- Student Life
“When helping others, hold back your own thoughts and listen first”
Helping others so they unfold their potentials: The student initiative Enactus has the goal to create social impact in the world. And that requires a lot of ambitious team players like Ruth-Maria Wanninger, who is studying Management & Technology at TUM School of Management. Ruth spent her last year on developing a business model for the social startup Techdalo – which aims at connecting students and companies in the IT sector in Colombia, and thus, helps young people in achieving social advancement. In our interview, we talked with Ruth about social responsibility and the advantages the alumni association offers to students.
How did the foundation of Techdalo come about?
Techdalo is a project of Enactus Munich. Our two Colombian team members planned to initiate a project to help improve the difficult situation for students in their country. In Colombia, most children from low-income backgrounds never receive proper education and, as a result, they have little chance of getting a real job once they enter the job market. Consequently, many young people struggle with advancing socially while, at the same time, companies have a hard time finding enough computer scientists with a hands-on mentality. Techdalo is a project that addresses both of these problems. We will launch a program that consists of interactive courses in order to teach students computer skills and prepare them for careers in IT.
At Enactus, the goal is always to create projects that at some point spin off and become self-sustaining. Our task was to create the right conditions in order for that to happen here as well: as part of our project studies, we developed a complete business plan. We analyzed and calculated a lot of different models – and we adjusted our strategies over and over again. Ultimately, we found a model that we are all satisfied with because it provides an opportunity for Techdalo to finance itself. The first group of students is going to start their courses in December, which makes us very happy. Once they graduate, these students will be able to earn four times as much money.
What business model did you choose?
We are working with the generation model. This means that the education for our students is pre-financed. Once they acquire a job after graduation, they pay back part of their loan. This money will then be reinvested to finance the next generation of students. What makes this approach clearly different from other student loans is that the amount you pay back is calculated according to your income – nobody runs the risk of debt.
In addition to entrepreneurial aspects, you also have to consider cultural aspects when deciding on your strategy. In the beginning, we had the idea of financing the project through a headhunting fee that the companies pay for the placement. But in Colombia, this is not a common procedure – headhunting is only used to fill high positions. Therefore, the companies we talked to were not willing to pay this fee and we had to change our plan again. But it was precisely this search for the right structure that I particularly enjoyed, because the process of adapting the business model to new circumstances is when you learn a great deal.
There are a lot of people who want to get socially involved but don’t know exactly how to get started. What advice do you have for them?
If you are looking for an opportunity to get involved, you should definitely find an organization that fully shares your vision. In my opinion, that is the key to staying motivated in the long-term. There are so many opportunities, invest some time in finding the right one for you.
One mistake people often make is having a fixed idea on how exactly they want to help. They have good intentions and ideas. But those might not be best suited to the needs of those addressed. The best thing here is to hold back your own thoughts and listen first. I had an experience like that when we visited our partner school in Colombia and talked to the teachers and students about their wishes and needs, about what is actually possible and what the parents are willing to contribute.
What does the TUM Management Alumni e.V. mean to you?
Many people think that the TUM Management Alumni e.V. only gets interesting after graduation. I have a different opinion. Last year, I took part in several workshops that helped me a lot through the first phase of the pandemic. This is a very cool offer that you should not miss!
TUM Management Alumni e.V. connects alumni, students and partners. At events spread throughout the year, former and current students come together and exchange ideas. Even in times of the coronavirus, the TUM Management Alumni e.V. is hosting a lot interesting come-togethers – virtually, of course. Check the association’s website to sign up.
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