EBS Alumnus Johann Daniel Harnoss is one of the Capital - Top 40 under 40
Johann Daniel Harnoss
You are looking for solutions to the problems of our time - that’s why you were chosen by “Capital” as one of the “Top 40 under 40” for the year 2021. Congratulations!
Please tell us briefly about your organisation and what makes it so unique?
We are Imagine. We are the first non-profit association in Germany that facilitates legal and safe immigration of qualified people from Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt and other countries to Europe. We do this through continuing education and a personalised coaching program.
How did the idea for the Imagine Foundation come about?
For my wedding in 2014, I had also invited some friends from our time together abroad at the T-Bird. They were happy about the invitation but sadly said, “I hope we get a visa.” That affected me at the time. We live in a world where it is not self-evident even for super qualified people from countries like Peru or India to get a tourist visa for Europe. This shows: Where you are born determines what opportunities you have in life to a considerable extent. We want to change that.
You’re also an Associate Director & BCG Fellow - how do you reconcile the two worlds?
On the one hand, challenging, on the other hand: Some of my colleagues run Ironman, which I find completely crazy - I wouldn’t have the time or stamina for that. Imagine is my hobby. Ultimately, it gives me more energy, joy and inspiration than it costs in time. At BCG, I am now also more involved with the topic of immigration. “BCG Fellow” means that 30% of my time is freed up to lead my research program at our think tank, the BCG Henderson Institute. We call it “Innovation without Borders.” BCG recognises that this is one of the future issues of the 21st century, with close links to issues like talent/HR, diversity, innovation, and culture change.
What is your vision? What drives you?
Our dream is to help 1000 people to a new life in Europe by 2025. We all know how crucial some decisions are for us in life. Of course, where to study (EBS), do internships, and start a career. It would be great to accompany such a decision for many people. For this, something must also be done on the company side. I still know many big companies whose execs tell me, “I’m open to people from abroad as long as they speak C1 German.” Companies like Douglas, N26 or Zalando are more open, and I can only strongly recommend this openness.
The Corona pandemic has challenged us all and continues to do so. How did you get your company through the crisis?
At Imagine, even before COVID-19, we were already working completely “remote-first.” I used to explain that we work digitally and remotely with our target audience. That always surprised everyone and maybe amazed them a bit.
The virus has forced us to rethink in many areas. Did you break new ground, and did you also see opportunities in the challenges?
Of course, we were a bit perplexed at the beginning and full of worries about how things would go on. What surprised us was how quickly companies started hiring people again, including from abroad, in Q3/20. In addition, we are unique with our mission and are also perceived as such - so even without much advertising, many people come forward who want to join. Maybe also one of you!
To what extent did EBS prepare you for your career?
EBS was decisive for me. It was also through EBS that I started my career at BCG. At the time, I did an internship at BCG after my 6th semester. But more importantly: Through the people, the content, and the culture at EBS, I learned to think bigger and made friends for life.
What is your fondest memory of EBS Universität?
So much happening: Parties in the Cafta, calling Alexander Dibelius an “extreme guy” without realising he was standing right next to me (he heard, yes), watching World Cup 2006 on the Rhine… Are the turned-up collars on polo shirts still a thing?
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