now they are out in the real life.


Our first interview was with Daniela Sellmann, a very ambitious young woman with clear values, many dreams, and great plans. She started her studies at Karlshochschule in 2010 in the study program “Intercultural Management and Communication”. Let’s hear her story!

For most students, the internship in the 6th semester is the first real opportunity to work for a company. There are many questions arising when choosing an internship. How did you prepare for it?

I always tried to get involved in many activities: I worked for a start-up company “arecagoodplates” during my studies as sales responsible for Germany, which drove me later into the direction of my internship in the 6th semester. Also by being one of the team leaders in SIFE (now Enactus), I already knew my future employer, SAP, well. Thus, it seemed like a good idea to apply there for an internship. SAP offered an internship in the field of communication and CSR. This offered me the chance to combine my theoretical knowledge, in communication with a working environment as well as I was able to do something social. The latter was especially important for me as my future plan by that time was to work in the area of development aid as the social aspect plays an important role for me.

What experiences did you gather during your internship?

At the beginning of my internship I felt that the tasks I was given were not connected to my studies but after some time I realized that I could actually apply some of the managerial and leadership skills I acquired at Karlshochschule.

After the very practice-oriented internship, always comes the more research-oriented Bachelor thesis that is feared by many students. How did you cope with this task?

I wrote it during my internship, but not in cooperation with the company I was interning at, as my professor, Prof. Dr. Andreas P. Müller told me: “If you really want to discover independent results, it is better to search on your own, because the results could be restricted if you work with a company, as they have a predefined outcome they want to see in your work.”

You finished your internship, defended your Bachelor thesis, so you graduated. What happened next?

I received the opportunity to apply right away for a sales traineeship at SAP. After two personal interviews and an assessment center I got accepted to the SAP Sales Academy. At the Academy one month theoretical training in Dublin, CA is combined with 2 months on-the-job training in Austria. This rotation takes place three times in total. After the training I will become an account executive for Large Enterprises with the beginning of September ‘14 (a function where I will have to administrate and motivate a team of colleagues to make them collaborate and allocate all the resources necessary to win a deal. Furthermore, this task comes with a lot of responsibility, something I am very happy about.)

What does the future look like for you? What are your plans?

The job I am currently in is not a job for life I guess as “there are no jobs for a lifetime anymore” but it is a good start. Even though this job is not what I imagined at the beginning of my studies, I still like it a lot as nowadays it’s not possible anymore to predict where you will end up in the future. You start of university with something in your mind and after a while you notice whether you are really made for this or if you still want it and even if the market allows you to do it. I plan to keep this position for a few years now, and later do my Master studies. I still want to broaden my knowledge and I do not want to be limited in the job functions due to a lack of the qualification. Also I think it is a great way of taking a step back and discovering whether I really like my job and if it is really the right thing for me.

Now that you have been working for a while, let us look back on your studies. Which professor(s) inspired you the most as a student?

One of my most inspiring and at the same time most challenging professors was Prof. Dr. Bernd Ankenbrand, who managed to make me understand and like finance despite my little knowledge about this topic at the beginning of my university studies. I would also like to mention Prof. Dr. Andreas Müller, who always encouraged me to think outside of the box and to always question myself why I have a certain opinion.

Compared to other graduates, do you feel prepared more, less or in a different way?

I think what is special about Karlshochschule is the huge personal development students make during their studies. It is a university that specially focuses on the individual development of each student. Further, we do have a certain way of looking at problems. If you look at our project management phase, we already used a method called design thinking before even companies discovered this method for their business use. Karlshochschule has been doing this from the beginning already. Just to give a short explanation: design thinking is a technique where you start working on a task from scratch within a team of people with different backgrounds (e.g. nationalities, study programs). There are many good points about Karlshochschule even if you need some time to figure that out during the studies and later jobs.

What would you do differently if you had the chance to redo your studies at Karlshochschule? What would be your advice for the present students of Karlshochschule?

  • Use the great network of Karlshochschule better and more often
  • Get engaged in the different interest groups of Karlshochschule, but you can’t do everything so you have to prioritize based on your future goals
  • Communicate and collaborate closely with your professors, get their opinion (as it is a private university, you have this unique chance)
  • Do many internships during your studies, try yourself out in order to figure out what you want to do later on, as the internship in the 6th semester should already reflect your plans for your career and can often be used as a direct entrance into the company
  • Use the time more effectively for your Bachelor thesis and estimate enough time for it

What does the future look like? Will you return to your initial dream of working in development aid?

I see myself doing a Masters (e.g. International Development Master or an MBA) in a few years. I will certainly pursue a career where I will have lots of responsibility e.g. personnel responsibility. In 5-7 years I imagine myself working in a management role leading 10-15 people. I think that is not too unrealistic if I continue to work hard and keep up my pace.

Do you have a company, an organization you would like to work for?

There are several companies I could imagine myself to work at, for example: UN, Lufthansa, Google, Apple, Microsoft or VW. Furthermore, I could also imagine working in the entrepreneurial area in Silicon Valley, US.

Based on which criteria do you choose a company to work for?

A company’s CSR is quite important to me, so for me they really have to have a good social program and carbon footprint. Further, I would evaluate their employer branding as a good corporate culture is important for me. SAP has an outstanding corporate culture and offers a lot of benefits to its employees. It makes me want to go to work every day. Besides all that, a good work-life balance is important as well as work should never become your life’s purpose.

We are very grateful to Daniela for her time and detailed answers. Soon we will come back with the next interview. Just as a preview: the next alumnus answering our questions will be the brave young man who found Eden in the Far East. If you would like to get a notification about it – just connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or a carrier pigeon. :-)

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