Nils Mönkeberg has been working as an IT consultant at the Hamburg-based consultancy PHAT Consulting since October 2020. Together with his colleagues, he advises organisations such as an international NGO or a football club from the 2nd Bundesliga on digitalisation and sustainability issues. At the same time as starting his job at PHAT, he began his part-time Master's degree in Digital Transformation and Sustainability (MSc) at HSBA to further qualify himself for the challenges of a digital, sustainable future - with great success. At PHAT, Nils has already been able to successfully apply his knowledge in numerous, real-life projects. We talked to him about what drives him, how well study and work complement each other and where he sees his future.
Just two years ago you first started a new job and then also a new course of study. How did that come about?
During my application process at PHAT, our People Lead, Lutz Gärtner, gave me the tip to take a look at the degree programme because it could be a good fit for both me and my position at PHAT. And as it turned out: yes, it fits and I like it very much. I am incredibly grateful to Lutz for that.
In your degree programme, you learn to link digitalisation and sustainability and to see them as two sides of the same coin. The degree programme is particularly project-oriented and focuses on project learning in the sense of John Dewey (learning by doing), for example in the research project or the practical project. (How) can you use the knowledge generated at the university meaningfully in practice? Are there any examples to illustrate this point?
That's an exciting question, and it's also the question that guides the entire degree programme. First of all, the degree programme is a win-win-win situation. The university, the company and I as a student and consultant all benefit from each other in terms of knowledge exchange and networking. I have often taken content from work into my studies, especially to do justice to the exchange among us students during project learning. Even more exciting, however, is the content of my studies that I can transfer into practice. Basics and general education in the context of DT & S speak for themselves, I think, but it went far beyond that. For example, in the second semester we developed an analysis of existing measurement concepts for sustainability in the research project. I have already used this model several times with our clients!
A good two years ago, the topic of sustainability really took off at PHAT with the implementation of its own sustainability unit, among other things. PHAT accompanies companies on their way to a digital, sustainable future - with the help of digital technologies. At PHAT, you put it this way: "Digitalisation enables sustainability". That fits perfectly with your degree programme. Can you perhaps briefly introduce us to one or two projects you have worked on and explain how exactly digitalisation can lead to more sustainability?
Exactly like that! You could also put it his way: sustainability is the WHY and digitalisation is the HOW. First of all, digital tools enable easier communication and increased collaboration in organisations. In addition, today's digital possibilities have helped us to accompany organisations during the pandemic and keep the work going. Ten years ago this would have been simply unthinkable. To be more specific: Dashboarding, i.e. measurability, is a major issue, for example. The most successful sustainability strategy with the best vision, the clearest mission and the most tangible goals is of no use if actual and target cannot be tracked and compared.
What particularly motivates you at work and in your studies?
What motivates me at work is the high degree of personal responsibility, the appreciation that PHAT shows me as a person (not a number or an employee) and the professionalism of digital transformation and sustainability. Our office in the middle of the Reeperbahn and the many spontaneous team evenings are just the icing on the cake. In my studies, my course group has been inspiring me for two years now, and always anew. We are a heterogeneous group that has grown incredibly close together and encourages and challenges each other. The course content, the lecturers and our course directors, Susanne Hensel-Börner and Michael Höbig, make the package complete. I am really grateful that I get to work with so many great people at PHAT and HSBA!
In your opinion, what are the most important overarching competencies taught during the degree programme?
The list could get very long, so I would focus on these:
- Teamwork skills > Conflict management > Communication skills > Leadership
- Problem-solving skills > Linking & abstracting skills
- Various methodological competences
Do you already have an idea of the (task) area in which you would like to work after graduation?
I assume that my area of responsibility will be similar to my current work in counselling, but with a significantly higher level of expertise and requirements. I hope for concrete projects in which we will think holistically about sustainability and digital transformation for and with our clients!
"For us, digitalisation and sustainability are inseparable. That is why we advise and accompany our clients on their way to a digital, sustainable and liveable world of tomorrow. Of course, we are also committed to taking responsibility ourselves," explains Nils Langemann, CEO and founder of PHAT Consulting. "The HSBA Master's programme Digital Transformation & Sustainability fits perfectly with our approach and trains our employees to be responsible young professionals."