Alumni stories

The WHU Bachelor Graduate Redefining What It Means to Be a Leader

25-year-old Hannah Hinkelmann on community, equality, and social responsibility.

Currently studying a postgraduate degree in Coaching Psychology at the University of Sydney, WHU alumna Hannah Hinkelmann possesses an impressive breadth of experience at a relatively young age. With internships at Amazon and L’Oréal, a gap year in India and completing the International Baccalaureate (IB) in England, her drive and international perspective is admirable. With the vision to use business for social change, we find out more about her experience at WHU, her passion to empower others, and her role at Microsoft.

“It’s important to me that something feels right and to stay open to opportunities. In a rapidly changing business world, I believe being guided by my values and strengths is key, with some of the best opportunities presenting themselves to me unexpectedly,” explains Hannah. “When I was interning for Amazon in 2016, I worked on forecasting algorithms and stumbled upon a paper on machine learning and how artificial intelligence (AI) could shape our future in business and society. That fueled my enthusiasm to learn more about the tech industry as I saw incredible potential in this field. When Microsoft happened to build their new office next to Amazon, I thought I would see what opportunities were available. It was at Microsoft, where I found my ideal graduate entry role. ”

Driving solutions for society.

Hannah has a boundlessly curious mind and is not afraid to take risks – starting the IB in England at just 15, she skipped a grade to start the baccalaureate and found herself studying alongside children older than her. “It was my decision to go to the UK,” she says. “I was a big Harry Potter fan at the time so I was fascinated by the idea of going to a boarding school and having that sense of community.” Torn between studying psychology or economics at university, she was keen to find a way to combine her interests and use business to create social impact, to leverage it in a way that would benefit people. 

After applying to WHU, she quickly discovered that it reflected her interests and values. “In my first week, I was blown away by the spirit and entrepreneurial mindset of the students. When they introduced SensAbility (a WHU student club focused on corporate social responsibility), I knew it was the right place for me. I have friends and connections that I still speak to today. Part of choosing WHU was due to the quality of teaching, which is the best in Europe, and its international focus. However, I believe that the spirit and the mindset of the people there is its most valuable asset. At WHU, I felt I could gain the business mindset I needed to make an impact while being part of a community – it felt right.”

Passionate about leveraging business for the greater good, Hannah worked different roles at Microsoft including as AI Marketing Manager and Customer Program Manager, where she was leading an ambitious change project that focused on the development of a new webinar engine connecting marketing and sales. “It was during this project that I realized I wanted to gain more psychology know-how to develop the competence of an empathic leader who can drive meaningful change for people.”

Championing women in business.

Perhaps one of the most impactful projects from her time with Microsoft was her position on the board of women@microsoft encouraging women to connect and to speak up, to bring more female voices to the table. “We had the motto we rise by lifting others. I strongly believe in this, as I think women must support each other to succeed. There is enough room for us all at the top, and this was an attitude I wanted to instill in women@microsoft. That is what motivates me in coaching. Coaching is about creating meaningful change for individuals, businesses, and society where people can perform and be their best. This coaching mindset also connects my sisters and me, as I have always encouraged them to be courageous and pursue their goals – an attitude, I think, that runs in our family.”

In fact, Hannah’s father completed his MBA at WHU, her mother has lectured as a guest on coaching psychology, her two sisters studied (with one still studying) at WHU, and her brother will join this September. What is unique to each of the sisters, however, is that each has carved their own unique path during studies at WHU, according to their interests and particular niche. “I am strong in marketing and sales, but my sister Lena has a head for numbers, so she is interested in finance. My other sister Dinah is strong at negotiating and building cost analysis, so she is going to intern in supply chain management. Each one of us has developed by bringing our ideas and personalities to WHU.”

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