Logistics: Love at Second Glance – Alumni Story with Jan Frahnert

Today he is at home in the world of ships and containers. Hamburg logistics entrepreneur and KLU alumnus Jan Frahnert (MSc Global Logistics, class of 2016) has gotten more than one startup off the ground in the field. But that wasn’t always the case. Logistics was love at a second glance for him. Who set them up: Kühne Logistics University. In this interview, Jan Frahnert shares how he navigated the change from the financial industry to logistics.

Jan, you were active for 11 years in the financial industry. There were many stations, including assistant to the management board and COO of foreign subsidiaries. Then you left your old career and made a fresh start. Why?

Jan Frahnert: My entry-level years after my first business degree were very educational, and I had loads of fun. With time, however, I noticed that I could no longer identify with products and to some extent, with the industry. I could look back on a successful development, but I wasn’t happy anymore.

Starting into a new life chapter, including a wedding and family planning, I thought it was time to make a career change. I wanted to work joyfully again. Containers and how they’re transported always interested me. Then it occurred to me to sever with my previous career path and get into logistics – and if possible, maritime logistics. It was clear to me that I could build upon my professional strengths, especially when it comes to conceptual tasks. But I was lacking the necessary fundamentals to be accepted as a “finance guy” once I began anew. And so the idea was born for me to go back to school – studying logistics!

Your classmates were on average 10 - 15 years younger than you when you registered at KLU in 2014 as a master’s student in global logistics. Where did you get the courage?

Frahnert: I knew, of course, that I’d ratchet up the average age of my class. But why should that stop me? I had a goal in mind. That’s how it was. After being called ‘sir’ on welcome day and being seen as a casually dressed teacher, I was quickly accepted among my younger peers. Throughout my studies I gained a lot from the younger generation. At the same time I was asked now and again for advice from the perspective of an “elder” – usually about personal matters.

Wouldn’t an MBA have been more “normal”?

Frahnert: I remember how the KLU Evaluation Committee called me, baffled, assuming that I’d registered for the wrong program. They saw me more in the MBA program. But that’s exactly what I didn’t want. If I wanted to be successful in an industry still entirely foreign to me, then I had to learn from the bottom up. Otherwise no one would take me seriously. And that’s how it was, too.

For the first time, learning had a rhyme and a reason for me. I realized that in my first degree my learning was too rote. In my second degree at KLU I questioned the subject matter. Another major factor was that I was burning for what I got to learn. My motivation was much greater.

My degree at KLU was, professionally speaking, the best decision of my former life. Today I’m highly motivated to work and I am happy. I’d advise anyone after the first successful chapter of their professional life to question their passion for their current work environment and industry. And if you want to change and you’re highly motivated, you’ll be crowned with success, even against the odds. Motivation and persistence are a good foundation for success.

It’s also important to encounter an employer who takes a chance on you in your new professional role and world. Unfortunately, here some personnel managers still take the easy way and look for straight-arrow, predictable resumes. Without forward-looking, creative employers it won’t work. An entrepreneur in the world of containers gave me a chance. And today I’m his business partner, which makes me very, very proud. Our paths crossing was pure serendipity, professionally and personally.

Why containers and ships? Is that the Hamburg boy coming through?

Frahnert: I love Hamburg and the north as a whole, but I’m from southern Germany, born in Heidelberg. Since I was a child, container ships and containers always had a special effect on me. I think many can relate, standing on the banks of the Elbe and watching the big ships float by; it’s just fascinating to me. What’s in those boxes? Where are they from; where are they going? Container ships and their cargo are my “wide world,” they thrill me. I feel like I was one of the first to buy and assemble the MAERSK model container ship.

What do you advise people who are considering a career change?

Frahnert: Take the step out of true motivation, not just short-term dissatisfaction. Build your foundation with a training course or degree program. And then find the right employer who thinks out of the box and believes more in motivation than a straight-arrow resume.

About Jan Frahnert:
After studying business administration at Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU), the native Heidelberger was drawn north to Hamburg. He worked for 11 years in the financial industry in various positions, as assistant to the management board and in corporate and business development. A degree in global logistics at Kühne Logistics University started him on a new career path. Today Jan is in charge of Strategy Projects/Corporate Development at LOTUS Containers Group. With his business partner he also manages the newly founded shipping companyCARRIER53, and the two are active in supporting startups with their venture capital firm STARTHUB Ventures. Jan is married with three children and lives in Lüneburg.