This interview is, however, a bit more personal. Philipp tells how he started to work in this industry; from its challenges and to rewarding experiences.
Hello Philipp, can you introduce yourself shortly?
Hello, my name is Philipp, and I am working for the Solar Energy Engineering Online Master program since when I was a student myself in 2014.
What is your background?
I am a Biochemist by training. Before my studies, I had worked in the film industry for several years.
Then how did you get involved with the Solar Energy Engineering program?
The SEE Online master fascinated me since my first encounter. My primary tasks in the program were the coordination of online meetings and the maintenance of the learning platform. During these early times of the program, there was a considerable need for instructional design and course development. My background in science and my broad media experience enabled me to accompany several great course projects.
What does it mean to you to work in education? Especially distant and online learning?
It means a lot to me! In 2017 – one year after I completed my own master’s degree, I had the chance to become the program manager for this online master course. Over the years, we have experimented with various software and tools to develop a nice workflow and to create beautiful courses. This form of education is very special to me. What fascinates me the most is that the quality is never getting worse. You start at some point and create a better result with experience. Then you can improve the next bits and so on. To see that work is a very satisfying experience for me personally. It is creative, and the progress is always visible.
What does it mean to you to work with an international team and students?
Since becoming the program coordinator, I am in contact with the international students in the program. Weekly, I communicate with people living and working in 4 continents. It is a great chance. We have students from many different cultures, various professional backgrounds. The age range is from the mid-20s to early 60s – so the group is as heterogeneous as it can be. To be honest, when first confronted with this task, I was quite scared – I was thinking about how managing all this would be possible. But I had a myriad of warm encounters. I met curious and interested people from all around the world, all united in their fascination with solar energy. These contacts make my life so much richer.
Are there any difficulties while communicating four continents and different time zones?
Of course, it is sometimes hard to handle so many emails and online meetings. We try to arrange hours that works for everyone. But all the correspondence and emails, meetings back and forth are worth it when every student at least once comes to Freiburg during the Campus Phase. These on-campus meetings are always exceptional moments. To meet a person, finally in real life is an extraordinary and exciting moment – after digital contact solely.
What does it mean to you to work in renewable energy?
How great it is that we humans can produce the most significant part of our energy from the sunlight?! It is a very dynamic and fascinating field. With, many enthusiasts and entrepreneurs working in the sector, it is a very fast-growing industry which is gathering a significant momentum and impact. So, it is great to be part of that positive impact.
What is your dream - connected to your job?
My dream is that this Master Program keeps helping people all around the world to find their way into solar energy, and they become a part of the energy revolution. To educate people about the use of clean energy is, in my opinion, a crucial step towards a cleaner planet. It is possible to stop the destruction of the environment thanks to awareness, education and action, and my dream is to reach these tools to as many students and professionals as possible.
What are some challenges you encounter in your job?
The growth of the program is the most challenging part. It is a challenge that pushes us to make things better. In the first years, we had only very few students. That gave us the time to explore and optimise our way of online education. Since the university has only a few online programs – and no other international online program, we had to create many processes from scratch. Our administration team is very small. Now we have more students, yet our core administration team is still the same, so we must optimise the means and the workflow. It is an inspiring adventure.
What are the most rewarding aspects of what you do?
The people are what makes this job great. The team of scientists and lecturers are fantastic. Our leading professors are highly supportive and motivating. As I mentioned, working with motivated and creative people all around the world is one of the most enriching experiences. We have the common goal to learn everything about solar energy.
What does the future look like for the program?
It has been continuously growing ever since I know. We have learned a lot, and the quality of online courses and online meetings developed fast. And the very best thing is to see how everyone makes their path after finalising the program. To see how a person changes over the years, growing with the program and then proudly stepping into a new career, or specialising in a topic, is a fantastic experience. I am so thankful to be part of this project. Our goal is to keep improving and reaching more people to boost the energy revolution.
Thank you very much for your time Philipp!
You are welcome, my pleasure.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited and condensed.