Building a career in Germany

Photo of Natalie Hellesø Milde.
CAREER AFTER NHH: ‘Honestly, there are not that many cultural differences between Norway and Germany. Sometimes we listen to techno in the office, but that is probably more typical of Berlin than of Germany,’ says Natalie Hellesø Milde. She secured a permanent position in Berlin through NHH’s Innovation School.
NHH By Ingrid Aarseth Johannessen

19 January 2022 09:31

Building a career in Germany

Natalie Milde (29) secured a position in Berlin after completing the Innovation School. ‘An increasing number of students want to work abroad,’ says Vice Rector for Academic Affairs, Stig Tenold.

Innovation School

  • The Innovation School has a scope of 30 credits and forms part of the MSc programme in Economics and Business Administration. The programme is divided into five modules spread out over the spring semester and summer.
  • The students spend a total of ten weeks in Germany; two weeks of teaching activities and eight weeks on an internship in a German enterprise. The teaching takes place at Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt and Technische Universität München.

‘Since I was a teenager, I’ve wanted to work on fighting climate change in one way or another. My day-to-day job is not so much about the climate, but more about technology and innovation and how to make young companies grow. That said, these companies create the technology we need to achieve climate goals and move towards a zero-emission society, and that makes my job incredibly meaningful,’ says Natalie Hellesø Milde (29) from Bergen.

Last summer, Milde was one of 30 NHH students who completed NHH’s Innovation School, a programme for master's degree students that includes an eight-week internship in Germany. Her internship was in Berlin with the venture capital company Future Energy Ventures. The internship was first extended by two months, and in November she took up a permanent position with the company.

‘The Innovation School has given me a unique opportunity to work in an industry that I didn't think I'd find myself working in – and in a country that I hadn't considered before. I have so many great memories from last summer, and we students had a lot of fun together. The best thing about the Innovation School has to be that you get the whole package: you gain work experience, academic learning outcomes, do a lot of socialising, and you get to experience a new country.’

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Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Stig Tenold
Vice Rector for Academic Affairs at NHH, Stig Tenold. Photo: Odd Mehus

Six per cent work abroad

NHH students have many opportunities to gain international experience. Last year, there were 46 applicants for the Innovation School, and 26 were offered a place. The 2020 labour market survey shows that six per cent of the respondents work abroad. Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Stig Tenold believes that the proportion of NHH graduates working abroad will continue to grow in the years ahead.

‘Here at NHH, we aim to be a leading international business school. We encourage our students to see the world and offer them a variety of opportunities to do so – whether they want to go on an exchange, take an international master's degree or take part in our Innovation School. We find that more and more students want to work abroad, although the pandemic has made things more difficult. In the years ahead, we will continue our internationalisation efforts and endeavour to give more students like Natalie sought-after work experience abroad,’ says Tenold.

NHH has its own Career Centre that helps students starting their career both in Norway and abroad. Among other things, the Career Centre helps students to find jobs and advise them on how to adapt applications for an international target group.

Part of an international team

Natalie Milde's employer is an international company that invests in start-up companies. Typically, they own the start-ups for five to seven years and help them, through directorships, to increase turnover, expand internationally and strengthen their profitability and recruitment. The company has a total of 19 employees divided between the head office in Essen, Germany and offices in Berlin, Tel Aviv and San Francisco.

As an investment analyst, Milde monitors developments in markets of relevance to FEV, and she is always looking for start-ups to invest in. FEV is looking for companies with innovative technology that can contribute to the decarbonisation and digitalisation of the present energy industry and help to create the smart and sustainable cities of the future.

‘They offered me this position when I still had an internship with them. They realised that they needed to expand their capacity and already at that point began to include me in processes with a longer time horizon. I’ve focused mostly on our portfolio companies in Europe, but I also support the American team. My immediate superior is based in the USA.’

Photos of the former NHH students Natalie Hellesø Milde, Karina Wessel and Elisabeth Spilde.
‘The Innovation School has given me a unique opportunity to work in an industry that I didn't think I'd find myself working in – and in a country that I hadn't considered before,’ says Natalie Hellesø Milde. In the pictures she is together with the NHH graduates Karina Wessel and Elisabeth Spilde. Wessel also had an internship at FEV, while Spilde had an internship at Deutsche Telekom Innovation Labs. Photo: privat

Minor cultural differences

Do you find that there are significant cultural differences between Norway and Germany?

‘Honestly, not many, in my opinion. Sometimes we listen to techno in the office, but that is probably more typical of Berlin than of Germany. Norway and Germany are actually very similar, and both countries have flat hierarchies. And anyway, I don't work exclusively with Germans. There are actually nine nationalities represented in FEV. So we all adapt to the same polite professionalism.’

All communication in Future Energy Ventures takes place in English, Milde says. She plans to learn some German, but so far, it’s mostly 'ja', 'genau' and 'tschüss' or 'tschau'.

Internship in Saudi Arabia

This is not Milde's first international job. She has worked on human rights for the Rafto Foundation and was a project coordinator for the Norwegian foundation Sahara Forest Project (SFP), which contributes to making Jordanian desert areas greener. In 2019, she did a six-month internship in Saudi Arabia at the Norwegian embassy in Riyadh. The cultural differences were really noticeable there.

‘I would recommend applying for such internships. You get to know a country in a very different way from when you visit it as a tourist, and understanding the country becomes your job. I chose Saudi Arabia because I'm interested in the Middle East and because, at the time, Saudi Arabia wasn't a country you could go to as a tourist. The job was heart-wrenching at times, but it was also a motivating experience to get an inside view of how the Norwegian diplomatic service works on issues that I’m passionate about,’ she says.


nhh studenter

NHH students found relevant work after their studies

A massive 97 per cent of students who graduated with a master's degree from NHH in spring 2020 and who have jobs are in relevant employment. Most were offered a job before completing their degree.

Didn’t plan to become a business economist

In June last year, Milde completed her MSc in Economics and Business Administration at NHH. She majored in Business Analysis and Performance Management, a programme option that provides insights into value creation and sustainability in enterprises.

Milde didn't always dream of becoming a business economist. She first discovered economics when she was on an exchange in France. At the time, she was studying comparative politics at the University of Bergen. She describes how the French university she was visiting had a cumbersome system for registering for courses, and that she had to choose new courses several times because the exam dates clashed. She finally decided to take an economics course in microfinance.

‘That turned out to be the subject I did best in that year, and it aroused my interest in economics. When I returned to Norway, I took a political economy course at the University of Bergen and did pretty well on that too. Then I decided to try NHH. I thought: “It would be daft to have the country's best school of economics in my home city – and the grades to get in – and not give it a go”. I've never regretted that decision,’ says Milde, and elaborates:

‘NHH opens a lot of doors and gives you the tools you need to forge your own career, whether you want to work in the private sector, the public sector or an NGO. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I know that I’m where I’m supposed to be now.’