Five employees from different fields talk about what brought them to the Bertelsmann Stiftung and what makes working for the foundation special.
“What should potential job applicants know about the Bertelsmann Stiftung?” We posed that question to five of our colleagues. Their answers reveal the range of topics we address and the many fields we are active in.
They also show the values present throughout the foundation that make the Bertelsmann Stiftung a special place to work: appreciation for the individual, freedom to decide and take action, professionalism. Those are precisely the values that our founder, Reinhard Mohn, always lived as a business leader and engaged citizen.
“When I started here in 1996, the foundation was the place to work in my area of expertise: public libraries. For anyone applying to organizations dealing with local-level issues, getting a job here was like winning the lottery, and not only because the foundation had an outstanding reputation in Germany and internationally. That is still the case today.
Back then I switched from the civil service to the foundation and I quickly noticed that there are far fewer barriers here in terms of how people think and act. I was given the chance to develop personally. The opportunities to learn and apply what you’ve learned are literally endless. We’re constantly interacting with acclaimed experts from Germany and other countries.
What do I especially appreciate about the foundation? The enormous freedom to take the initiative, and the expertise of all my colleagues, who always open up new perspectives for me. The open way everyone engages with each other and the willingness to share knowledge. And naturally the framework conditions: the professional resources and the project management, the flexible working hours and the overall climate of appreciation – which is also expressed in the good pay.”
Gunvald Herdin has had a dual role at the Bertelsmann Stiftung since May 2015: He is Senior Project Manager in the Further Education for All project and leads the Identifying Professional Competencies project.
“Even before my first day working at the foundation (I came from a consulting firm that supports foundations and NGOs in the field of education), one of my new colleagues spoke to me in the parking lot. He coached the foundation’s soccer team and wanted to get me to join the team before I had even started.”
That was more than five years ago, yet the anecdote is still a good example of what I really like about the foundation: the open way that people interact with each other, the networking that happens among everyone here, and the opportunities to learn from colleagues who have very different backgrounds from one’s own.
My program, Learning for Life, brings together the foundation’s activities in the area of education and training. One of the main topics I address is the recognition of non-formally and informally acquired skills. How can we acknowledge, develop and certify the things we’ve learned outside of schools and universities? Since the beginning of 2016, I’ve also been head of MYSKILLS, a project carried out in cooperation with Germany’s Federal Employment Agency. As part of the project, we’ve developed a computerized test to assess the occupational competencies of people without an educational degree. It allows formally low-skilled workers, refugees and migrants to demonstrate which work-related skills they have, thereby making it easier to integrate them into the job market or steer them towards the occupational qualification that’s right for them.
For me, it’s quite a luxury: I can work in a field I’m passionate about because it’s important to me and it’s important to society. That’s the biggest motivating factor for me – as it is for many of my colleagues here.”
“My goal is to drive social change using evidence-based findings. The foundation offers me the ideal location, at the intersection of research, politics and the public. That’s why, in 2010, I applied to participate in the Junior Professionals Program. That would allow me to spend 18 months getting to know the people at the foundation, the way they work and the teams they work in. I would also be able to take responsibility for project modules even before having to make a final decision about which project I would join. It sounded exciting. Quite a few managers had gathered for the selection process. We chatted informally during lunch and then broke out into individual interview sessions. That allowed me to learn a lot about the foundation. Afterwards it was clear: This is where I’d like to work.
That first impression remains valid today. I get to realize many of my own ideas in my work and am passionate about doing that, but no one at the foundation has to go it alone. An emphasis is put on working across projects and programs: It’s fun to learn from colleagues focusing on other topics, and to consider issues from different perspectives. I benefit from the expertise available from administrative assistants, communications and legal specialists, financial managers and media experts. And I like our culture of “lunch dates”: Instead of having lunch with the same coworkers every day, people from different teams and organizational levels often make a date to eat together.
Thanks to our flexible working hours and the option of working from home, it’s possible for me to have a good work-life balance. And the sports program, which is open to everyone at the foundation, is a great way to unwind after a stressful week.”
“I joined the Bertelsmann Stiftung in 2001, at time when I was idealistically looking for an employer who would allow me to realize all my professional ambitions. I wanted to address socially relevant issues without having to don ideological blinders (back then I was primarily interested in topics related to Europe) and contribute meaningfully to the social discourse. I wanted the chance to take responsibility and work in a team. I’ve found all of that here at the foundation.
As a historian, I had previously been employed at various universities. I enjoyed the work there very much, but never experienced such close collaboration with colleagues on projects the way I have here. At the foundation, there’s no such thing as a boring day!
During my time here, I have dealt just as intensively with the European Union’s Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy as with community-level activities relating to Europe and with international sustainability policy. The issue I’m currently looking at is how the German economy can transition to sustainable and inclusive growth after the corona pandemic.
Employees at the foundation are encouraged to move things forward even beyond the context of their own projects. I work together with a small circle of colleagues to promote sustainable mobility. Most of our suggestions are heard and implemented. I find that very rewarding.”
Bianca Thiele serves as personal assistant to Dr. Brigitte Mohn, who is a member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board.
“After working for several years in a bank, I spent a lot of time looking for a job in the nonprofit sector. What attracted me to the Bertelsmann Stiftung was the multifaceted nature of the responsibilities, from organizing the office to making substantive contributions to specific issues.
I can accompany Brigitte Mohn on any of her business trips and participate in important team meetings. I really like being part of projects from the time they are first developed, and maintaining and expanding contact with our project partners. My boss gives me a lot of freedom to organize and carry out my responsibilities as I see fit.
Since my very first day, I’ve been impressed and influenced by the very open, cordial and communicative atmosphere at the foundation. The harmonious and constructive teamwork is very important to me, not to mention the flexible working hours, professional development opportunities and excellent infrastructure. I’ve found all of that here.”