Tech Open Air 2018: A ZOLLHOF Intern’s Perspective — by Kaidlyne Neukam

Just a few days before my 21st birthday, I received exciting news that the company where I intern, ZOLLHOF - Tech Incubator, had received tickets to the annual Tech Open Air Conference, held in Berlin, Germany. A few months prior, I had been recommended to attend TOA by a friend, however, when first checking the pricing of the tickets, I found that it was not possible within my student budget to attend.

Then, upon hearing the news that ZOLLHOF would support me in my professional development with a ticket to attend, I was ecstatic! As a student with a strong interest in professional development, workplace dynamics and most specifically in social entrepreneurship, I found TOA to be a great opportunity and learning experience for me to have.

Me at the first day of the Tech Open Air Conference in Berlin, Germany

As an international intern from the United States, during my first day at TOA, I was introduced to several new topics and research that were presented by some of the most innovative startups in all of Europe- a very neat experience for me. To get this international experience and to hear about topics that I haven’t been exposed to in the United States necessarily, I found TOA to be a very eye-opening and informative conference for me.

For example, never before had I heard of the idea that when companies achieve a common heart rate frequency level in their employees, they have a much higher chance at achieving success. Achieving a common heart rate frequency was defined as when each company team member is fully engaged in their task(s), all with the same level of energy and focus. This causes efficiency and output per employee to rise. Another strong topic of concentration at this year’s TOA conference was focused around mindfulness. More specifically the focuses were around how reflecting within and deeply evaluating one’s own feelings, doubts, anxieties, passions, goals, etc, leads to one becoming more engaged in their personal lives and drives them to becoming better workers. Though I’ve had many internship experiences already in the US, it wasn’t until my internships here in Germany and this experience at TOA, that I had heard of the practice of mindfulness within the workplace for the first time. I was lucky enough to hear from and meet with former Google employee, Mounira Latrache, to learn more about how she became invested in practicing mindfulness and how she created a new initiative at Google focused around helping the employees to reach their best performance through deep reflections.

While I was learning more about the practice of mindfulness on the first day at TOA, I also learned how crucial it is for me to be able to work effectively in teams as a young professional. Already interested in the dynamics of organizational teams, I attended several seminars focused on how to improve the quality of teams within the workplace. I found it particularly interesting that the research presented showed that the most effective way of uniting a team was placing each member behind one overall mission of the team, a.k.a the purpose of the team. For me personally, I have only ever found true success on team projects when the goal of the group and desired outcomes were identified and highlighted from the very beginning. I could testify to the accuracy of this concept. Attending the team-centered talks at TOA was incredibly advantageous for me, because I learned how I can be a better teammate for team projects in the future. I also became greater aware of different cultural expectations that coworkers might have for each other in team settings (US vs. Europe). One key takeaway for me was learning how I could improve my relationships with my coworkers, AND my personal friendships and relationships. I loved how having attended TOA, I left enlightened on how to improve my career and professional life, as well as my personal life.

One of the main opening lectures during the first day at the Tech Open Air Conference 2018

Another advantage to attending TOA for me was the chance to connect with like-minded professionals with the same interests as me, except just with much more working experience. For me, TOA offered plenty of networking opportunities, but not only did I leave with more connections on LinkedIn than before, I left TOA with having made new friends and having gotten the chance to connect with old friends. I found the people who attended TOA to be extremely passionate about their interests in technology, very open to giving me early career advice and discussing my passions in the field with me. The level and depth of the conversations I had at TOA encouraged me to delve deeper into my interests and to establish clearer goals for myself going into my future career. I loved hearing from such strong female role models in this industry. To hear their stories and how they impacted organizations (as big as Google!) was very inspiring and motivating for me to get to work doing the same in my current and future positions. Largely, one of the most beneficial aspects of attending TOA 2018 was the quality and interests of the other people attending. I encourage anyone who is passionate about technology and startups to attend TOA in the future to become more knowledgeable and gain valuable friends and to redefine your passions for your field of work. Shoutout to my newly made friends reading this article!

After two days spent delving deeper into the topics of mindfulness, workplace dynamics and up-and-coming tech startups, I left TOA 2018 better prepared for my desired future career in applying technology to face some of the world’s most pressing matters through owning and running my own future social enterprise. I seek to apply technology in increasing the world’s poorest populations access to basic human rights, such as clean water or access to quality education systems. After TOA, I have engaged daily in mindfulness practices, and as a result, I am better aware of my work ethic and motivations, which has helped me immensely in further developing as a young professional.

I am sincerely grateful to ZOLLHOF Tech Incubator for providing me with this great opportunity to attend the 2018 Tech Open Air Conference! Not only did I enjoy my time spent in my favorite city, Berlin, but I also gained valuable insights and knowledge into the future of technology that I would not have had otherwise. Shoutout to my amazing internship employer and the team that attended with me and made the event that much more fun! What a great 21st birthday present to have had! ;)

ZOLLHOF team members attending TOA. Pictured from left, Dimitra Papadopoulou, Mike Kloekler, Rita Katona and Kaidlyne Neukam

Make sure to connect with Kaidlyne on LinkedIn!

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