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Bravo Zulu* and congratulations: Hans-Christian Stockfisch receives his PhD

With his dissertation "Lifting the Eyepatch - The Business Models of Piracy", Hans-Christian Stockfisch is one of the first graduates of the Shipping program to successfully complete his doctorate with Professor Orestis Schinas. His background sounds fascinating: from naval officer to start-up entrepreneur with a PhD. In our interview he talks about trust and responsibility, his studies and his new challenges as an entrepreneur.

You served in the Federal Armed Forces a short-term volunteer soldier. What were your responsibilities there?

I enlisted in the Federal Armed Forces for twelve years immediately after graduating from high school. It sounds corny, but I saw my responsibility there as a real calling. For me these years in service were more than a pure professional activity. This is why I had great pleasure in discovering the world as an officer in charge of a navigational watch on ships after completing my business studies at the Helmut Schmidt University and my training at the Naval Academy. Being able to train and lead other soldiers was a great experience for me. 


From your point of view, what is important when leading employees?

As a superior, I have always followed the principle of mission tactics. That means I gave my team a goal and the soldiers had to decide for themselves how to achieve it. In order to build trust, you first have to trust. During this time, I learned that it is very important as a superior simply to listen and to lend an ear if employees have personal problems. If you can provide support here, you can basically be successful as a superior in any profession.

Why did you start studying "MBA Shipping" at HSBA after your time as a short-term volunteer soldier?

While I was stationed at the North Sea, I became aware of the range of courses on offer via a XING ad. The MBA Shipping was tailor-made for me as a marine: a hands-on course of study in my chosen home city of Hamburg, which combines business studies with shipping subjects offering a good network. It was ideal! Just two weeks after my first phone call to the Armed Forces' vocational training service, I was able to start my studies at HSBA thanks to BfD [Berufsförderungsdienst: vocational training service arm of the Armed Forces] funds for measures carried out during my period of service. 

What was your experience of studying at HSBA?

It was interesting that my fellow students came from all over the world. In interactions with them, I quickly realised that short-term volunteer soldiers in particular brought some great qualifications with them for a managerial position in a company. After all, officers can and have to make decisions of great importance even in stressful situations. And they are then ready to implement them. I believe that this is also a very good prerequisite for management positions in the private sector.

Is there anything special that you remember from your studies?

It is more of a valuable insight than a special memory that I gained during my studies. The many excursions, for example to London, Dubai and Athens, as well as the practical insights into day-to-day business associated with them have shown me, using Shipping as an example, that entire sectors of industry are apparently still trapped in outdated processes. This was for me the starting point for dedicating my professional life to the digitisation of obsolete industries in order to make life easier for everyone involved, at least in this area.

After completing your MBA Shipping, you then went on to do your doctorate at HSBA. What was that like?

As an external PhD student - and consequently studying in addition to working in my professional career - I felt very fortunate to be able to do my doctorate at HSBA and HSU (Helmut Schmidt University). The freedom to work on my thesis independently and still get the best support from my professors at all times has always motivated me to stay on the ball. As there was no time pressure, I worked all the more intensively on my dissertation and was able to complete it quickly. At other universities, I would probably have had less freedom and would have had to do my doctorate in a more stringent environment. For the first time I can honestly say that I enjoy doing academic work.


What are your plans for the future?

At HSBA and while studying for my PhD, I gained considerable insight into entrepreneurship. It is now my goal to mature as an entrepreneur myself and to further develop my FinTech start-up, Flexvelop. The aim here is to take the obsolete leasing industry into the future. As the first purely digital leasing company, Flexvelop helps small and medium-sized companies in particular to finance new equipment simply, quickly and flexibly and to thereby help companies fully exploit their own potential. There is still a long way to go, but my team and I have already achieved a great deal. We are looking forward to tackling the next hurdles. 

Any words of advice for the students at HSBA?

During all my school years, and even during my first degree, neither my teachers, professors, nor my friends could have imagined that I, of all people, would get a PhD one day. I was the one who least expected it. But once you have a foot in the door, you find the motivation and time to work on it and succeed. For this reason I can strongly recommend everyone to knock on your professors' door and get an idea of what might be out there for you. After all, it certainly hasn't hurt anyone to get a PhD. And you should make the most of every opportunity in life!

*Bravo Zulu is an international naval signal and means “Well Done”. 
 

Prof. Dr. Orestis Schinas, head of the study course MBA Shipping and Stockfisch's supervisor, is delighted and proud: "Evidently, an MBA in Shipping at the HSBA pays off! Hans-Christian Stockfisch has not only successfully concluded his studies, but also found his way to academic excellence and a new career after the Navy! Bravo Zulu!"