New Horizons Once More – Moving from a Hanseatic city to Ruhr district


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January 1st 2018
Published: February 3rd 2019
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Hamburg - Dortmund - Iserlohn


The view from my kitchen windowThe view from my kitchen windowThe view from my kitchen window

Beautiful rainbows just above the church.
2017 was a year of major change for me. Eight years ago, I had moved to Hamburg to start a new job with cut-e; almost four years ago, I had moved to Singapore for a year to work in our local office there; and almost three years ago, I had returned to Hamburg. I had always been happy with my job, had found it fulfilling and fun, loved to work with my colleagues. But about a year after returning from Singapore I started realising that I was enjoying my job less and less. It became clear to me that the way my role had developed and the way I had developed were no longer aligned. My role there had been a mix between research and consultancy, which I had enjoyed very much since it reflected my idea about being at the intersection of research and practice. However, when becoming the research director and later on taking the (interim) head of product development after a colleague had gone on maternity leave, the role had gradually developed into one that was a lot about managing the team, leading product development, setting up structures and processes with IT, and so on. I started missing
Dortmunder UDortmunder UDortmunder U

Formerly the Unionsbrauerei ("Union Brewery") building, now a fantastic museum of modern art that I love visiting.
the research part and the direct contact with clients. Moreover, I wanted to shift my research focus towards the area of health and well-being, specifically research around meditation and mindfulness, an area that I had always had a keen interest in. Finally, after years of constant hard work and long working hours, I had the desire to slow down a bit, work less and at a slower pace. I started realising that the gap between what was possible at my company and what I wanted to do was impossible to close, even though I knew that they were willing to make a lot of things possible for me.

After playing around with the idea for over a year and having had several conversations with my boss, who was very supportive even in this process and who had tried his best to keep me in the company, I decided that it was time for me to make a move again and to leave the company. This was an incredibly hard decision; my company had not been a simple employer, but more like a family, and something that had given me direction and purpose. It took me a long time to
View of Dortmund IView of Dortmund IView of Dortmund I

From Dortmunder U towards the city centre.
make up my mind, but eventually I was sure that this was the way to go.

I decided that the job that came closest to my interests and that was perfectly aligned with my qualifications was a professorship at a university of applied sciences. This type of university has a strong focus on practitioner-oriented teaching and applied research. Moreover, in order to qualify for a professorship, one needs five years of practical experience, three of which need to be outside university.

I started writing a few applications in early July. The first university that got back to me only a few days after my application and who invited me for a test lecture and an interview was a university of applied sciences in Iserlohn. The position had sounded interesting and like a perfect fit, but the location was not very attractive, to be honest. A small town southeast of the Ruhr area, not well connected to public transport and with not a lot of things going on. However, I decided to take the opportunity and see what it would be like.

They had written me an email that I was to prepare a 40 minutes talk on
View of Dortmund IIView of Dortmund IIView of Dortmund II

From Dortmunder U towards Klinikviertel and Kreuzviertel, two districts in the western part of the city centre that are nice to live in.
my idea of the subject of Human Resources and on how my profile was aligned with this. Moreover, I was to outline my subject-specific and didactic concept as a lecturer. Part of the lecture was to be in English, the rest in German. I started preparing the speech. When talking to the dean on the phone just three days before the talk, it turned out that what they had written in the email was not what they wanted me to present. Instead, I was to give a lecture on a topic of my choice, the way I would give a lecture for a small group of students, part of it in German and part of it in English. I was glad I had made sure to talk to the dean, otherwise I would have been there with the wrong subject!

So there I was, on a Friday afternoon in late August, with quite a few people in my audience, including lecturers, students, and administrative staff. I was early so that I got the chance to talk to a few of the professors there. All of them were super friendly and welcoming. Of course, I had decided to talk about
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From Dortmunder U towards main station and northern part of the city. The one where quality of life is low and crime rate is high.
online assessment. The talk went well, and the atmosphere was very good. After the talk I was sent out of the room and the commission gathered their feedback. When I got back in the room, they provided me with very positive feedback and asked a few more questions. After the talk I had three more interviews: one with the dean, one with the rector, and finally one with an HR lady via video conference since she was in Berlin. They offered me the job on the spot.

Now I did not know what to do and asked for some time to think about the offer. They granted me that, of course. My heart somehow said that this place would be a good fit for me. I really liked the atmosphere, I found the lecturers I had talked to and the students who had attended my talk very nice. Also it sounded as if there was a lot of flexibility and freedom, which suited me well. The dean and rector showed me around the university. It is a nice campus, located close to a small lake, and I liked the place.

But this had been my first application, so
View of Dortmund IVView of Dortmund IVView of Dortmund IV

From Florianturm, a TV tower, towards the district of Hörde.
I had no idea what else was out there, and I still did not like the location of the town. Two weeks later I was invited for an interview at a university of applied sciences in Munich, and I felt that I would not fit with the colleagues and the structures there. Moreover, the dean in Iserlohn told me that he was living in the city of Dortmund and commuting to Iserlohn. Also, they were very accommodating and offered me to start in December although the position had been advertised to start in October, and they offered me to start on a 50 percent contract so that I could land smoothly. Thus, I accepted the offer, but made sure I got a part-time contract so that, after the initial three months on a 50 percent contract, I would be able to work 80 percent only.

My last day at cut-e was the 29th of September. I gave a little farewell party there and was awarded a certificate of “Honorary cut-ie-ship” (cut-e’s employees call themselves cuties) and given a fantastic thank you video, in which my colleagues recorded all kinds of wonderful speeches and performances. It was a very moving
View of Dortmund VView of Dortmund VView of Dortmund V

From Florianturm towards Phönixsee. The lake used to be part of a steelwork, but was filled with water when the factory closed down. Now it is one of the more expensive districts of the city.
end of my time at cut-e, and it was obvious that we left in good terms and would stay in close contact.

After the farewell I spent a long weekend in Travemünde by the Baltic Sea and a few days at Naples, Pompei, and Amalfi Coast. Then it was time for me to find a flat at Dortmund, arrange my move, and start preparing my first lectures. Reason being that I was to give 20 90-minute lectures between 1st of December and Christmas for which I had no material at all.

Finding a flat in Dortmund proved to be more difficult than expected, but eventually I found one within walking distance of the city centre and Dortmund main station in a rather quiet side road, with shops, restaurants, cafés, and small park in the vicinity. Between October and December there was a lot of commuting between Hamburg, Dortmund, and Iserlohn. I collected so many miles on the train that I was even granted frequent traveller status at Deutsche Bahn. Finally, I moved to Dortmund on 11th December, when my new job had started already.

So now I am a professor of industrial-organisational psychology at a university of applied sciences. I teach personnel psychology, digitalization in HR, assessment, motivation, emotion, creativity, and a bit of health psychology (which allows me to sneak in some Positive Psychology). Moreover, I supervise bachelor and master theses and internships. In terms of research I focus on gamification, digitalization and artificial intelligence in HR and assessment, and meditation. And there are, of course, administrative tasks and marketing, where lecturers at my university are expected to help as well.

The city of Dortmund is, of course, far not as pretty as Hamburg, but I like it here. People are friendly and helpful (although they might be very direct at times), and there is a lot going on culturally, with museums, theatre, literature, cinema, concerts, ballet, festivals of all kinds, and much more. Additionally, there are so many cities with even more stuff going on just around the corner. It is a 20-minute drive to Bochum and a 30-minute drive to Essen. The industrial culture in the region is fantastic; a lot of the factories and mines closed down many years ago, but they were turned into museums or event locations. The museums give a great impression of simply amazing engineering, and they teach quite a bit of humbleness when seeing how hard and dangerous the jobs in these places were. These workers were the ones my country owes its getting back to prosperity after the Second World War to, and I feel immensely grateful to them. Although I had known this previously, it becomes so much more obvious and vivid when going to the museums. And in spite of the whole area being very urban, there is also enough nature so that one can spend time outside – something that is very important to me as well.

Thus, I really like it here. Maybe this is partly because of all the region offers. But it is certainly also because of the people. Fortunately, I had a few friends in the region even before moving here, and meeting new people was, thanks to meetup and other networking events, not too hard. A lot has changed, but some things will stay the same: I will continue to write my blog when I travel, so stay tuned!

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4th February 2019

Life takes you where you need to go
I absolutely loved reading your process of moving on and knowing it was time. That happened to us in 2007 and again in 2010. You have to trust your instinct on these things. Please write more about your new area even when you are not traveling. We'd love to learn about this off the beaten track part of Germany.
4th February 2019

Re: Life takes you where you need to go
Thank you so much, your wonderful comment just put a big smile on my face and encouages me to write more blog posts. Now that things are gradually settling here a bit I hope that I will also have more time again to read all the wonderful posts here.
4th February 2019

I wish you the best in your new job...
and look forward to reading about your future travels!
4th February 2019

Re: I wish you the best in your new job...
Thank you. Now that things are settling a bit here I hope that I will be able to catch up with a lot of stories and that I will also be able to read a little more what everyone else is writing.

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