Alumni stories

Master in Management Alumna Sina Thenagels on Start-ups and the Network

How the WHU community can be an important asset, even many years after graduation.

As one of the first students in WHU’s Bachelor in International Business Administration and the Master in Management Program, Sina naturally has a pioneering and innovative attitude. Working with some WHU start-ups along her way to Berlin e-commerce platform tink, she reveals the reasons why she chose to study business and the role of the WHU community in her life. 

Despite a keen interest in medicine during her high school years, Sina realized that the long road to her own medical practice and flexibility she wanted in her working life, would ultimately not give her the freedom she was looking for. Seeing the potential in business studies to work in several different fields and without a specific career path in mind, she began the search for the right school, which brought her to WHU. “When I first visited WHU during an open day, it was love at first sight. I immediately felt at home; it was a small community and every person I met was down-to-earth and friendly. I had looked at a lot of business schools and universities, but WHU felt like a great match for me.”

Shaping the future of WHU.

As one of the first students to join the new Bachelor in International Business Administration replacing the previous diploma structure, students had the opportunity to share their opinions that helped shape the new degree program. “It was a very exciting time – we had a number of class delegates who sat with the Dean regularly to share what we liked and disliked about the program, which courses we would like included, so we were able to influence the program while we were studying it.” With the banking crisis in 2008 making it highly competitive and difficult for fresh graduates to find jobs, Sina decided to stay at WHU for the new Master in Management Program, ultimately shaping the program in a similar way to the Bachelor. “I didn’t want to just apply for any job and I enjoyed creating the Bachelor program with the school. I was thrilled to be doing the first Master’s degree as well.”

Joining the start-up community.

After several internships in consulting and industry, Sina quickly discovered that she was not suited to a company with a strict hierarchy but responded positively to a more creative environment. With many of her classmates moving to Berlin to start their own companies, she decided to make the move and join the growing community there - first with Rocket Internet, and then with Zalando: “I worked directly with the CMO at the time Christian Meermann, who was two years older than me at WHU. It was the biggest and best learning experience I could have had at that point. This introduced me to the start-up scene and I realized I could never go back to working for a big corporation again. With start-ups, you see a problem, you find a solution, and you make it happen. I feel at home in this industry.”

The power of the network.

After a year-long trip around the world, Sina returned to Germany and quickly immersed herself in the WHU network. “I didn’t apply traditionally to any specific company; I simply met people from the network and we discussed what I was looking for. This is what is special about the WHU network – it is easier to find a role you really enjoy rather than applying for any open position. It is a discussion about your personal fit, your strengths, and how they meet the goals of the company.”

She joined tink, an e-commerce platform for connected home devices, founded by an old high-school friend and it seemed the connections to WHU were never far away. “In fact, the second founder and CEO at tink Dr. Marius Lissautzki completed his doctoral degree at WHU. In Berlin, most of our friends are from WHU so it just feels natural here.”

Berlin is a particular hotspot for WHU alumni, but Sina points out that no matter where you are, there is always an opportunity to reach out to the network. “Even if you don’t know someone personally, you feel a particularly close connection to them simply because they studied at WHU too. Everyone makes time for each other, whatever the request, and that is a very significant part of WHU that stayed with us long after graduation.”

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