10 years of the Talent Academy: Hear from the first participants!

17 June 2024

Ten years ago, Annegret and Tim participated in the first Eurhonet Talent Academy. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Academy, we heard about their experiences, memories and how their career in social housing has progressed since. Annegret and Tim are both working at GEWOBA: a municipal housing company in Bremen, Germany, managing a housing stock of 42,847 apartments in Bremen, Bremerhaven, and Oldenburg.

Tim: “Hi, I am Tim, 36 years old, and have been working at GEWOBA for 16 years. I am part of our property management team.”

Annegret: “My name is Annegret (41). I am a member of the social management department and the diversity representative at GEWOBA.”

Tim: “The first Talent Academy in 2014 is still fresh in my mind. Shortly before, I had completed my training and took the opportunity to participate. Our group was a vibrant mix of people from England, Sweden, Italy, and Germany, and we gathered in Bochum, Germany. Those four days were packed with interesting exchanges while working on our projects and evening programs.”

Annegret: “I remember the first Talent Academy as a wonderful opportunity to come into contact with people from abroad and to learn a lot about the similarities and differences in challenges, points of view, and strategies in the housing market. Most valuable to me are the memories of the wonderful people we had the chance to get to know. In no time, we merged into a wonderful team.”

Tim: “We worked on a simulation game about sustainably renovating a socially disadvantaged neighbourhood. We split into four smaller groups, each tasked with planning renovation measures within a strict budget. Naturally, we faced conflicting objectives during decision-making, but that was the interesting part. Debating solutions and finding compromises was challenging yet rewarding. In the end, we came up with solutions that balanced our diverse goals.”

Annegret: “Easy for Tim to say that. He was part of the winning team! In retrospect, I am very touched by the fact that in these small groups, everybody’s voice and opinion were equally important. No decision was made without hearing from everybody else, and no one is more important than the other.”

Annegret: “One of the most important things to me is listening to others and including perspectives beyond my area of expertise or formal competence. In real life, the level of hierarchy sometimes prevents valuable exchanges with people outside of one’s sphere.”

Tim: “I learned the value of looking beyond my own perspective. This is crucial in my daily work, where balancing social, ecological, and economic aspects is a constant challenge.”

Annegret: “Over 20 years ago, I completed my apprenticeship at GEWOBA. For a couple of years, I worked as a real estate agent and in the departments of complaint management and neighbourhood development at my current and other companies. Simultaneously with my transition to the social management department, I became pregnant and started studying social work. Nowadays, I have two adorable children, I am the diversity representative for my company, and I will soon finish my studies.”

Tim: “After my real estate manager training, I worked in the property profitability team while pursuing a degree in housing economics. Now, I’ve moved into a leadership position within the same department.”

Tim: “I’m particularly proud of a project where we developed a tool to determine fair rents for our housing stock. Although Bremen only introduced a rent index in 2024, we created a system to derive fair rents for our properties, ensuring affordability and fairness.”

Annegret: “A few years ago, equal access to social participation was fortunately more encouraged in public debate. Of course, the housing sector was also part of this dialogue. This was another chance for us to improve our processes for allocating flats and ensure that discrimination did not occur in the distribution of flats. My role was to create and moderate an agile working group with employees from all divisions. During our meetings over the course of a year, we reflected on our own responsibilities, built awareness of social inequality and unconscious biases, and developed tools and procedures to increase this awareness.”

Annegret: “I have been working in the housing sector for 22 years and have worked for companies in both the private housing market and the social housing market. What appeals to me is the fact that social housing supports socially balanced residential districts. In this field, the mandate and the will to take care of the needs of tenants is more important. This comes with a big social responsibility but also the possibility to shape neighbourhoods. For me, this is gratifying work.”

Tim: “I’ve been in the housing sector for 16 years. What keeps me engaged is the unique blend of social, ecological, and economic factors in municipal housing. It’s about more than just managing properties: it’s about creating vibrant communities.”

Tim: “Social housing is vital for reducing social inequalities and providing adequate housing. It plays a crucial role in neighbourhood development and addresses the high demand for affordable housing in German metropolitan areas. Additionally, the push towards climate neutrality makes the challenge even more significant, balancing ecological and social development.”

Tim: “To the 2024 participants, my advice is to stay open to new ideas and perspectives. Engage actively and learn from others. Use this chance to expand your network and work together on innovative solutions.”

Annegret: “In addition, participation opens new possibilities. A couple of months after the Talent Academy, I went to London for a one-week internship at a housing company where one of the participants worked. There, I learned a lot about their work and brought my experiences back to my company.”

Annegret: “Go for it! The Academy offers a unique opportunity for growth, networking, and gaining new insights. It’s definitely worth your time!”

With thanks to Annegret, Tim, and the colleagues at GEWOBA for facilitating this interview.

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