Jonas Kappes

Project Manager, Werner Sobek AG – Hamburg, Germany

“The skills I learned are ones I would have otherwise overlooked at university, but these have been most useful to me both personally and professionally.”

What do a pressure cooker and the IDEA League Challenge Programme have in common? I know, it sounds like the start of a joke. But this analogy, used by one of the programme’s professors, sums up my experience perfectly. Just remove the ingredients and the pan and replace them with students and a fast-paced learning environment. What are you left with? A skillset you can feast on for the rest of your life.

The programme accelerates learning over four intense weekends in four exciting cities. The skills I learned, particularly soft skills, are ones I would have otherwise overlooked on my civil and structural engineering courses at university, but these have been most useful to me both personally and professionally. They directly relate to how well you can interact and work with others.

“The IDEA League Challenge Programme enabled me to practise certain communication techniques in a supportive environment. The atmosphere is just so positive and welcoming, and you’re allowed to make mistakes”.

In fact, it’s encouraged – you can learn from them and become more competent, ready to use the skill for real in your personal and professional life. The tools you master during the programme will enable you to adjust more easily to challenging situations in the future.

The takeaway skill I have profited from the most is negotiation. It helped me secure my first job as a project manager with a leading global engineering firm. And it not only helps me but also benefits the company every day. As a manager, for instance, I need good interpersonal and negotiation skills whether in the office discussing project budgets, planning and scheduling or out on the construction site overseeing a project.

But the Challenge Programme isn’t just about learning. After lectures, away from the hubbub of campus life, we got together in small groups and explored the city, visited key sites and enjoyed the local food. It was a unique opportunity to meet new people at four universities in four cities, all with a different vibe. It’s something I will always cherish.

My advice to students who are lucky enough to be selected for the programme: clear your diary. It’s four full-on weekends so you should make the most of it without worrying about what’s going on back home. Get all those assignment deadlines out of the way and focus! And when it’s finished, you can relax, digest it all and enjoy the rewards of your efforts for years to come.