The Alumni Interview: Heiner Van Der Berg

“I’m 51 years old, I’m a physicist and have a PHD in theoretical physics. I have worked for 25 years in the IT industry. I did the _Social Starters programme at the beginning of this year in January/February 2016, supporting social entrepreneurs in Hyderabad, India.”

Could you tell me about your client in Hyderabad?

“I supported Rahul with RideIT.”

What did you achieve together?

“A couple of things. In arbitrary order, first of all they had hired a couple of people before we arrived and they didn’t do any kind of team building or creating company culture, so what we did was we did a couple of team exercises and they really enjoyed it and I think that really helped to build and strengthen the team.

Number 2 was we re-worked the complete financial plan, because the financial plan was based on their ride sharing business for private rides, but the new idea was also to add bus routes. So we added the complete business hydraulics of the bus services to the financial plan.

Number 3 was we made an update on the business model canvas. We developed a positional statement with them, together. And it was a quite nice one. Also that was one of the team exercises by the way, we helped them to develop – I’m not sure whether they’ve finished it yet – but we helped them to get started and get some ideas for a vision and mission statement.”

What were the challenges?

“Living in Hyderabad was not a challenge. That was really fun. While we were there it was 38, 36 degrees. So really hot. Besides the weather, the traffic was OK. Regarding the client, we really had to gain the trust and the openness. They were very reluctant at the beginning, but they opened up over time so that went very well. Overcoming this reluctance and proving that there’s value in what you do. That was one challenge. Another challenge beside that… I wouldn’t say any other challenge.”

What did you do immediately after the program?

“I quit my job before I went to India at the end of December, so at the moment I am unemployed. What a nice status right now. That by the way was really also good – helping us generate ideas as part of the personal development aspect of the program. So we did that, and I’m still in the phase of developing my old business and applying for interesting jobs. So I’m just looking around. Actually, I found a very similar organisation as UnLtd here in Germany and so I’m doing pro bono consulting for one start up here in Germany.”

What impact has the immersion programme had on you, both personally and professionally?

“It’s always difficult to judge the impact on oneself. Nevertheless I’ve really had a very good time and I learnt a lot, especially about social businesses. The personal impact was definitely when I had applied for some jobs here in Berlin, I then decided myself I don’t want to do that kind of job. So I’m quite sure that I will not do the typical sh*t that I’ve done the last 25 years again. Or maybe only part time to raise some money for living and doing other things that I like to do.”

Would you recommend the program?

“Definitely.”

Did you have a good team? How were the rest of the consultants?

“We had a great team. I was lucky or unlucky, whatever way you would like to see it, [in some regards] I didn’t fit in very well. I was the outsider because I was the only male, and I was also by far the oldest in the team. But nevertheless, it really worked out very very well. Especially because Holly, who I worked with at RideIT, was really good collaboration, very complimentary, very nice working style. Also the other girls were really amazing, so we really had a good time and learnt a lot. It was also interesting, I’ve got two daughters. One is 20 and just finishing a Bachelor, but these girls were a little bit older so was really interesting to work with young people, which I haven’t done in the last couple of years. That was really amazing. Really interesting.”

What would potential volunteers want to know/think about? Why did you pick Hyderabad, India?

“In a timely fashion it fitted very well. I would also have loved to go to Sri Lanka. Brazil, I thought because of language, I don’t speak any Portuguese… India sounded good in terms of language. Also I love India and I thought it was a good country to pick for doing this kind of work. I was India many times before.”

Anything extra to add?

“It would be really great to develop the _Social Starters Alumni network as a platform for social business. Something to devote this kind of information, maybe job opportunities, success stories or whatever.”

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The deadline for the next round of Immersion Programme applications is fast approaching: 

India – Deadline is 15th July 2016

Brazil – Deadline is 27th July 2016

If you would like to #JoinUs on our structured volunteer programme for skilled professionals to work alongside and support social entrepreneurs making a positive impact in their community, then you can do so by applying now HERE.

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One thought on “The Alumni Interview: Heiner Van Der Berg

  1. Pingback: Meet Some of 2016’s Social Impact Consultants | wearesocialstarters

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