Julius and Martin haven’t sat in a lecture hall for a while. Julius, a consultant at Valsight, is still closest to the job after a good two years on the job; for Martin, co-founder of Valsight, the last lectures at HPI were a few days longer ago.
Now they turn back time and turn the tables – and visit their old haunts again. Well. Almost:
With a series of lectures and seminars at various universities, both are targeting the next generation of controlling and finance experts. Among other things at the FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg or the ESB in Reutlingen courses will be held this semester in which Martin and Julius will demonstrate the practice of what is known as the agile performance management still often has a pure buzzword character. In cooperation with Prof. Avo Schönbohm, several courses with Valsight input on the digital transformation of controlling were held at the HWR Berlin last October – and seemed to go down well.
What is this all about? An easy-to-see attempt to curry favor with the up-and-coming guild? Or do they simply miss the university air? Let’s just ask them ourselves.
Martin, which seminar do you still remember with pleasure?
Martin Faust: Actually to very many – at HPI there were and are very many good events, in small groups and with very good lecturers. A few memories: My first seminar was the so-called study-accompanying seminar – at that time Gero Decker, today CEO at Signavio, was in charge. That’s also where I met Valsight co-founder David! Another class I always remember fondly was on the fundamentals of digital systems – a great lecture on all the little transistors, circuits, and gates that make up a computer – and all of it was explained almost entirely with the overhead projector. A reference to it can still be found today in every Valsight basic training ?
I also had the opportunity to lead some seminars – I always liked the energy with which the students approached the problems – and how practical solutions were developed in sometimes very short time.
And what still creeps you out?
MF: How much I had to cram for Theoretical Computer Science 2 at the time!
You studied IT systems engineering at HPI and investigated enterprise applications on in-memory databases at the chair of Prof. Plattner. Is there anything you want from your old institute?
MF: I really enjoyed my time at HPI! Everyone knew each other – it was very familiar. Since my first lectures in 2006, the institute has grown a lot – which I am very happy about! I hope that the family atmosphere will continue.
Julius, it hasn’t been that long for you – in your introduction-in-3-numbers you reported about your stay at UDESC in Florianopolis, Brazil. What do you think a seminar/lecture has to offer so that something sticks?
Julius Koch: It should be presented in an exciting and lively way. I don’t think any topic will have interested listeners as long as it is presented in a boring way. In addition to packaging, I find seminars exciting that have a certain relevance, that is: that are current and future-oriented.
Martin, Julius, of course you will also demonstrate our Valsight product to the next generation of controllers – that can hardly be avoided. But what is the message you want to give to students in your seminars at HWR, FAU, ESB and so on?
JK: Finance and controlling are considered dusty. But that’s just the image. There are exciting opportunities in controlling to act in a future-oriented manner and to positively influence the direction of travel of companies with one’s own decisions.
MF: Going into companies with fresh ideas in tow and not being lulled by “we’ve always done it this way.”
With the ESB, there is a recognized cadre school – among these, however, a kind of hidden champion – among the lecture venues. Do you have to go to an elite university to have a chance in controlling?
JK: No. Our customers are bankers and tax consultants as well as economists and business economists. In addition, mathematicians or scientists who have somehow ended up in enterprise performance management.
MF:In fact, not at all. We see a variety of career paths. At Valsight, developers, business economists and cultural scientists work together on the digital transformation of finance.
The aim is to draw conclusions from the degrees of certain elite universities about diligence, organizational talent or even the cognitive abilities of the graduates. To some extent, this is also possible: If you study economics at an elite university, you will probably have had good math grades. But clearly, degrees can also impress without automatically making people more interesting. And they are no guarantee that the applicant will fit into the team. At Valsight itself, therefore, we can’t afford to give degrees any more importance than, say, team fit.
In addition: It should have been known for a long time that not everyone has the opportunity to move to another city or country to study and then concentrate exclusively on university.
What is important, what do you look for in applicants?
MF: It is important that we have the feeling: Here is an interested person with problem-solving competence. A good degree is – admittedly – often a good indication of this.
Valsight develops and sells a complex product for complex use cases in a complex industry – and we address a heterogeneous target group: users and decision makers, from young professionals to veteran warhorses.
It takes understanding of what makes the target groups tick, what the challenges are in each case (even the unspoken ones!) and which processes may first have to be initiated so that all sides can go into the weekend with a sense of achievement at the end.
To trudge through such a mixed situation with a watchful eye and genuine interest, to weigh up opportunities, risks and challenges, and to find solutions in a solution-oriented and culturally sensitive way – these are qualities that we value.
Diverse interests, interesting or at first even seemingly absurd side jobs, and even curious stations in the resume can be indications that applicants have come to terms with their environment, the people around them, and various clienteles and are able to find their way in a dynamic environment. How do you say: Hire for attitude – train for skills!
With the Young Finance Professionals, we have founded an initiative together with the ICV that is aimed specifically at people who will probably soon have their university degrees in their pockets. Why would they care?
JK: For controllers who have been in the workforce for a while, there are a lot of opportunities for professional development. But these are often tailored to longer professional experience or, thanks to the high costs alone, are not always accessible to young professionals and students. This also means that there is no easy way to expand one’s professional network outside one’s own company and thus create new perspectives for oneself. We are changing this situation – that is why this initiative by and for young finance professionals exists.
The stated goal is to give career starters, younger professionals and students the chance to take charge of their own continuing education and career development. We offer a platform where interested parties can exchange ideas in different formats.
By the way, this is also exciting the other way around: In the Mentoring Program experienced professionals not only pass on their good advice, but also keep their finger on the pulse of the times, learn about new digital channels or innovations with which there are otherwise not so many points of contact, or come into contact or confrontation with a different way of thinking. This can be fruitful.
The simulation of (what-if) scenarios is one of the most important core features of the Valsight platform. One simulates the future of the company for various conceivable cases. What was it like for you personally? Do you wish you’d ever had what-if simulation software to simulate the next steps before you took them?
MF:One should perhaps not look at one’s own life in too businesslike a way – better to do and regret than not to do and regret!