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PERSONAL Archives - Jan Ahrend

Moving to Britain and the Motivation Behind my Studies

Quite a few exciting things happened over the course of the last months. I graduated from university, did an internship in Silicon Valley and started my Master’s degree at the University of Birmingham in Britain.

Graduating university with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Game Development, my coursework and work experiences increased my interest in the relationship between humans and computers, clients and end-users. I realized by way of my studies of Game Development, that games are different to traditional software systems in the sense that most software is designed with the purpose of either rendering the user obsolete, or of supporting a user in performing a task. Games on the other hand are solely developed for entertainment or educational purposes. For me, this is a very intriguing aspect, as user experience and satisfaction should therefore play an even more significant role.


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The Miracle of Customer Feedback

The reason I choose to work as a Community Manager at Gameforge back in 2011 was the ability to study the behavior of customers in the context of product failure. And that’s what it was, serving 300 customer tickets a day as the initial point of contact for inbound requests, I was supposed to “creatively and proactively assist users”. But apart from helping customers with questions, difficulties, bugs and trying to knock out negativity with sheer kindness, I also received once in a few weeks user feedback on the product.

At first I was agitated and upset when faced with negative feedback like this one: “The login process is completely counter intuitive! I am not able to login with my username! What are these guys thinking!” I was upset because the user was venting and had simply not realized that you need to login using your email address, because usernames in our system were redundant.

But now, a year later, working at a startup and proactively looking for feedback from users and investors, I realized the following:

If I had lined up our visitors per month shoulder to shoulder, they would have reached over 100km. Now imagine driving past at 50km/h, trying to look at each and every face swishing by one at a time. After 30 minutes I would be absolutely numb trying to see that many faces. Imagine how big that group is! Out of all of those people, how many are going to reach out to us and give us feedback on our product? Looking at the sheer size of that group, how many would contact us to complain if something was wrong? Even 0.1% would be thousands of people giving us feedback. Which clearly does not happen. Of all those faces, all those customers, it is less than one in a million who take the time to contact us to anything personal about what we are doing.

On the first impression, identical to the other requests, feedback does distinguish in the underlying motivation of the user. Unlike a particular action or information a customer is trying to receive by contacting us (e.g. getting to run the software after an update or to revoke an account suspension), the customer has no other intention but to interact with us when giving feedback (e.g. how our new product update completely sucks or telling about how awesome feature XY is).

This is a miracle.
Of all the things the coustomer could have been doing in that moment, like quitting the application or searching for an alternative product from our competition, he chose to interact with us. This is a miracle. The fact that he took the time to say anything, whether positive or negative, makes him extremely special.
In my role at Fair Observer, I am currently trying to get a grasp of our stakeholders perceptions to improve our product. Getting feedback is highly valuable, especially at our current seeding stage. We should treat any feedback we receive as a miracle and get a warm feeling when thinking about all of our disgruntled web site complainers.

Heading to Silicon Valley

I just got off the phone with Christian Gehl, founder of TRIFENSE, a network security company and also the new CTO of Fair Observer. Fair Observer is a multinational magazine and also the company where I am looking forward to stay as an intern during the summer.

Fair Observer provides analysis of and context for issues, trends and events of global significance – with focus on business and politics in the first place. Fair Observer’s aim is to overcome the current broken news media model, which is event driven and often lacks historical, cultural and religious context. They provide so-called 360° analysis with a plurality of perspectives from all over the world.

Fair Observer Heading to Silicon Valley

Founded in 2010 by Atul Singh, Fabian Neuen and Dr. Christian R. Becker, Fair Observer has now over 300 content contributors and an advisory board including the former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, former Indian Foreign Minister Singh Jaswanth, former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and former German Ambassador Ulrich Hemel among others.

I first met Fabian last year in Munich at the launch event of the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie, one of the partners and where I also currently work as a student assistant. Fabian, who has a background in strategy consulting, investment banking and venture capital is a super nice guy who was promoted to be amongst the Siemens’ youngest managers world-wide only shortly before he decided to launch Fair Observer. He instinctively knew to excite me for this venture and just recently introduced me to Atul Singh and Dr. Christian R. Becker. Christian is driving Fair Observer’s Business Development and has experience in the field of management consulting, despite his research and experience in curative medicine. Atul, who originally came up with the idea of Fair Observer studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, English Literature and History at Lucknow University in India, trained as a lawyer in London and got his MBA at Wharton with a triple major in Entrepreneurship, Finance and Strategy.

With such a skilled and experienced founding team, Fair Observer was recently able to partner up with the German Silicon Valley Accelerator and relocated their operational headquarters from Washington D.C. and Munich to Sunnyvale, California. Which brings us back to today, where I spoke with Christian Gehl about my role as an intern. I am very excited and grateful to join Fair Observer on their adventure.

Heading to Silicon Valley - Fair Observer

As of June 2012, I will stay in Sunnyvale – “the heart of Silicon Valley” – for three months doing front end development. And since my bachelor’s degree in computer science is now befinished and my master’s degree will not start before September, this opportunity is also very well timed.

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Spring School – University of Belgrade

For the last 12 years I have been traveling to Croatia over the eastern holidays, playing Tennis to prepare for the summer season. What became a tradition will this year come to an end however.

I successfully applied through the Stratscheg Center For Entrepreneurship for Spring School 2012 at the University of Belgrade and I am looking forward to stay in the capital of Serbia from 8th till 15th of April.

Although coming from a background in computer science, I find great interest in gaining supportive knowledge and understanding in economics, entrepreneurship, international business and strategy, as one might also suggest regarding my various activities in the past.

The topic of this year’s Spring School will be:

Doing business in digital environment

30 students from universities of Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia will have the chance to attend lectures, workshops, teamwork projects, debates and case studies prepared by the experts from academia and business sector.

In the process of preparation of the Spring School 2012, the organisers conducted comparative research among businesses and entrepreneurs in Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The main goal of the research was to gain knowledge about the business environment in the contemporary, digital age.
One of the purposes of Spring School 2012 is to thoroughly analyze results of the conducted research from different perspectives, particularly in depth analysis of financial, marketing and regulatory aspects of the digital environment.


spring school university belgrade
Image courtesy of instagramchikavili