Mentoring tandem Heinz Voggenreiter and Tim Wittmann

“You can’t gain this kind of experience through reading”

The student Tim Wittmann expected advice about getting through job interviews and writing motivational letters from his mentor and TUM Alumnus Heinz Voggenreiter. But then the two were able to talk to one another about fundamental life issues and became friends.

Tim Wittmann completed his Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace at TUM in 2015. Following an internship at a US software corporation, the plan was to continue by doing his Master’s. The native of the Allgäu region decided at this point to remain very focused on his career. Some fellow students recommended the one-year TUM Mentoring by Alumni for Students program. Tim Wittmann hoped to get some advice about job interviews, writing motivational letters and about how to dress properly.

An aerospace expert

After three months, Tim Wittmann was informed that a suitable mentor in line with his application had been found. He contacted the person whose name had been put forward and learned that, from then on, Professor Heinz Voggenreiter, an expert in Aerospace Technology, would be there to help him in any way he could as a mentor. Following his studies in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Aerospace Technology at TUM, Heinz Voggenreiter continued to work at his alma mater as a research assistant for two years. In 1996, he gained his PhD and went on to hold positions as a Development Engineer and manager for fourteen years at top companies who operated worldwide. Since 2005, he has been a Professor for Lightweight Construction in Aviation at Stuttgart University.

It soon became clear to Tim Wittmann that the exchange between the two would go far beyond just discussing questions concerning the right suit to wear to a job interview. “The questions that Heinz Voggenreiter asked me were ones I myself had never asked myself in such a profound and precise manner.” During the often three-hour meetings with his mentor, Tim Wittmann learned how important it is to develop one’s own personality alongside professional competence and career success. He discovered the way he wanted to go in terms of further study and decided to do a semester abroad in Moscow, and then ultimately decided to take up an academic career at university. “Heinz Voggenreiter helped me to help myself. I took all of the decisions myself, of course, but the discussions with him naturally helped me to take them much more consciously.”

Mentoring for more than a year

Heinz Voggenreiter has been passing on his long-standing professional experience, but also his personal experience as well to young people in the TUM Mentoring by Alumni for Students program. “I myself did not have a mentor as such,” Heinz Voggenreiter explains, “but I did have a very good boss in my initial working years who influenced my personal development by giving me the right mixture of freedom and delegating responsibility.” The food for thought that he gives young mentees today, he adds, helps them to develop their personality, professional goals and how they decide to live their lives fast and rigorously, which in turn makes them happy and content. “That is my main objective,” Heinz Voggenreiter says.

The official mentoring year of the two would already have been over more than a year ago. However, they continue to telephone and meet one another regularly. “If I have an urgent question, I always get advice fast from Heinz Voggenreiter,” says Tim Wittmann.  The two engineers now know each other so well that they use the familiar German address of “du” and no longer only talk about professional matters, but also about private matters and the fundamental questions of life. “You can’t gain this kind of experience through reading,” says Tim Wittmann. “The mentoring went far beyond the expectations I had of it.”

A mutual benefit

Even if Tim Wittmann humbly maintains that he doubts his mentor can learn something from him, Heinz Voggenreiter stresses the fact that the learning success is a mutual one. His activities as a mentor, he explains, help him understand the mentality of young people, the culture of young people and this allows him to adapt the way he deals with young people accordingly. The best thing that can happen to me is to understand young people so that I can support them in their search for a happy and satisfied life,” Heinz Voggenreiter says. “Tim Wittmann has found his path in life and that is very satisfying for me as a mentor.”