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JOBTALK GERMANY: ENTREPRENEUR SERIES

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Networking the world’s expats

In our ongoing weekly series, The Local looks into a successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind his successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed him forever. This week, Sparsh Sharma talks to Malte Zeeck, founder and co-CEO of Munich-based InterNations, a social network for expatriates worldwide.

Networking the world's expats
InterNations founder Malte Zeeck. Photo: InterNations

An international community for people who live and work abroad, InterNations connects 1.5 million expats in 390 cities with similar interests and needs – online and offline. Members meet, network, socialize at regular local events and have online discussions and expat guides to provide them with valuable information.

How did you come up with this business idea?

My co-founders and I have lived and worked abroad. As an international news reporter working for German television, I traveled quite a lot and stayed abroad for prolonged periods.

It was a very exciting but equally stressful time because whenever I arrived somewhere new, I had to explore a new city, find new business contacts and make new friends, i.e. starting from scratch – more or less every time.

My co-founders had similar experiences during their careers as international consultants. That’s why we decided to make life easier for expatriates.

We want expats to be able to easily connect with other expats online, get their questions about local life answered – e.g. 'where do I find a German-speaking dentist in Beijing?' – and do activities, attend events with their newly-found friends.

They should feel at home abroad, quickly find the information they need and meet great new people. That’s our aim: making life easier for expats.

What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?

One of the first challenges was getting people to join the network after we launched our website. We spent a lot of time reaching out to our personal networks and building a strong, international circle of supporters.

We delivered talks at various embassies as well as companies and organizations with an international focus. Soon, we started to see a slow but steady increase in our number of members, which kept gaining momentum and then really took off.

Then came the next step: figuring out how InterNations could make a profit. This was especially difficult as InterNations was founded in 2007, the year before the global financial crisis.

Nevertheless, in 2009, we introduced our premium membership model. For a small monthly fee, our premium Albatross members can attend monthly InterNations events for free or a reduced fee, join our InterNations groups and enjoy access to many other additional features and benefits.

How has the journey been so far?

Starting our own company has been a great journey so far, full of important learning experiences. One of the first important steps after the network started gaining lots of members was to offer them offline face-to-face meetings.

As an entrepreneur, it’s very important to listen to your customers and we kept getting feedback that our members also wanted to meet up in real life. So, in 2008, we decided to start recruiting volunteers (our ambassadors) to organize and host monthly InterNations events in each city with an InterNations community. Today, regular InterNations events are held in over 300 cities around the world.

In 2010, we also added InterNations groups, where smaller numbers of members get together to enjoy a particular hobby or interest as part of their monthly activities. Our events and activities have proven extremely popular and are the top attraction of InterNations for many of our members.

In October 2013, we were happy to welcome the one millionth member to our international community – this huge milestone was celebrated at InterNations events around the world. And the network has continued to grow quickly since then – we are now fast approaching the 1.5-million-member mark.

How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?

As an entrepreneur, I learned a lot about the concept of ownership. Of course, I had responsibility in my previous job. But all of a sudden, my co-founders and I were responsible for almost everything. That’s just how it works in a startup.

You need to work out a business strategy, gradually hire the right people to realize it and carry out all the daily tasks that keep the business running smoothly. There’s no pre-defined corporate culture either: You need to decide for yourself what kind of business culture you would like to establish. There are so many things on your plate and you have to be committed and remain on top of them.

Fortunately, I have always had people to support me. I have also learned to appreciate the passion and enthusiasm that my team members bring to the table. Our vision is to make InterNations the place for expats worldwide. An ambitious plan seems far less daunting if you have a team that’s passionate about it.

In brief: I think I have learned that everything is indeed possible if you fully commit yourself to it. Inspiration without hard work won’t come to fruition but hard work without enthusiasm is just drudgery. You must have both as an entrepreneur.

Any other personal reflections and/ or message to budding entrepreneurs?

One thing we learned was that having a good idea is just 10% of the battle. Even though you need a good idea to get you started, it’s the proper execution of that idea that really matters ultimately.

 

Sparsh Sharma works as a freelance journalist for The Local and blogs about his experiences in Denmark. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s.

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WORKING IN GERMANY

EXPLAINED: The 25 most in-demand jobs in Germany

For those considering relocating to Germany - or looking for a new profession - here are the most in-demand jobs out there, according to a study by LinkedIn.

EXPLAINED: The 25 most in-demand jobs in Germany

Germany is desperate to fill jobs. In autumn last year, authorities said there was a shortage of 390,000 skilled workers. 

The new government plans to ease red tape and overhaul immigration policies to make it easer for non-EU nationals to come to the country. 

READ ALSO: What Germany’s coalition proposals mean for citizenship and immigration

But many people already within Germany might also be thinking about a change of career, or pivoting to a related sector, especially after the Covid pandemic changed the world of work. 

For those who are curious, international job search engine LinkedIn has published a list of jobs that are in-demand in Germany. Although lots of positions in Germany require that you speak German, many companies are international and encourage English speakers to apply.

What is the list?

The so-called LinkedIn Jobs in Trend 2022 list shows the 25 occupations that have grown the most over the past five years compared to other other positions. 

The list “allows insight into how the job market is evolving and the long-term opportunities it presents – whether you’re looking to change careers, re-enter the workforce or upskill for future challenges,” said LinkedIn. 

It’s based on LinkedIn data between January 2017 and July 2021. 

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Here is the list of the top 25 positions, including the core skills required for each and the desired amount of experience for candidates according to LinkedIn.

In some of the descriptions below we haven’t translated the job name  to German – that’s because it is usually advertised in Germany with the English name.

1. Consultant for the public sector (Berater*in für den öffentlichen Sektor)

Responsibilities: Advising public and government institutions on the modernisation and digitalisation of administration and infrastructure

Most common skills: Public Policy, Management Consulting, Policy Field Analysis

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Hamburg and Munich areas

Average years of experience: 2.8 

2. Product analyst (Produktanalyst*in)

Responsibilities: Product analysts use metrics to evaluate a company’s products to determine whether they meet current and future market needs

Most common skills: Tableau, Google BigQuery, SQL

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Hamburg and Munich areas

Average years of experience: 3.7 

A man at his home office desk.

A man works at his ‘home office’ desk. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

3. Business development specialist or consultant (Beschäftigte in der Geschäftsentwicklung)

Responsibilities: Business development employees develop companies, enter new markets and evaluate sales opportunities

Most common skills: salesforce, account management, inside sales

Top regions hiring in: Berlin Munich and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 3.3

4. Sustainability manager (Nachhaltigkeitsmanager*in)

Responsibilities: Sustainability management employees are based in corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments and look after the social, environmental and economic aspects of a company

Most common skills: Sustainability reporting, corporate social responsibility, life cycle assessment management

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Berlin and Hamburg areas

Average years of experience: 3.8

5. Cyber Security Specialist (Cyber Security Spezialist*in)

Responsibilities: Unlike IT security, cyber security is not limited to the environment of your own company, but also keeps an eye on wider threats from the internet in order to ward off viruses, Trojans or ransomware

Most common skills: ISO 27001, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), vulnerability assessment

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Frankfurt and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 7.1

6. Developer for machine learning (Entwickler*in für maschinelles Lernen)

Responsibilities: Machine learning developers create so-called artificial intelligence. They research and design models and algorithms that enable machines to recognise patterns in large volumes of data, among other things

Most common skills: TensorFlow, Python (programming language), Keras 

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 3.3 

READ ALSO: Working in Germany – 7 factors that can affect how much you’re paid

7. User Experience (UX) Researcher

Responsibilities: User experience researchers find out what users need and want and prepare these findings for developers, marketers, designers and others

Most common skills: Usability testing, design thinking, human-computer interaction

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 4.6

8. Real estate finance specialist (Spezialist*in für Immobilienfinanzierung)

Responsibilities: Real estate finance specialists accompany and advise clients from the initial property enquiries stage to closing the deal and agreeing on financial arrangements

Most common skills: Construction financing, finance, sales

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg areas

Average years of experience: 5.3

9. Head of Public Affairs (Leiter*in Public Affairs)

Responsibilities: Public affairs is the strategic aim to integrate the interests of the employer into political decision-making processes. Also known as lobbying, the job description should not be confused with public relations (corporate communications)

Most common skills: Politics, international relations, strategic communication

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 7.2

10. Information security officer (Beauftragte*r für Informationssicherheit)

Responsibilities: Information Security Officers protect data in analogue and digital form. To do this, they ensure that sensitive data is only accessible to authorised persons at all times.

Most common skills: ISO 27001, Information Security Management System (ISMS), data protection management

Top regions hiring in: Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin areas

Average years of experience: 10.2

11. Specialist in talent acquisition (Spezialist*in für Talentakquise)

Responsibilities: Talent acquisition specialists identify suitable job candidates and take care of the strategic development of the Talent Acquisition department

Most common skills: Employer branding, sourcing, talent management

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 3.8

12. Expansion manager

Responsibilities: Expansion managers accompany the growth of companies and take care of things like the purchase or leasing of business space in optimal locations

Most common skills: Business development, marketing, strategic planning

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Düsseldorf and Munich areas

Average years of experience: 5.7

13. Test engineer (Prüfingenieur*in)

Responsibilities: Cars, wind turbines, lifts, amusement park rides and countless other technical constructions must be regularly checked for safety. This is where test engineers come into play

Most common skills: LabVIEW, Matlab, electrical engineering

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Hamburg and Tübingen areas

Average years of experience: 4 

14. Marketing (Marketingmitarbeiter*in)

Responsibilities: Marketing employees (Associates) support the planning and implementation of marketing activities for companies and organisations

Most common skills: Social media marketing, online marketing, content marketing

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Hamburg and Munich

Average years of experience: 2.7

15. Data engineer (Dateningenieur*in)

Responsibilities: Data engineers deal with the collection, processing and checking of data

Most common skills: Apache Spark, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Apache Hadoop |

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 4.8 

16. Personnel officer recruiting (Personalreferent*in Recruiting)

Responsibilities: Recruiters use job advertisements and various channels to search for suitable candidates for open positions in the company and personally recruit suitable candidates

Most common skills: Active sourcing, e-recruiting, employer branding

Top regions. hiring in: Munich, Berlin and Cologne-Bonn areas

Average years of experience: 3.3 

A woman sits at a desk.

Are you looking for a chance in career? Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Finn Winkler

17. Manager in strategic partnerships (Manager*in Strategische Partnerschaften)

Job Purpose: Strategic partnerships managers are responsible for building and maintaining relationships with business partners to further the development and distribution of their own products and services

Most common skills: Business development, account management, product management

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 6

18. Head of Software Development (Leiter*in Softwareentwicklung)

Responsibilities: Software Development Managers are responsible for all stages of software application development. They control and structure planning, organisation and execution

Most common skills: Agile methods, cloud computing, product management

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 12.2 

READ ALSO:

19. Data science specialist

Responsibilities: Data science experts or data scientists help companies to make data-based decisions. They build a structured database from raw data, analyse data and prepare it with business background knowledge

Most common skills: Python (programming language), R, SQL

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Hamburg areas

Average years of experience: 3

20. Robotics engineer (Robotik-Ingenieur*in)

Responsibilities: Robotics engineers develop and programme robots and other intelligent assistance systems, whether for medicine, gastronomy, or future cars.

Most common skills: Robotic Process Automation (RPA), UiPath, C++ 

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Frankfurt and the Hanover-Braunschweig-Göttingen-Wolfsburg areas 

Average years of experience: 3.8 

21. Investment associate (Investmentmitarbeiter*in)

Responsibilities: Which areas are worth investing in, which companies are suitable for takeover? This is checked by investment managers through market observations, financial modelling and due diligence procedures

Most common skills: Private equity, corporate finance, mergers & acquisitions (M&A)

Top regions hiring in: Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin areas

Average years of experience: 2.7 years

22. Chief Information Security Officer

Responsibilities: Many companies are not only urgently looking for information security officers (see position 10), senior positions in this professional field are also in high demand

Most common skills: Information Security Management System (ISMS), ISO 27001, IT Risk Management

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin areas

Average years of experience: 14.3

23. Manager in strategic sales (Manager*in im strategischen Vertrieb)

Responsibilities: Strategic Sales Managers usually look after selected target and existing customers over a longer period of time. Duties include preparing quotations and negotiating prices

Most common skills: Solution selling, business development, account management

Top regions hiring in: Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt areas

Average years of experience: 9.3

24. Communications manager (Kommunikationsmanager*in)

Responsibilities: Communications managers take care of PR work inside and outside a company – this includes planning communication strategies as well as implementing campaigns on social networks or organising press appointments and events

Most common skills: Strategic communication, public relations/PR, internal/external communication

Top regions hiring in: Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg areas

Average years of experience: 5.4 

25. Specialist writer for medicine (Fachautor*in Medizin)

Responsibilities: Medical writers produce documents in a medical context, such as study reports for scientific journals, texts for regulatory authorities and information sheets for medicines – but also journalistic texts for websites or magazines

Most common skills: Clinical studies, scientific writing, life sciences

Top regions hiring in: Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich areas

Average years of experience: 5.2

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