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"We can try something out in product development"

In the maritime sector, Norbert Klettner and Torsten Fink of AKQUINET discuss their commitment to nurturing student talent in software development. Learn how they leverage student contributions to innovate product development in this insightful interview.

"We can try something out in product development"


How students enrich software development in the maritime environment

Norbert Klettner, Managing Director for the port sector at AKQUINET, and Torsten Fink, Managing Director for Individual Software Solutions at AKQUINET, have been happy to employ students and supervise them in their final theses for many years. They talk about this in an interview.  




Hello, Torsten and Norbert! We employ several students at our locations in Berlin, Bremen and Bremerhaven. How many are there and what are their tasks?

Norbert: We currently have four working students and one compulsory intern. Among other things, they are currently working on automated data evaluation in the BI area for our simulation software CHESSCON. The working students are at different stages of their studies and are involved in various projects or in software development. One student is currently working on his Master's thesis on the further development of our Hafenmeister software.  


What is the master's thesis about?

Torsten: The software is established on the market. Our customers want certain enhancements, the market has needs and we as the manufacturer also have ideas for useful new features. The master's thesis is about comparing and evaluating this delta of requirements: How complex is the development of the respective feature, how good is the reusability on the market and how high is our risk in the development? The features are evaluated in the work and then prioritized. Finally, the features are developed and integrated into the product, including documentation.  


Surely there is also an effort involved in supporting such work?

Torsten: The effort involved should not be underestimated. At the beginning, it's about defining the topic in such a way that it meets the scientific requirements and is manageable for the student within the time frame. Then we have regular meetings with the students and provide organizational support. If it makes sense, we also talk to the supervising professor. At the end, you have to proofread the work and ideally rehearse the oral defense of the thesis once internally.

Norbert: Our students also have the opportunity to present their topic internally at our "Port Breakfast". They receive a lot of questions from our terminal experts and very well-founded feedback on their work.


Why is it important for you to support the students?

Norbert: It's a lot of fun, we always get new ideas from the students. And we can try things out in the product development work, as it is not specified by a customer.  

Torsten: Yes, working with young people is always enriching. I think it's great to see that they are now familiar with agile methods. They are very open and open to criticism. This allows us to realign and enrich our way of working together and our processes.  


How do the students come to you, how do you draw attention to yourselves?

Torsten: We advertise the positions and also often contact the respective universities. Interest varies depending on the location: In Berlin, of course, there are lots of offers for students. It's easier in Bremen and Bremerhaven, where we receive a lot of unsolicited applications.

Norbert: Students often approach us when we have reported on our projects in a guest lecture. In Bremen, for example, we have good contacts with the university and Prof. Dr. Jasminka Matevska. We often give lectures there. And from our history, we also maintain very good contacts with the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL), so we have built up a good network in the scientific community.


How do you experience the differences between the universities and the former universities of applied sciences?

Torsten: Today, there is no longer any difference between universities and universities of applied sciences when it comes to Bachelor's and Master's degrees; the degrees are valued equally. Nevertheless, in my view, universities are still more academically oriented, whereas colleges are more practice-oriented and therefore also more business-oriented. They are usually more open to cooperating with companies like ours.

Norbert: The question of "university or college?" depends on what is best for the students. The system has to suit their own interests and strengths. Incidentally, I experience in both systems that students today are very quick to study with a narrow focus, with a view to "too" concrete applications. Perhaps this is due to the Anglo-Saxon influence. For example, maritime logistics is studied instead of logistics, which is already a niche in logistics. We therefore often try to give students a general background, i.e. approaches and concepts that are transferable to many areas.


Do you often plan to take on students?

Torsten: Yes, that's our aim, provided it's a good fit during their studies. Of course, it's important that the person fits in well with our team. So far, we have been able to take on most students and are aiming to do the same for current students.  

Thank you very much for your time, Norbert and Torsten!  

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